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Volume 10 Issue 7 - April 2005

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COMPOSER HILDEGARD

COMPOSER HILDEGARD WESTERKAMP CONTINUED FROM PAGE 28 mut:h noise into the environment. The courage of Murray Schafer to ask us to open up our ears· to noise pollution and find out what it means. I think it's a big, courageous thing to do. We're then facing the dark side of society, the side that is more destructive and doesn't pay attention to what we do with this kind of noise - to ourselves and the environment. It was an ecological question. Over the years, having been in different cultures, it became more complicated. India really turned me around in that way. The noise pollution problem in India is way worse than it is here. The luxury of making machinery quieter economically doesn't exist there. So you have to find ways of creating a lifestyle that protects you from that. The religious environment, the ritual environment, the temple, the practice of meditation, provides that. The practice of meditation is that you're not going to ignore the noise pollution, but you're going to include it in the sense that you know that it's there. It passes through, as you meditate. The aim, of course, is to find stillness. India has shaken up all of my experience of what· is right and wrong, and what is good and bad. I can't, now, easily say that urban noise is bad. We have it, it's there, and that's the reality. I can now also never say that silence is good, because we know that the silence people experience in an empty life, without a social context, is worse than the worst noise. We know that from the western world, and it's something that the Indian people don't know so much, and they're lucky. There is a cype of happiness and encouragement towards life there. STEENHUISEN: A number of times you've mentioned stillness, and said "Of course, the goal is stillness". What do you mean by that? WESTERKAMP: Personally, I enjoy the space of mind that is connected to the world in a way that comes from an inner calm and sense of love. It's what we experience when we create a composition. You know that moment when you are composing and everything in you says "Yes"? You've got it, and everything resonates. STEENHUISEN: Those are good days. 30 WESTERKAMP: (laughing) starts with experiencing your own Yes, and the rest are torture! But that feeling is what I'm talking' about - an inner stillness, while at the same time, everything vibrates. You're in resonance with what has just happened. I think it's the same as \he sound in a temple bowl, that resonates just in that space, and has a stillness in its sound. STEENHUISEN: You said that we have noise pollution, and that's the way it is, but at the same time, there is activism in your thinking. sound environment. I find the soundwalks are always creative moments. Ideas spring up no matter what. Soundwalks create a relationship with the environment and the people, creating a connection between iistener and environment. Deep down, that is my interest in everything I'm doing with sound. Knowing the relationship, understanding the relationship, and deepening the connection. That's why you want to include your"inner world. That's where the creative WESTERKAMP: It's an area of source is. conflict for me, actually. I started out very much as an activist, and was involved with fighting the expansion of the airport at the time, and being involved with the new noise bylaws, etc. That part is still there, but it has not stayed on the level of the concrete daily activism. It has moved into an educational arena, where soundwalks are an activist thing. You're taking people out into your environment and noticing what goes on. I've noticed that the effect of that is quite powerful. Most people are touched by it. The activism that can come from it is the important part. Because they have noticed things on the soundwalk, they can go and change things in their own life, in their own community. I am in constant conflict between the part of me that wants to fight the noise, and the person who wants to work on the not-so-obvious activist level that you can influence the world by how you yourself work and listen. STEENHUISEN: So it was external and now it's more internal? STEENHUISEN: Most of the composers I speak with deal with pitches and rhythms and notes on paper. Soundscape composition is so different. WESTERKAMP: I created soundscape compositions at a time when that term didn't exist. The pieces. I made had to do with experiences in life. The first piece I did in this way was called Whisper Study, and it came out of my work with the World Soundscape Project. At that time I was very concerned with the idea of silence, and what it means. I had never really thought about it in my life, and I was experiencing it in a new way. I began to do some studio work, and I decided I wanted to explore the voice, so I recorded my whispered voice saying the sentence "When there is no sound, hearing is most alert". To me, this captured all of the philosophical thinking around silence. I'll have an idea for a piece, and the sounds that will be involved in it, from the place that is connected to it, or the theme of the work. Then WESTERKAMP: Definitely ... STEENHUISEN: With a bit of noise between the two. WESTERKAMP: (laughs) Yes. People notice you listening and experiencing I get into the nitty-gritty of pitch and rhythm and things that composers think about, and I'm then in complete shock (Laughs). STEENHUISEN: Meaning? ... things all the time. It WESTERKAMP: It's at that always rubs off on them. point that I'm getting to know the STEENHUISEN: What happens on a soundwalk? WESTERKAMP: It's not just going on a walk, it's deciding to listen to everything that meets your ears. And I now include listening to one's inner voice also, as it distracts you, and takes you from the outer world. You can do it by yourself, with your children, or with an organized group. We've material in a different way, to . know the instruments that I'm working with. Maybe it's the same thing that every composer goes through in the end, when it becomes concrete. STEENHUISE,N: Yes and no, because the themes and the characters in your work are unpredictable sounds that you 've documented yet don't control. done it with groups of three WESTERKAMP: That's right. through sixty-five. The only rule To me, this is the essence of is that one is not to speak. I soundscape composition, in that present it as an opportunity to be you don't ever know what is going in a group that does not communicate on a word level. My idea to come out in the piece. I think WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM soundscape composition is an extreme case of not planning a piece in a nitty-gritty way. What happens is that when you take a recording and begin .to process the sound of it, every recording behaves completely dit terently. It depends on the angle of the microphone, etc. STEENHUISEN: It's similar o getting to know materials for acoustic composition, but the process of obtaining the materials in soundscape composition may be Less isolated, and more open. WESTERKAMP: It's that connection with making the recordings: experiencing the place, having lived in the place, that makes it fascinating. It's very inclusive. STEENHUISEN: Who are your audience? WESTERKAMP: I think that my audience is not the regular contemporary music audience. My pieces are played in thar context, but I feel that there is also an audience that comes from people who aren't involved in contemporary music. Recording technology, and the fact that everyone can listen to things through headphones has created an enormous interest in the soundscape work, because people are listening with the microphone ear that searches for sound. STEENHUISEN: Does the interest in soundscape composition make you feel optimistic about the sound environment? WESTERKAMP: Not really. People often listen to recorded sound more than to their own direct hearing of sound. The microphone and the loudspeaker have become very 'impertant aspects of this society, and have the capacity to cover up what our own ears and voices can do. It can have a debilitating effect on hearing and human soundmaking. STEENHUISEN: Is this an admission of defeat? WESTERKAMP: In a way. It's blocking it out and making a socalled better world. It's no longer clear what is precious. Everybody can document the world now, and a lot of it claims to be soundscape composition, but the aspect that is missing is that of relation - and the compositional aspect. In my darkest moments, I think that what is forgotten is Schafer's initial inspiration of "What are we doing to our world?" We have so many recorded sounds now that we don't have enough time to listen to them, let alone to the world around us. - APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2005

• Focus on 0 era Trial by Mass Media The Salome Dancer MURDER MOST FOUL has been an operatic staple since the 1600s. The Salome Dancer, which premiers at the Open Ears Festival on April 27 and 28, has an entirely original take on the dire deed. The inspiration for composer Tim Brady is the first murder trial conducted as much in O.J Simpson-style mass media frenzy as in the courtroom: the 1895 conviction of William Henry Theodore "Theo" Durant for Jack-the-Ripper style murders of two women in San Francisco's Emmanuel Baptist Church, where Durant was Assistant Sunday School Superintendent. William Randolph Hearst's new "yellow journalism" empire seized the case with sgeculative vengeance, and society lapped it up - both the courtroom drama and relations between the accused, Theo, and his beloved sister Maude, who later changed her name and profession, rising to fame as Maude Allen, "The Salome Dancer." Allen was born in Toronto in 1873. Her family moved to San Francisco six years later. Maude's talents on the piano led her to Berlin, where she enrolled in the Hochschule fur Musik in February 1895. Theo's tragedy came two months' later. At his request, Maude remained in Europe but corresponded steadily until Theo was hanged in January 1898. He maintained his innocence right to the end, as did Maude. By 1902, Maude had become a painter. Seeing Wilde's Salome in 1906 inspired her to create a dance-theatre piece, The Vision of Salome. Allen had no training in dance. Her technique arose from her own imagination, plus the encouragement of composer-critic Marcel Remy. He wrote the music for Vision and spurred Allen's dancing passions by associating the execution of John the Baptist with her brother's hanging. Vision gained Allen international fame and notoriety, including a brutal "Cult of the Clitoris" iibel suit that commenced in 1918. Ultimately Allen's fame waned, and she returned to San Francisco to die in obscurity and poverty in 1956. Talk about an operatic life. It's in character for Brady to seize the operatic opportunities in Allen's sui generis story. His own BY PHIL EHRENSAFf Tim Brady musical biography is equally one of a kind. He started out as a rock guitarist, trained formally injazz, and ultimately decided to become one of a handful of pioneering composers creating art music.for the prototypical instrument of our time, the electric guitar. More accurately, Brady composes and performs on two instruments simultaneously: the guitar and 24-track recording equipment. The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Contemporary Music devotes a chapter to Brady's innovations. He is also among the most thoughtful composers, concerning the interface between contemporary music and society. Twelve years' hard work by Brady and his librettist John Sobol separated the initial conception of Salome from the final production. Sobol interviewed Brady for Eye during the early 1990s, and they discovered much in common. Sobol is a poet, jazz saxophonist and digital multimedia artist. Brady felt that these three talents would make him more attuned as a librettist to the way music drives operatic drama than would likely be the case with most playwrights. The creative duo became a trio five years ago when Ann-Marie Donovan signed on as the director. Act 1 of Dancer has a classic structure: seven scenes and four. arias over 43 minutes, featuring, in Brady's words, "great tunes and great chords." Act 2 is structured like a raga, though this does not involve South Asian sonorities. Pedal notes lead into a gradual buildup over thirty-five minutes. The composer's BradyWorks Ensemble is in the pit. Four characters (reporter, cop, dancer and preacher) play out a straight narrative plot. Intelligibility of lyrics is emphasized (not the usual fare in new music operas). I anticipate a very stimulating evening. A MYTHIC TALE OF PRIME-TIME MURDER. MADNESS i, Sll NUHUS IN COLLABORATION WITH BRADYWORKS PRESENT April 5 26 OPERA IS Discover why lain Scott makes learning about opera fun! Virgil (for opera lovers) & Verdi (for classicists) Tuesdays: Choose 2:30 - 4:30 or 7-9 pm • June 16 ·_19 Opera Tour of Northern Italy www.opera-is.com 416-486-8408 APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2005 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 31

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