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McCartney, Andra

Sounding Places with Hildegard Westerkamp


Monday 7 November 2005, by Rob Weale

In this article, the author considers the significance of Hildegard Westerkamp’s work to current scholarship in the area of feminist epistemology, and to contemporary electroacoustic music in the genre of soundscape composition. In particular, she addresses Westerkamp’s receptive, dialogic approach to particular places and their sonic, social, political and technological resonances. She also discusses how soundscape composition as a genre has remained relatively marginalised, lacking canonical acceptance within the field of electroacoustic music. She notes how there are also very few analytical projects in electroacoustic music that refer to listener responses, and that those that do tend to cite responses en masse, without specific quotes or discussion of the relative authority of different listeners. She then presents her approach to the analysis of electroacoustic works, in particular, her use of a wide range of listener responses through which to discuss electroacoustic works in context. This approach contributes to reception studies in its focus on bringing the responses of listeners from varied listening backgrounds directly into the discussion of the music, as well as considering relationships between these responses and the gestalt perceptual principles elaborated in the work of James Tenney.

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