Hildegard Westerkamp


Hildegard Westerkamp's piece Kits Beach Soundwalk is a mixture of sounds and monologue taken from a beach near Vancouver. Even though the recording is close up to the ocean gently washing over barnacles, the city is omnipresent in the background. The speaker lets us know that we could easily be rid of this through filtering and we hear the filtered sound. The city is no longer there, but is still there in its absence.

Westerkamp talks of the sounds in her dreams and in her present interchangeably, yet the city always remains the "monster to be conquered". This is a romantic notion common to her era where peasants' lives are idealised against the backdrop of an ever burgeoning modernity. It is this modernity which has given her a voice, however, and she doesn't seem to be able to reconcile this reality into her poetic musings.

I can't help thinking that this background 'noise' of the modern world needs to be embraced. Why should we always live in denial of our reality? How are we ever to change our world for the better if we are always harking back to some idealised version of our collective pasts. Westerkamp's work is environmentally inspiring though not perhaps in the way she envisaged, Now, we are facing catastrophe and yes, the monster needs to be tamed, to be made human sized again like the renaissance imagined.


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