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Fantasie for Horns II

Hildegard Westerkamp

Programme notes

Fantasie for Horns II was composed in two stages: the tape part was completed first, in 1978, and was conceived as a composition in its own right (Fantasie for Horns I, which received honorable mention at the 1979 International Competition of Electroacoustic Music in Bourges, France). After the completion of the tape, it seemed natural to add a live horn part. Besides being environmental in its choice of sounds, the tape could now become the acoustic environment for the horn — an instrument which, in turn, has had a long history as a sound signal in many parts of the world.

The sound sources of the tape part are Canadian trainhorns, foghorns from both the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts of Canada, factory and boathorns from Vancouver and surroundings. Additional sound sources are an alphorn and a creek. Most of the material was taken from the World Soundscape Project’s environmental tape collection at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver; some of it was recorded by myself.

Listening to the various horns in the collection was fascinating because of the way their sounds were shaped and modulated by the surrounding landscape. Some horns would echo only once, others many times, their sounds slowly fading into the distance. A trainhorn’s echo was half a tone lower as the train approached, but the same pitch as it passed. Each horn acquires its unique sound from the landscape it inhabits. This strong interaction between these sounds and their environment gave the inspiration to work with this material. Horn sounds are interesting for another reason — they rise above any ambience, even that of large cities. They are soundmarks that give a place its character and give us, often subliminally, a ‘sense of place.’

The tape part of the piece was realized in 1978 at the Sonic Research Studio of Simon Fraser University (SFU) (Vancouver, BC) and Fantasie for Horns II was premiered by James MacDonald in October, 1979 at the Music Gallery in Toronto.


  • October 1979, James MacDonald, horn • Concert, The Music Gallery, Toronto (Ontario, Canada)

About this recording

This version (1996) was performed by Brian G’froerer who used two horns: a Yamaha YHR-667V for the main body of the work, and an Alexander descant horn Model 107 for the imitation of the tugboat horns.

  • Composer(s): Hildegard Westerkamp
  • Year of composition: 1979
  • Instrumentation: horn and 4-channel fixed medium
  • ISWC: T9068760769
  • Publisher(s): Yul média
  • Duration: 12:50
  • ISRC: CAD509612270