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Celebrating the July 18 birthday of Canada’s R. Murray Schafer

Celebrating the July 18 birthday of Canada’s R. Murray Schafer featured image

R. Murray Schafer is a pre-eminent Canadian composer, whose range expanded far beyond composing; he wrote books, documented the sounds of the environment and nature, and contributed frequently to journals and other publications about music and sound in general. As a composer, he covered off so many genres: theatre pieces, choral works, string quartets, many works for solo female voice with piano or orchestral accompaniment, and he accepted commissions from symphonies in Canada and Japan. He is also an environmentalist.

R. Murray Schafer’s books on music education which were translated into several languages, and many of his philosophies have been practised in classrooms world-wide. His range as a composer was diverse, and combined modern-day techniques with the vibe of the Romantic ear. If you’ve ever heard the term “soundscape”, it was R. Murray Schafer that coined it. Always innovative, he received many awards, and is likely the most decorated composer in Canadian history. He was the recipient of the first Glenn Gould Prize, the first Jules Léger Prize, the Walter Carsen Price by the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards.

An example of what one of his scores looks like:

If you’re new to classical music, this is far from Mozart as you’ll get. It would be like introducing a sushi newbie to uni instead of the nice, safe California roll. Keep an open mind, let it roll for a bit, and see how you do.

This link features Toronto contemporary music company, Soundstreams, in “Theseus”. The musicians are harpist Sanya Eng, violinists Stephen Sitarski, Carol Lynn Fujino, cellist David Hetherington, violist Douglas Perry.

R. Murray Schafer was born July 18, 1933 in Sarnia, Ontario, and he resides near Peterborough, Ontario.

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