Transformations (Download) Track listing detail

A Walk Through the City

Hildegard Westerkamp / Norbert Ruebsaat

  • Year of composition: 1981
  • Duration: 16:02
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: Two New HoursCBC


ISRC CAD509612260

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

A Walk Through The City is an urban environmental composition based on Norbert Ruebsaat’s poem of the same name. It takes the listener into a specific urban location — Vancouver’s Skid Row area — with its sounds and languages. Traffic, carhorns, brakes, sirens, aircraft, construction, pinball machines, the throb of trains, human voices, a poem, are its ‘musical instruments.’ These sounds are used partly as they occur in reality and partly as sound objects altered in the studio. A continuous flux is created between the real and imaginary soundscapes, between recognizable and transformed places, between reality and composition.

The poem is spoken by the author and appears throughout the piece, symbolizing the human presence in the urban soundscape. Its voice interacts with, comments on, dramatizes, struggles with the sounds and other voices it encounters in the piece.

A Walk Through The City was realized in 1981 at the Sonic Research Studio of Simon Fraser University (SFU) (Vancouver, BC) and, in its final stage, at the CBC studios in Vancouver, with the technical assistance of Gary Heald. The piece was commissioned by and first broadcast on CBC Radio’s Two New Hours, in April, 1981. Many of the sounds were taken from the World Soundscape Project’s environmental tape collection at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, including two of the street oldtimers, recorded by my friend and colleague, the late Howard Broomfield. Some were recorded by myself.


  • April 1981, Two New Hours, CBC, Canada

Fantasie for Horns II

Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 1979
  • Duration: 12:50
  • Instrumentation: horn and 4-channel fixed medium


ISRC CAD509612270

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

Fantasie for Horns II was composed in two stages: the tape part was completed first, in 1978, and was conceived as a composition in its own right (Fantasie for Horns I, which received honorable mention at the 1979 International Competition of Electroacoustic Music in Bourges, France). After the completion of the tape, it seemed natural to add a live horn part. Besides being environmental in its choice of sounds, the tape could now become the acoustic environment for the horn — an instrument which, in turn, has had a long history as a sound signal in many parts of the world.

The sound sources of the tape part are Canadian trainhorns, foghorns from both the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts of Canada, factory and boathorns from Vancouver and surroundings. Additional sound sources are an alphorn and a creek. Most of the material was taken from the World Soundscape Project’s environmental tape collection at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver; some of it was recorded by myself.

Listening to the various horns in the collection was fascinating because of the way their sounds were shaped and modulated by the surrounding landscape. Some horns would echo only once, others many times, their sounds slowly fading into the distance. A trainhorn’s echo was half a tone lower as the train approached, but the same pitch as it passed. Each horn acquires its unique sound from the landscape it inhabits. This strong interaction between these sounds and their environment gave the inspiration to work with this material. Horn sounds are interesting for another reason — they rise above any ambience, even that of large cities. They are soundmarks that give a place its character and give us, often subliminally, a ‘sense of place.’

The tape part of the piece was realized in 1978 at the Sonic Research Studio of Simon Fraser University (SFU) (Vancouver, BC) and Fantasie for Horns II was premiered by James MacDonald in October, 1979 at the Music Gallery in Toronto.


  • October 1979, James MacDonald, horn • Concert, The Music Gallery, Toronto (Ontario, Canada)

About this recording

This version (1996) was performed by Brian G’froerer who used two horns: a Yamaha YHR-667V for the main body of the work, and an Alexander descant horn Model 107 for the imitation of the tugboat horns.

Kits Beach Soundwalk

Hildegard Westerkamp / Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 1989
  • Duration: 9:42
  • Instrumentation: narrator and stereo fixed medium


ISRC CAD509612280

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

About ten years ago I produced and hosted a radio program on Vancouver Co-operative Radio called Soundwalking, in which I took the listener to different locations in and around the city and explored them acoustically. Kits Beach Soundwalk is a compositional extension of this original idea.

Kitsilano Beach — colloquially called Kits Beach and originally in native Indian language Khahtsahlano — is located in the heart of Vancouver. In the summer it is crowded with a display of “meat salad” and ghetto blasters, indeed light years away from the silence experienced here not so long ago by the native Indians.

The original recording on which this piece is based was made on a calm winter morning, when the quiet lapping of the water and the tiny sounds of barnacles feeding were audible before an acoustic backdrop of the throbbing city. In this soundwalk composition we leave the city behind eventually and explore instead the tiny acoustic realm of barnacles, the world of high frequencies, inner space and dreams.

Kits Beach Soundwalk was realized in 1989 in my own studio Inside the Soundscape and premiered in March, 1989 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.


  • March 1989, Hildegard Westerkamp, voice • Concert, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada)

Cricket Voice

Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 1987
  • Duration: 10:55
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium


ISRC CAD509612290

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

“It’s hard to be a night in the desert
without the crickets.
You make it with stars.
You make it with the skin
of the desert night.
You stitch those two together
sky and earth.
You find it with your cricket voice.”

Norbert Ruebsaat

Cricket Voice is a musical exploration of a cricket, whose song I recorded in the stillness of a Mexican desert region called the Zone of Silence. The quiet of the desert allowed for such acoustic clarity that this cricket’s night song — sung coincidentally very near my microphone — became the ideal “sound object” for this tape composition. Slowed down, it sounds like the heartbeat of the desert, in its original speed it sings of the stars.

The quiet of the desert also encouraged soundmaking. The percussive sounds in Cricket Voice were created by ‘playing’ on desert plants: on the spikes of various cacti, on dried up roots and palm leaves, and by exploring the resonances in the ruins of an old water reservoir.

Cricket Voice was completed at my own studio Inside the Soundscape with support from the Canada Council [for the Arts] (CCA). It was premiered in June, 1987 at the Community Arts Council of Vancouver.


  • June 1987, Concert, Community Arts Council of Vancouver, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada)

Beneath the Forest Floor

Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Year of composition: 1992
  • Duration: 17:23
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: Two New HoursCBC


ISRC CAD509612300

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

Beneath The Forest Floor is composed from sounds recorded in old-growth forests on British Columbia’s westcoast. It moves us through the visible forest, into its shadow world, its spirit; into that which effects our body, heart and mind when we experience forest.

Most of the sounds for this composition were recorded in one specific location, the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island. This old-growth rainforest contains some of the tallest known Sitka spruce in the world and cedar trees that are well over one thousand years old. Its stillness is enormous, punctuated only occasionally by the sounds of small songbirds, ravens and jays, squirrels, flies and mosquitoes. Although the Carmanah Creek is a constant acoustic presence it never disturbs the peace. Its sound moves in and out of the forest silence as the trail meanders in and out of clearings near the creek. A few days in the Carmanah creates deep inner peace — transmitted, surely, by the trees who have been standing in the same place for hundreds of years.

Beneath The Forest Floor is attempting to provide a space in time for the experience of such peace. Better still, it hopes to encourage listeners to visit a place like the Carmanah, half of which has already been destroyed by clear-cut logging. Aside from experiencing its huge stillness a visit will also transmit a very real knowledge of what is lost if these forests disappear: not only the trees but also an inner space that they transmit to us — a sense of balance and focus, of new energy and life. The inner forest, the forest in us.

Beneath The Forest Floor was produced in CBC’s Advanced Audio Production Facility in Toronto with the technical assistance of Joanne Anka and Rod Crocker and was commissioned by CBC Radio for Two New Hours. The piece was first broadcast on Two New Hours in April, 1992. Thanks to Norbert Ruebsaat for providing his recordings of an adult raven and a young raven from the Queen Charlotte Islands. All other recordings were made by myself mostly in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, as well as in forests near Cowichan Lake on Vancouver Island, on Galiano Island and in Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. All sounds were recorded throughout the summer of 1991. Thanks to Peter Grant for assisting in much of the recording process. Special thanks go to David Jaeger, producer of Two New Hours, for making this possible and for giving me the opportunity to work in the CBC Radio studio in Toronto. Beneath The Forest Floor was recommended for broadcast by the International Music Council’s Rostrum of Electroacoustic Music in 1992, and received a special mention at Prix Italia 1994.


  • April 1992, Two New Hours, CBC, Canada

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