Into India (CD) Track listing detail

Gently Penetrating Beneath the Sounding Surfaces of Another Place

Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 1997
  • Duration: 14:03
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: IMEB

Stereo

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

The vendors’ voices in this composition were recorded in specific areas of New Delhi during my first visit in 1992: in the residential area of Januk Puri, at the early morning produce market in Tilak Nagar, at the market near the Jama Masjid, and at the market stalls just off Janpath near Connaught Place. I noticed that many of the other sounds in these places besides the vendors’ voices were those of metal (such as buckets falling over, cans rolling, the handling of metal pots, squeaking gates, sometimes unidentified objects rattling or clinking as they pass), bicycle bells and scooter horns. As they seemed to be rather characteristic sonic “accompaniments” to the environments through which the vendors passed or where they had their stalls, these sounds became major players in the composition.

Coming from a European and North American context, I was delighted by the daily presence of the vendors’ voices. As the live human vending voice has disappeared almost entirely in Northern Europe and North America and has largely been replaced by media advertising, it is somewhat of a miracle for the visitor from those areas to hear such voices again. The gruffer, coarser shouting of male voices seemed to occur in markets near noisy streets or where a lot of voices were competing with each other. The vendors moving through quieter neighbourhoods seemed to have musically more expressive voices and almost songlike calls for their products, with clear melodic patterns. And then there was the voice of the boy selling juice…

In a city like New Delhi, and other places in India, one experiences shimmering beauty and grungy dirt and pollution side by side all the time. These opposites are audible in most of my recordings as well and specifically in the sound materials selected for this piece. I wanted to express acoustically / musically both the shimmering and the grunge as it seems to represent so deeply and openly the contradicitions within this culture and the intensity of life that results from it.

Finally I believe that this piece also explores outer and inner worlds as one experiences them in India: the extraordinary intensity of daily living on the one hand and the inner radiance, focus and stillness on the other hand that emanate from deep within the culture and its people, despite the hardships of life.


Gently Penetrating Beneath the Sounding Surfaces of Another Place was commissioned by and realized in the studios of the Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (IMEB, France) and received an honorary mention in the Prix Ars electronica 1998 competition (Linz, Austria). I would like to thank Savinder Anand, Mona Madan, Arun Patak, Virinder Singh, and Situ Singh-Bühler for taking me to the places where these vendors’ voices occured. Without their help and local knowledge I would have had a difficult time capturing them on tape. Many thanks go to Max Mueller Bhavan for inviting me to New Delhi in the first place and giving me the opportunity to work with the Indian friends and listen to this city. I am grateful to Peter Grant for being a compassionate and listening companion throughout this time.15-03-2021

Composition

Mastering

Awards

Into the Labyrinth

Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 2000
  • Duration: 15:04
  • Instrumentation: 8-channel fixed medium
  • Commission: NAISA, with support from the CCA

Stereo

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits
To Sonja

Into the Labyrinth is a sonic journey into aspects of India’s culture. It occurs on the edge between dream and reality, in the same way in which many visitors, myself included, experience this country. Nothing ever happens according to pre-determined plans or expectations. Although travellers usually do reach their destination somehow, the journey itself — full of continuous surprises and unexpected turns — becomes the real place of experience.

In composing this piece, I was challenging my own compositional process as it has developed over the last 25 years: just as India has challenged many of my Western Eurocentric values and turned them upside-down, so has this piece challenged my preconceived notions of the creative process. From the start I had the image of entering a labyrinth of a multitude of sounds and sonic experiences. I had made no plans for the piece other than letting the recorded sounds move me through a compositional journey into an unknown sonic labyrinth. Obviously my experiences of travelling in India and of recording the sounds played a significant role in the formation of this piece. But I could never be sure of where I was going and where I would end up. I worked on it continuously as if on a 15-day journey, where the journey itself became the centre of experience. The composition simply is a result of that experience.

Into the Labyrinth is dedicated to my daughter Sonja, who courageously travelled through India by herself and emerged enriched from a labyrinth of new and complex experiences.


Into the Labyrinth was commissioned by New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) and was realized in the Electronic Music Studio of the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada). Many thanks to Darren Copeland for giving me this opportunity to explore composition for 8-channel diffusion. I would also like to thank Savinder Anand, Mona Madan, Arun Patak, Veena Sharma and her mother Mrs Goyal, Situ Singh-Bühler and Virinder Singh for taking me to the places where the sounds and soundscapes for this composition were recorded. Without their help and local knowledge I would have had a difficult time gathering them on tape. Many thanks go to Max Mueller Bhavan (Goethe Institut Delhi) for inviting me to India in the first place and giving me the opportunity to meet and work with those who have become my Indian friends. Listening to India together has deepened our understanding of each other and our cultures’ differences.

Composition

Mastering

Attending to Sacred Matters

Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 2002
  • Duration: 26:24
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: ACWC, with support from the CCA

Stereo

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits
To Veena Sharma

What do we consider to be sacred in our lives and how do we attend to it? This question, my travels in India and my long-standing environmental concerns formed the impetus for this composition and are somehow brought together here. The sacred is deeply meaningful in Indian culture and, on a daily basis, people visit temples or other holy places of the many different religions. The piece is working on two levels: on the one hand it tries to grapple with the almost chaotic multitude of religions in this country and on the other hand it wants to create a place of inner stillness, a sacred place of energy, attention and creativity, of deeper listening.

Regular religious practice is very much a part of people’s lives in India and exists on a much wider scale than in North America and Europe. Consequently, the sounds of religion are also abundantly present in the Indian soundscape — from their most prominent and raucous form of distorted loudspeakers broadcasting religious chants into the environment for hours at a time, to their more intimate, quiet form of a group of people, for example, participating in a dawn ritual in a local park. Attending to Sacred Matters is based on the sounds of the many religious and spiritual practices that I encountered and recorded in India — such as the chanting from the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, bells and ritual sounds from various Hindu temples, sounds from an Ashram in Rishikesh and the voice of Swami Brahmananda, Muezzins calling for prayer from various mosques, chanting at dusk on the Ganges in Rishikesh, voices of people naming Hindu Gods and Goddesses, bells from a Jain temple, the chanting of OM, and so on. In addition, there are the sounds of water and the voice of environmental activist Vandana Shiva.

People in India often speak proudly about the fact that many religions can co-exist peacefully in their country. And then deep disappointment is expressed when one violent incident, such as the destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 by politically extreme Hindus, causes once again the eruption of hate between religious groups. When I started to work on this piece, it was precisely with the idea of celebrating, through the “language” of sound, the peaceful co-existence of different religious and spiritual belief systems. Now, in the face of the many voices of hate, violence, aggression, war and sensational journalism, I have felt an urgency to create a listening experience, a “tone”, a place of listening, that allows the more hidden voices in us of peace and human compassion to emerge and to speak out with conviction.

Attending to Sacred Matters is dedicated to my friend Veena Sharma who took me to many holy places in India, including the Ganges in Rishikesh.


A shorter version of Attending to Sacred Matters was commissioned by the Association of Canadian Women Composers with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA).

Sound sources — Voices: Swami Brahmananda, Rishikesh; Pracharya Padmanabha Sharma, Delhi; Vandana Shiva, speaking at the International Water Conference in Vancouver, Canada, July 2001; Situ Singh-Bühler, Delhi; Hindu chanting in Rishikesh and Pushkar; Muezzins in Nizamuddin, Delhi and Kollam, Kerala; OM singer during morning ceremony in Janakpuri District Park, Delhi; Sikh chant: Golden Temple, Amritsar; Single child at the Ganges in Rishikesh; Women chanting in Brahma Temple in Pushkar. Bells: Temple bells in Delhi, Pushkar, and Rishikesh.

Mastering

Premiere

  • January 27, 2002, Then, Now and Beyond: A Festival of Music by Women, Ottawa (Ontario, Canada)