Saskatchewan native Steve Heimbecker studied fine arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design (Calgary, Canada). Though he hasn’t abandoned his interest in the visual or, more precisely, spatial dimension, he has focused his career mainly on sound. He is intrigued by sound’s sculptural effect and even defines himself as a sound sculptor. Recognized for his work in audio art and electroacoustic music, he has produced several sculptures and installations integrating sound components or sound-generating devices of his own making.
Heimbecker’s installations evoke the rich tradition of alternative instruments and sound production systems dating back to the experiments of the futurists and Dadaists. In 1996, he presented the installation exhibition, Soundpool: the Manufacturing of Silence
, at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art and Design. It is a whimsical interactive installation which consists of 8 giant paintings that also function as audio speakers. When activated, the installation surrounds the audience in a silent but physical 3 hertz vibration within a mechanical cacophony of electric motors and machinery. Subsequently this installation was exhibited in Montreal (2001), Quebec City (1996), and Edmonton (1996).
For the international exhibition and conference The Tuning of the World
, at the Banff Centre and the Nickle Arts Museum of the University of Calgary, and inspired by the 1977 book by R. Murray Schafer of the same name, Heimbecker created the installation The Acoustic Line As the Crow Listens
(1993). This work explored the acoustic qualities of very vast outdoor spaces. To carry it out, the artist recorded eight points simultaneously over a linear distance of 1.5 kilometres. His aim was to craft “sound mappings” which, in this scenario, explored a spacially rich auditory experiment using the speed of sound in the natural environment as a recordable and playable sonic event. Heimbecker is a founding member of The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology.
During the same period, Heimbecker devised techniques for mixing live and prerecorded sounds for quadraphonics and octaphonics on a multi-channel system of his own design. These techniques, which envelop listeners in a rich tapestry of sound, resulted in a series of production concepts such as “the soundpool”, “sound sailing”, “acoustic mapping”, and “dynamic voltage mapping”. With these techniques, his work harks back to concrete music and such pioneers as Pierre Schaeffer, who used sounds recorded in the environment to create works.
Since 2000, at art centres across Canada, Heimbecker has been creating sound portraits with video, of cities and rural settings (Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, Saskatchewan) he calls Songs of Place
(produced on Dolby 5.1 DVD). Work on Songs of Place
is underway as part of a residency at Oboro in Montreal, and the project will be launched in the spring of 2004. These works, which use multiple recordings made over a short period, aim to capture the sounds of the space specific to a location.
In June 2001, Heimbecker took part in a concert that capped off a year of sonic events organized within Silophone
, a project in which the duo Emmanuel Madan and Thomas McIntosh [The User] converted a grain elevator in Montreal’s Old Port into an interactive acoustic space linked to the Internet.
In June 2004, Heimbecker travelled to the Magdalen Islands in Quebec to participate in Les Islomanes
, a visual art symposium organized by the AdMare artists association. There he created Windwaterwall
, a sonic sculpture swept by the ocean winds.(1)
Heimbecker has also participated in many electroacoustic concerts, including: The Audiles
(1995 - Calgary, Ab.), Bodies and Technology
(1996 - Edmonton, Ab.), From Our Home to You
(1998 - Calgary, Ab.), Send + Receive
(1998-2001 - Winnipeg, Mb.), High Tech Story Teller’s Cabaret
(2000 - Saskatoon, Sk.), Earful Audio Art Festival
(2001 - Halifax, N.S.), Art’s Birthday
(2002 - Vancouver, B.C.), Vasistas Festival
(2002 - Montreal, Quebec), and Mois Multi
(2002 - Quebec, QC). In 1995 Heimbecker toured Improvisations in Octaphonics, seven octaphonic concerts in six Canadian cities from Quebec City to Calgary. In 1999, he published The Enormouslessness of Cloud Machines
, an anthology of his multi-channel sound compositions on the Ohm Éditions label based in Quebec City (Avatar).
In addition, he has given sound recording and mixing workshops across Canada, and co-produced 2 compilation audio art audio publications featuring 20 different artists (1989, 2000). In 1997, through his studio in Alberta, he founded the Audio Art Apprenticeship Program for artists working in sound creation. Steve Heimbecker lives in Montreal where he works from his home studio, the Qube Assemblage for Art in Motion.