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Beneath the Forest Floor

Beneath the Forest Floor


Beneath the Forest Floor is a work for two-channel tape that was commissioned by CBC Radio for Two New Hours. It had its radio premiere on May 17, 1992 and was recommended for broadcast by the 4 th International Rostrum of Elecroacoustic Music (1992). It was the recipient of an Honourable Mention at the Prix Italia (1994). The work is composed from sounds recorded during the summer of 1991 in old growth forests on British Columbia's west coast, chiefly the Carmanah Valley. The composer writes:

"Its stillness is enormous, punctuated only occasionally by the sounds of small songbirds, ravens and jays, squirrels, flies and mosquitos. Although the Carmanah Creek is a constant acoustic presence, it never disturbs the peace. Its sound moves in and out of clearings near the creel. 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 knowlege of what is lost if these forest disappear: not only the trees, but an inner space that they transmit a sense of balance and focus, of new energy and life. The inner forest, the forest in us."


Hildegard Westerkamp was born in Germany and emigrated to Canada in 1968. After completing her music studies Westerkamp joined R. Murray Schafer's World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University. Her involvement with this project activated eep concerns about noise and the state of the acoustic environment in her and it changed her way of thinking about music, listening and soundmaking. The founding of Vancouver Co-operative Radio during the same time provided an opportunity to record, experiment with and broadcast the soundscape. One could say that her career as a composer, educator, and radio artist emerged from these two pivotal experiences and focused it on environmental sound and acoustic ecology. In addition, composers such as John Cage and Pauline Oliveros have had a significant influence on her work.

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.

Scientist in music The Reprieve Beneath the Forest Floor Concerto pour Ondes-Martenot Riverrun

About Audio Preservation

This project was made possible through funding from the AV Preservation Trust and the Department of Canadian Heritage AV Trust Department of Canadian Heritage

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