When resource industry moves into British Columbia’s landscapes, industrial sites and company towns are cut into the wilderness. The edge between wilderness and such a new place is traditionally knife sharp like the edge between life and a stabbing death. Poison is released into the environment by the violent penetration of industry. Once resources are drained the company moves away leaving its huge, filthy footprints behind, leaving open gaps in mountains and relying on natural processes to absorb the junkheaps, trailings, the waste. Natural rhythms and movements eventually soften the edges, transforming an abandoned industrial site into mysterious rusty shapes and collapsed wooden structures overgrown by moss, weeds, shrubs, and trees. A once noisy, bustling place becomes a quiet ghosttown full of memories. An old industry becomes artifact and lies there like a toothless monster of the past.
Hildegard Westerkamp is a composer, radio artist and sound ecologist. She presents soundscape workshops and lectures internationally, performs and writes. After completing her music studies in the early seventies her ears were drawn beyond music to the acoustic environment as a broader cultural context or place for intense listening. Whether as a composer, educator, or radio artist most of her work since the mid-seventies has centred around environmental sound and acoustic ecology. Hildegard’s compositions have been performed and broadcast in many parts of the world. The majority of her compositional output deals with aspects of the acoustic environment: with urban, rural or wilderness soundscapes, with the voices of children, men and women, with noise or silence, music and media sounds, or with the sounds of different cultures, and so on. She has composed film soundtracks, sound documents for radio and has produced and hosted radio programs such as Soundwalking, and Musica Novaon Vancouver Co-operative Radio.
More recently she involved her two grandsons in the creation of her work Once Upon a Timeand collaborated with composer and recorder player Terri Hron on Beads of Time Soundingand with pianist Rachel Iwaasa on Klavierklang. The latter had its world premiere at ISCM’s World Music Days in Vancouver, November 2017. Her compositional work has been discussed in various articles, but most extensively in Andra McCartney’s dissertation Sounding Places: Situated Conversations through the Soundscape Work of Hildegard Westerkamp,York University, Toronto, 1999. Her compositions draw attention to the act of listening itself, to the inner, hidden spaces of the environments we inhabit and to details both familiar and foreign in the acoustic environment. Some of Westerkamp’s compositional work appears in US filmmaker Gus van Sant’s Elephant and Last Days.
Finally you may enjoy listening to the 2017 CBC IDEAS program with host Paul Kennedy here. More info: hildegardwesterkamp.ca
Immersed in reclaimed European architecture of the past, she focuses her artistic practice on photography of abandoned or partially run-down structures before they disappear. Since 2000, her work has focused on a photo-documentary examination of British Columbia’s traditional mining, fishing and forestry industries. The issues of how quickly buildings, closed for economic reasons, disappear along with the elements of culture they encompass are addressed. In many works, photographs are integrated with ambient sounds, video or interviews to explicitly convey the layers of human experience impacted by industrial and urban changes. Her work raises questions of progress, architectural preservation, housing and culture. She has also developed a photographic abstraction style. In industrial sites, she comes across shapes, lines and layers which she studies closely, producing abstracted images, sometimes involving optical effects. She has shown and continues to show her work in public art galleries, artist centers and museums. Her latest artwork, the sound and video installation Ioco / Belcarra Cottages / Port Moody is exhibited in a solo show at the Art Gallery of St. Albert until August 8th 2019.
Born and raised in Italy, Giorgio Magnanensi currently lives in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada. His diverse artistic practice includes composition, conducting, improvisation, circuit bending and video art. He is artistic director of Vancouver New Music and Laboratorio, and lecturer at the School of Music of the Vancouver Community College.