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by Hildegard Westerkamp
“Listening and Soundmaking: A Study of Music-as-Environment", in Sound by Artists, edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, Published by Blackwood Gallery and Charivari Press, Toronto, 2013. Originally published by Art Metropole and Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990. (Out of Print)
It is my claim that the music we encounter in the public sphere of the urban soundscape (music-as-environment), constitutes a dominant voice, throwing the relationship between listening and soundmaking off balance. Not only does this music have the power to silence us but it can also change our relationship to listening, that is, it can make us passively accept what we hear. Music-as-'environment has become an inescapable presence in the public sphere of our lives. Via the loudspeaker, it is transmitted into shops, mails, restaurants, lobbies and banks, onto sidewalks and over telephones. It has become an environmental sound in the urban landscape. lt is acoustically interwoven and perceived simultaneously with other sounds in the environment. This music-as-environment is a widely accepted, often desired sound which is at the same time ignored.