Hildegard Westerkamp, Gently Penetrating Beneath the Sounding Surfaces of Another Place (1997)
Listen to the following composition: to an external site.
Answer the questions below in short paragraph form (200-300 words per paragraph). Submit your answers as a PDF file.
Background Information
This is an example of soundscape composition. More information on this form of sound art can be found here:
It also has its origins in the World Soundscape Project. More information on this can be found here:
These are the program notes that Hildegard Westerkamp provides for Gently Penetrating Beneath the Sounding Surfaces of Another Place:
The vendors’ voices in this composition were recorded in specific areas of New Delhi during my first visit in 1992: in the residential area of Januk Puri, at the early morning produce market in Tilak Nagar, at the market near the Jama Masjid, and at the market stalls just off Janpath near Connaught Place. I noticed that many of the other sounds in these places besides the vendors’ voices were those of metal (such as buckets falling over, cans rolling, the handling of metal pots, squeaking gates, sometimes unidentified objects rattling or clinking as they pass), bicycle bells and scooter horns. As they seemed to be rather characteristic sonic “accompaniments” to the environments through which the vendors passed or where they had their stalls, these sounds became major players in the composition.
Coming from a European and North American context, I was delighted by the daily presence of the vendors’ voices. As the live human vending voice has disappeared almost entirely in Northern Europe and North America and has largely been replaced by media advertising, it is somewhat of a miracle for the visitor from those areas to hear such voices again. The gruffer, coarser shouting of male voices seemed to occur in markets near noisy streets or where a lot of voices were competing with each other. The vendors moving through quieter neighbourhoods seemed to have musically more expressive voices and almost songlike calls for their products, with clear melodic patterns. And then there was the voice of the boy selling juice…
In a city like New Delhi, and other places in India, one experiences shimmering beauty and grungy dirt and pollution side by side all the time. These opposites are audible in most of my recordings as well and specifically in the sound materials selected for this piece. I wanted to express acoustically/musically both the shimmering and the grunge as it seems to represent so deeply and openly the contradicitions within this culture and the intensity of life that results from it.
Finally I believe that this piece also explores outer and inner worlds as one experiences them in India: the extraordinary intensity of daily living on the one hand and the inner radiance, focus and stillness on the other hand that emanate from deep within the culture and its people, despite the hardships of life.

  1. Why is this considered music?
  2. How does this work exemplify the goals of the World Soundscape Project? Is it successful? (Read the program notes again)
  3. The first section change begins at about 1:16 and last about 15 seconds. What happens at this point that gives a sense of structural change to the work?
  4. What elements of counterpoint are used in the first 2 minutes? (describe all the sounds and their start times) How are the different lines differentiated? Bach used pitches – what does Westerkamp use?
  5. Westerkamp states:
    “I like walking the edge between the real sound and the processed sound. On the one hand, I want the listener to recognize the source, and thus want to establish a sense of place. But on the other hand, I am also fascinated with the processing of sound in the studio and making its source essentially unrecognizable. This allows me as a composer to explore the sound’s musical/acoustic potential in depth”.
    Did you get a sense of place in this work? How did the notion of “another place” come through?

The writer has follow the prof sample’s structure to write this order.

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