R. Murray Schafer

Life and work

Raised in Toronto, he was from 1945 to 1955 pupils of the local Royal Conservatory of Music and studied harpsichord and piano. From 1954 he studied at the University of Toronto harpsichord with Greta Kraus, composition with John Weinzweig and piano with Alberto Guerrero, who was Glenn Gould's piano teacher. However, he had to leave for insubordination in 1955, the university already. The 1956 to 1958 he spent in Vienna, where he deals with German minnesongs. From the composition Minnelieder, a setting of 13 medieval German poems, for voice and chamber ensemble (1956 ) was born. From 1958 to 1961 he worked as a journalist in London.

1962-1963 Schafer was director of the series, which he founded Ten Centuries Concerts in Toronto. 1963 to 1965 he taught at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1965-1975 at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. There, he called 1971 the World Soundscape Project in life, which it had set itself the task of absorbing soundscapes world to explore and document. Today the project by the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology will continue. In addition, during this time he developed his hörpädagogisches concept Ear Cleaning, a " systematic exercise program with which the hearing is to be trained then, lute, especially those of the environment, perceive critical and finer. " (R. Murray Schafer: The Tuning of the World )

Schafer is one of the most important Canadian composers. As a composer he wrote more than 120 different works for choir, orchestra and chamber ensembles, as well as operas, musical theater and multimedia installations. Since the 60s, he worked on the scale to 12 parts opera cycle Patria, of the 10 parts so far have been completed.

Schafer coined the term soundscape, which he defined in The Tuning of the World as:

" The acoustic environment, really every aspect of an acoustic environment that is determined as a subject. The term refers both to real environments as well as abstract structures, such as the music composition and the tape montage, especially if they are perceived as environments. "

Under the heading of Acoustic Ecology, he examined the impact of Soundscapes on living organisms. In addition, the concept led Schizophonie into the music. He was friends with and strongly influenced by the media theorist Marshall McLuhan.


Schafer received numerous awards. Worldwide attention as a composer, he obtained with his Quartet # 2 ( Waves ), for which he was awarded the 1978 Prix Jules -Léger pour la nouvelle musique de chambre. In 1987 he received the first winner of the Glenn Gould Prize.

His other awards include:

Writings (selection )

  • Ear Cleaning: Notes for at Experimental Music Course. Don Mills, Ontario: BMI Canada, 1967; German: School of listening. Edited by Franz Basl. Vienna: Universal Edition, 1972.
  • The Tuning of the World. New York: Knopf, 1977; German: Sound and noise. A cultural history of hearing. Frankfurt am Main: Atheneum, 1988, ISBN 3-610-08498-7.
  • The order of the sounds. A cultural history of hearing, Edited and translated again v. Sabine Breitsameter, Schott Music, 2010