Raymond Murray Schafer

Award-winning Canadian composer, writer, teacher and acoustic ecology pioneer R Murray Schafer was born in Sarnia, Ontario on 18 July 1933. He grew up in Toronto and studied in London (UK) and at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Toronto University - composition with John Weinzweig. He also met media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who had a big effect on Schafer's artistic growth. He coined the term schizophonia to mean the splitting of a sound from its source, or the condition caused by this split.

Schafer's book The Tuning of the World (1977), which concerns his ideas about our sonic environment, has been extremely influential worldwide, and has been translated into many languages. He also wrote the books On Canadian Music and The Thinking Ear: On Music Education.

He wrote music which engages with the environment on several levels, is a pioneer of graphic notation and soundscapes, and, over four decades, created Patria: twelve site-specific music theatre works. His avant-garde, music theatre, opera and classical compositions, many using graphic notation, are for a very wide range of forces. He wrote twelve string quartets, and much other chamber music, plus choral and orchestral music.

At the opening 2017 General Assembly of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) in Vancouver, running concurrently with the society's annual contemporary music festival, the ISCM World New Music Days, Schafer became the first Canadian to be elected as an honorary member of the society since its founding in 1922. Schafer joins seventy-one honorary members, which include Andriessen, Babbitt, Bartók, Busoni, Cage, Carter, Casella, Copland, Dallapiccola, Finnissy, Gubaidulina, Hindemith, Honegger, Kodály, Koechlin, Krenek, Kurtág, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Malipiero, Messiaen, Milhaud, Nancarrow, Pärt, Penderecki, Ravel, Roussel, Saariaho, Schoenberg, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Takemitsu, Vaughan Williams and Xenakis.

Schafer's other awards include the Glenn Gould Prize (1987), the Walter Carsen Prize (Canada Council for the Arts, 2005), the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement (2009) and Companion of the Order of Canada (2013).

Schafter died on 14 August 2021, aged eighty-eight, following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.


A selection of articles about Raymond Murray Schafer

Music as a Form of Magic - Larry Sitsky: Late Piano Pieces - Second Series 2022-2023

Simultaneous Beethoven - Endre Anaru listens to all the Beethoven symphonies simultaneously

So Much, For So Many - R Murray Schafer's 'My Life on Earth and Elsewhere', read by A P Virag