Reflections on Music from the New Wilderness: A Dialogue between Ellen Waterman and Tyler Kinnear

I wonder if in some sense the New Wilderness is this society we live in where comfortable, former boundaries still exist, but they are permeable. They exist in ways that are not settled and have no assurance that they will live on into the future.

-Ellen Waterman, in dialogue with Tyler Kinnear

With the financial support of the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, Music 2014, the Western Front produced Music from the New Wilderness, a production consisting of new compositions that integrate pre-recorded material, including an archival wax cylinder recording and recent field recordings.  Music scholar Ellen Waterman and doctoral student Tyler Kinnear attended the production several times.  At the invitation of DB Boyko (who played a major role as director/curator of Music from the New Wilderness), Ellen and Tyler scheduled time to formally discuss their experiences.  Prior to conversation, they exchanged a series of questions to guide their discussion (see “Questions”).  Topics addressed during the dialogue included stylistic features of works on the program and larger concepts, such as wilderness, technology, and genre.  Tyler created the following audio work using excerpts from the meeting and field recordings he made in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.  The recordings used in the piece are as follows:

- Dialogue at Ellen’s brother’s house, with Gypsy the dog accompanying us (East Vancouver)

- Tide pool at Third Beach (Stanley Park)

- Boardwalk in Pacific Rim National Park (Vancouver Island)

- At the base of the University Boulevard Water Feature (UBC)

- Contact microphone affixed to Tyler’s apartment window on a rainy day (Kitsilano)

- Garden near the Faculty of Land and Foods Systems (UBC)


CLICK HERE for Video Excerpt of the performance of Songs of Love and Despair



How might we position these works in relation to a broader history of experimental music?

In what ways do these works engage the concept of wilderness?  (What is “new” here?)

What genre expectations are foiled and/or fulfilled by this concert?

What contextualization does the audience need in order to be let into these works?

Amidst recent demands for expansion here in British Columbia in natural resources export (pipelines, coal terminals, etc.), do these works stimulate discussion around some of the cultural, environmental, and political aspects (perhaps also anxieties) of this moment in BC history?  More directly, can such works raise environmental awareness?



Ellen Waterman is both a music scholar and a flutist specializing in creative improvisation and contemporary music. She is currently Dean of the School of Music at Memorial University of Newfoundland where she also teaches in ethnomusicology.

Tyler Kinnear is a Ph.D. Candidate in Musicology at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on conceptions of nature in music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Music from the New Wilderness Program

  • when you’re looking for something, all you can find is yourself (2014)
  • Multi-channel audio
  • Composition: Adam Basanta
  • Interviews, research, and dramaturgy: Jennifer Schine



  • The Senses of Belonging (2014)
  • Piano, voice, strings
  • Composition/performance: Alicia Hansen
  • String quartet: Peggy Lee, Jean René, Jesse Zubot, Joshua Zubot


  • Objects from a Landscore (2014)
  • Multi-channel projection
  • Composition: Christian Calon


  • Songs of Love and Despair: The Songs of Therese and the Potato Gardens Band (2014)
  • String quartet and archival recordings
  • Composition: Jesse Zubot
  • String quartet: Peggy Lee, Jean René, Jesse Zubot, Joshua Zubot
  • Visuals: Krista Belle Stewart