Double CD and Booklet

This project is a double-CD and booklet "Soundscape Vancouver" which includes most of the original recordings published in 1973 by the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University in its landmark study of the acoustic environment of Vancouver, plus new digital recordings and compositions made in the 1990s by Robert MacNevin that show the changes in Vancouver's soundscape in the intervening years.

The CD production is the final stage in a larger project called Soundscape Vancouver '96, which occurred during May/June of that year. On the accompanying page you will find a detailed description of the project, its historical background and its significance to Vancouver. Soundscape Vancouver '96 was organized by the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE) (Vancouver) in close collaboration with the Goethe Institut (Vancouver), the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, the Vancouver New Music Society, and the CBC.

The CD includes:

Vancouver's growth and enormous changes within the last 20 years are reflected in its soundscape. This CD production wants to place soundscapes from today and the 70s side by side precisely to make these changes audible. The accompanying booklets contain texts addressing some of these issues, program notes for the new compositions, and selected sections reprinted from the original two-record set.

Soundscape Studies is a field that was born in Vancouver through the World Soundscape Project under the direction of R. Murray Schafer in the early seventies. It was at that time that The Vancouver Soundscape was produced. It was probably the first comprehensive study and aural presentation of the soundscape of a city, and as such established a precedent that has been influential around the world. Recently various new CD's have appeared presenting the soundscapes of other cities (e.g. Amsterdam, Madrid, Brasilia, Lisbon and others). However, The Vancouver Soundscape has been long out of print and essentially become a collector's item.

Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp, and recently Susan Frykberg, have continued the legacy of the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University through a program of courses in Acoustic Communication. This work is now known throughout the world by many educators, composers, musicians, architects and people in other disciplines, and much consciousness has been raised towards the quality of the acoustic environment. In fact, in international circles Vancouver is recognized as the original centre for soundscape studies.

For this reason it is particularly timely to publish this double CD and booklet now which listens back into the seventies and "revisits" the Vancouver Soundscape 20 years later. Not only has there been an enormous change in the soundscape itself but also in the way the soundscape is documented and thought about. Audio technology and recording equipment can now be used in similarly portable ways as a camera and as a result the soundscape can be recorded, reproduced, composed and processed by more people than ever before. This was not possible 20 years ago.

The CD and booklet is not only meant to expand listeners' horizon towards Vancouver's soundscape and raise consciousness about its quality, but it also wants to raise questions such as: how do we listen and behave acoustically in everyday life; how can we acquire a "sense of place" and belonging from our soundscapes; are there ways to design liveable soundscapes in urban environments? At the same time it offers an artistic interpretation of the acoustic environment of Vancouver and presents the city as a "sounding" place.

Background to the CD Project

Soundscape Vancouver '96, a four week Composition Workshop with Symposium and concluding Concert May 6 - June 8, 1996.

Two German and two Canadian radio artists/composers were invited during the month of May to create sound works about Vancouver, utilizing the extensive environmental sound archive at Simon Fraser University as well as their own recordings. The artists (from Germany: Sabine Breitsameter and Hans-Ulrich Werner; from Canada: Darren Copeland and Claude Schryer) offered to us personal sound portraits of our city, musical glimpses into their experience of listening to Vancouver. Coincidentally this project occurred at the same time as the Urban Noise Task Force (UNTF) at City Hall is applying a critical ear to the quality of Vancouver's sound environment.

One of the first attempts at creating a sonic portrait of a city was made right here in Vancouver in the early seventies by the World Soundscape Project under the direction of R. Murray Schafer. The result was an unusual and at that time experimental, adventurous publication of a two-record set and book called The Vancouver Soundscape. Since then, the activity of "sketching" a city's acoustic image with the use of recorded sounds has fascinated many composers and audio artists around the world. It has become a new forum for speaking about place and environment, in particular in countries where radio is perceived as an artistic medium and radiophonic experimentation is understood as part of cultural life. Places like Madrid, Brasilia, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Buenos Aires have been "portrayed" on the radio airwaves and on CDs.

Now, twenty years later, four artists have explored the acoustic environment of Vancouver again and have given us their sonic impressions of this city in the Nineties.

A final concert (June 7, 1996) presented these works to the public, as well as short excerpts from the original Vancouver Soundscape recordings, created twenty five years ago. An 8-channel computerized diffusion system, developed by Barry Truax at Simon Fraser University, transformed the conventional concert hall environment into an electroacoustically enhanced place for soundscape listening.

This concert was part of the International New Music Festival, organized by Vancouver New Music and the CBC. It was also part of a one-day symposium (June 8, 1996) organized by the Goethe Institut Vancouver in conjunction with members of the WFAE, and with the Sonic Studio at the School of Communication at SFU. The two German composer's travel and residence were made possible with the support of the Goethe Institut Vancouver, the two Canadian's travel and residence by the Media Arts Section of the Canada Council.

The successful completion of the compositions, their presentation in the concert, as well as the symposium, has led us to the next and obvious step: to document the pieces and make them available on CD. It not only provides an example of the type of work done in the area of soundscape and acoustic ecology, but also puts into perspective the growing awareness of and concern for the quality of the acoustic environment. The CD is designed to function as an "ear-opener" to the environment and alert Vancouverites and others to issues of noise pollution and acoustic ecology at a time when the city's sound environment is in danger of growing out of control as the city expands rapidly.

With R. Murray Schafer on the occasion of his Honorary Doctorate degree from SFU
and the launching of the Vancouver Soundscape double CD, 1997

The Vancouver Soundscape CD launch at the Goethe Institute, Vancouver, June 1996
left to right (back row), Dr. Werner Wolf, Bob MacNevin, Barry, Hans Ulrich Werner, Susan Frykberg;
(front row) Hildegard Westerkamp, Darren Copeland, Claude Schryer, Sabine Breitsameter (photo credit: Andrew Czink)

Soundscape Vancouver is available from:

Cambridge Street Publishing
4346 Cambridge Street
Burnaby, BC Canada V5C 1H4
order page