Hildegard Westerkamp (born April 8, 1946, in Osnabrück, Germany) is a Canadiancomposer, radio artist, teacher and sound ecologist of German origin. She studied flute and piano at the Conservatory of Music in Freiburg, West Germany from 1966 – 1968 and moved to Canada in 1975. She received a Bachelor of Music from the University of British Columbia in 1972 and a Masters in Arts from Simon Fraser University in 1988. She taught acoustic communication at Simon Fraser University from 1982 – 1991.
In 1972, she married the Canadian poet and playwright Norbert Ruebsaat and has collaborated with him on a number of projects.
Many of her compositions deal with the acoustic environment and she often incorporates the medium of tape in conjunction with live instruments or voices, combining, manipulating and processing environmental sounds. She has been influenced by studying the works of composers like Pauline Oliveros, John Cage and Barry Truax.
From 1973-80 Westerkamp worked as a research associate along with R. Murray Schafer at the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University. This work fed into Schafer’s book The Tuning of the World. In 1974 she began working as a producer and host at CFRO (Vancouver Cooperative Radio). Through her work with Shafer and with radio, she developed a deep interest and concern for noise and the acoustic environment, which greatly influenced her style of composition. After this time, she began to experiment with recording, processing, and mixing environmental sounds in the recording studio.
Westerkamp was involved in several other research projects on noise, acoustic ecology and music. From 1974 – 1975, she was a researcher with the Noise Abatement Project of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation in Vancouver. In 1982, she was a researcher for the Women in Music project at Simon Fraser University. She is also a founding member of the World Forum on Acoustic Ecology (WFAE).
In the 1980s, she developed an interest in music for live performance, and in creating installations and other “composed environments” (sometimes in collaboration) for specific sites.
After 1991, Westerkamp devoted herself to more fully to composing, lecturing, and writing, disseminating her compositions and ideas at concerts and conferences. She was editor of The Soundscape Newsletter from 1991 – 1995 and joined the editorial committee of Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, for the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology in 2000.
She has also composed soundtracks for radio dramas and film and her music has been featured in movies by Gus Van Sant including Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005). She collaborated with Jesse Zubot on the electronic score for Koneline (2016).