Sabine Breitsameter dedicated this opening of Hörweg Groß-Bieberau in the memory of Murray Schafer, on 29 August, 11 a.m., with the mayor, local bank director and the general public. On August 17, she spoke on Deutschlandradio and on SWR.de
The Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology made a post entitled Celebrating The Legacy of R. Murray Schafer: Canadian Composer, Author, Music Educator and 'Father of Acoustic Ecology' Dies at 88
Helen Dilkes: I am sad to hear the news of Murray's death.
What a presence he has been in our lives and work. We, the AFAE, brought him to Australia for Acoustic Ecology: An International Symposium, in Melbourne in 2003. It was so momentous to get him here. In his gentle but pointed way he let us know how reluctant he was to come all this way, and how he had had to shovel one metre of snow off his driveway to even leave his house! He walked through the education workshops I had organised at a Melbourne primary school, with material he had pioneered and was so familiar with. He walked and listened with us in our local bush environments.
What a thrill it was for Nigel and I, and others, to be invited to his house after the Sound Escape: A conference on acoustic ecology, in Peterborough, Ontario, in 2000. Murray gave Nigel a copy of his 'Tuning of the World' with an inscription that included 'In memory or our time together at Indian River'. I know that he was then beginning to recognise the work Nigel was doing for the acoustic ecology community.
My soundscape work with children at that time had Murray's principles in mind, and Nigel's whole professional life as a sound designer had a purist intent that was informed by Murray Schafer's approach to sound and listening. So much to say, about a life....
Helmi Järviluoma: In the autumn of 1991, I heard from popular music scholar Philip Tagg that R. Murray Schafer is by no means a trembling old man – so often we assume of gurus in our fields – but he continues to be active around the world talking and holding Ear cleaning workshops. I also got my Schafer's address. This was the beginning of the correspondence, which has continued – not very often, but nonetheless – until about 2013, when he fell ill, and there was no longer a reply to my letters. In 1991, however, the answer came, in a form I did not expect: I wrote a letter, and Schafer replied with a cassette to which he had dictated the answers aloud, in a beautiful calm style. I spelled out, pruned and translated the interview. Schafer was happy to give the impression of luddite. In the early 1990s, computers and emails didn’t interest him, and not really after that. He said: “you can also send me a fax: to the shop next door, where I can pick them up every now and then”. He practiced handwriting as an art, so letters were written in beautiful handwriting, usually with an ink pen, beneath which was a lavish autograph. Schafer revealed that he was unusually annoyed that people were calling or sending faxes (email was not common then) asking for a prompt response and only because they themselves were helplessly late with their requests. He should have interrupted what he himself was doing and taken action. Therefore, he did not easily reveal his landline number, and the cell phone had not yet been “invented”. So, he smiled at his beard and said that he deliberately maintained the image of himself that he could only be contacted by sending the right letters. In this case, he can read the letter in complete peace, think about the answer, reply within a week and the letter travels in different means of transport to the other side of the globe for a week. I have to admit that when I got into the stranglehold of email itself, I envied and admired that kind of attitude. I think this would be the cure for the torment of constant interruptions, inability to concentrate that torments many of us. The culmination of the visit of Schafer in 1992 – the first but definitely not the last that I organised – took place in Lapland, where I had taken him and his companion on holiday in the middle of the forest, to my brother's cottage. He writes about this in his memoirs, especially about the memorable car crash, The police wolf dog reportedly barked throughout our trip in the back of a police car, from Kemijärvi to Rovaniemi. The best of Schafer's courses in Finland (he has indeed had several of them) were precisely these long, multi-day courses, which allowed time to delve into making drama with the help of mere sounds. Murray always remembered to be complaining and worried about the fact that after a good start, the soundscape people had not “produced proper research”. That would be sorely needed. This is when, with his genuine support, I started to draft the first plans of the large European project Acoustic Environments in Change. But that is a completely different story. The Finnish school of soundscape studies owes very, very much to the imaginative mind, friendliness, and constant support and help of Murray Schafer. He is greatly miss by the whole of Finnish soundscape community. We send our warmest condolences to Eleanor James, the rest of Murray’s family, and his closest ones. He will never be forgotten.
In memory of R. Murray Schafer: the only composer who pursued music for all:
It's been a few years since composer Hildegard Westerkamp informed us about R. Murray Schafer's Alzheimer. On August 16, 2021, five days after receiving an email from Schafer's partner, mezzo-soprano Eleanor James, saying, "Murray seems to be on the last leg of his journey home to God – to the Love,” the CBC announced Schafer's death to the world.
As a Canadian composer, Schafer understood better than anyone the negative effects of the so-called logo-centrism of Europe. Although visually perceived landscapes and scenery had already been verbalized and become part of the "world" since ancient times, auditory space did not exist until Schafer proposed the concept of soundscape in the 1960s. The miracle of music and language was generated from the sonic environment. The West, which has taken for granted the autonomy of "music," however, has silenced the auditory space and human ecology. In his book, "the Tuning of the World," Schafer made clear the closeness of soundscape to composers from Handel and Haydn to Debussy, Ives, and Messiaen, but he also urged music teachers not to train children to make silent surrenders in front of the great "works of art" of dying composers.i Schafer states that if all children begin to play the piano at the age of, say, six, then by the age of ten half of them will be playing. By the time they are ten, half of them have stopped...By the time they are twenty, it is only one percent. So in this case, what the teacher wants is not true music education, but for producing the next Glenn Gould. To Schafer, this is a bad kind of music education, and he thought that music education should be for everyone.ii Training a second Gould to play the "Goldberg Variations" is an important mission for conservatories and academies that train "performers." "No one will be left behind," which is the mantra of the recently popular SDGs, for example. However, the education here is rooted in the manners of "Only geniuses will be left behind.” There are composers who emphasized soundscape, such as Satie, who introduced "noise" into "music," Russolo, who made "noise" into "music," and Cage, who used Zen and the I Ching to give "noise" a "musical" time axis. They fought against the ghosts of the nineteenth century concepts, such as "genius," "originality," and "art," and their concern may have been to break away from "nineteenth-century music," but not music education for all. Schafer, on the other hand, was a rare composer who focused on the on-going work that children will create in the future and its public nature. The United Nations adopted the SDGs in 2015, more than 40 years before Schafer's perspective was directed toward all children.
All of my private conversations with Schafer will never fade from my memory: In 1995, Schafer was invited to participate in the Suntory Hall International Composition Commission Series, produced by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, He also gave a lecture at Keio University in Tokyo, and I returned temporarily from Canada, where I was studying, to serve as his interpreter. The following is a private conversation we had on that occasion: He said, “The Canada Council provides a large amount of money every year to the opera house. I do not understand why Canada should contribute to the Italian arts. If they gave me the same amount of money, I would compose a work that is unique to Canada.” Children's unique on-going works, magically created by the traffic of soundscape, may have a different direction than the accumulation of quantitative training.
The Institute of Music in Canada published several tributes on their 'Remembering R. Murray Schafer' new post, including:
Claude Schryer shared his memories of Schafer for the Peterborough Currents: ...Some people call Schafer a ‘renaissance man’. He certainly was an exceptional artist, educator and a visionary. He not only opened our ears to the world but also expanded our minds about what it means to be here and now, in this place. I am grateful for Murray’s immeasurable contributions to the arts and sciences.
Carol Ann Weaver: There are few people whose lives and impact have mattered so much to me as R. Murray Schafer. When I was in my early 20s, teaching composition at a college in Virginia, his small books, including When Words Sing, gave me windows/avenues into sound that changed my life, and hopefully lives of all I was able to reach. Since then, I met him in various places. Many decades later, when I was in my final year of teaching at University of Waterloo/Conrad Grebel University College, I was able to invite him to the Sound in the Land — Music and the Environment conference/festival which I led. We will all remember his presence — stately, presenting his truth in wisps, words and manners that transcended his being. This was surely the last public presentation venue for him. We are so grateful he graced us with his presence. Eric Leonardson, Sabine Breitsameter, Rae Crossman, Wendalyn Bartley, Eric Powell, Matt Griffin, and so many others shared in this wonderful event. Thank you Murray for changing our world; thank you for helping us to listen!
Carol also wrote to Eleanor James on behalf of CASE,
I am writing to you personally, and also on behalf of CASE (Canadian Association for Sonic Ecology), extending all of our most sincere condolences on the recent passing of Murray. He was an original signatorie of the first legal CASE document, and likewise has inspired organizations such as ours to spring up all around the world. In our most recent CASE meeting on Wednesday, August 18, we went around the circle, each of us saying what we found so moving about Murray — his life and work. I wish you could have been on that Zoom to hear all the lovely things said.
This is your personal loss, but it is also an enormous loss for the entire sonic community around the world. He has changed the world and the ways we listen to and think about the world. A person like him comes around once every several centuries, and then leaves a large trail for the rest of us to follow. I cannot begin to mention all the ways he has mattered to the sonic, musical and environmental worlds we all inhabit.
His writings have profoundly shaped our outlook on life, and his projects (Wolf, and others) have focused our attention on the natural world. His wealth of compositions continues to inspire, challenge, and fill us all with the beauties and mysteries of this amazing planet we call home.
He has changed my life ever since I read his little books such as When Words Sing and then, later on, The Tuning of the World, plus his essays about sound and silence. His stunning piece, Princess of the Stars, still has me totally transfixed since hearing it at a lake near Toronto in 1982.
I had met him many times and been part of his workshops. But it was his and your presence at the Sound in the Land Festival/Conference at University of Waterloo in 2014 that simply blew me away! While he was not able to present all of his ideas verbally, you were there to assist him and allow his voice to be heard! It felt like sacred ground where you and Murray walked among us. We respected you so very much for the role you played in allowing him to grace our festival, and attend every single event!
I thank you, personally, for helping him to continue his life work as you have done. You, along with him, are some of the most inspiring persons I know!
So, I send you my love, and the love of all of us at CASE, as we say goodbye to this man, Canada’s most prominent, most important, and most influential composer, who shaped us all immeasurably.
Carol (for CASE)
Carol has also been working a tribute piece to R. Murray Schafer entitled 'Silence to Silence — Remembering Murray' with texts by Rae Crossman, Canadian poet and close friend and colleague of Schafer in the Wolf Project. The work will be performed by Inshallah, a unique, community-based choir in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, conducted by Debbie Lou Ludolph. The piece will start and end in silence, incorporating Carol’s field recordings from natural areas in Ontario, and will include whispered and spoken vocals, as well as singing. Ludolph’s words about the choir describe the focus of the piece: “Inshallah seeks out songs that can un-make our human-centric ways and widen our view to see our deep connectedness to all of creation as a wholeness out of which we seek to live our lives.” A more fitting tribute to the life, work, spirit and impact of Schafer could hardly be found! The work is tentatively planned for an April, 2022 premiere in Waterloo, Canada.
Molinari Quartet: It is with deep sorrow that the musicians of the Molinari Quartet learned about the passing of their dear friend and great composer R. Murray Schafer last August.
The 25th season of the Molinari Quartet will therefore begin with a concert, entitled 'Tribute to Schafer' on October 15 at 7 :30 pm at the Montreal Conservatory of Music, 4750 Avenue Henri-Julien in Montreal. Given the great reputation of Schafer, the concert will also be live streamed.
Since the foundation of the Molinari Quartet in 1997, Schafer’s music has always been at the heart of the repertoire of the Quartet. The Molinari has also largely contributed in the expansion of Schafer’s quartet cycle by commissioning or premiering no less than 5 new quartets. As soon as 1999, Schafer wrote his 7th quartet for the Molinari. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration, which ended with his 13th Quartet, Alzheimer’s Masterpiece that Schafer wrote for the Molinari after his diagnosis of the terrible sickness. It was to be his last composition.
For the Tribute to Schafer concert, 4 of the 5 quartets that were written for Molinari will be performed: Quartets no.7, with soprano Aline Kutan, Quartet no.10 Winter Birds, no.12 and no.13 Alzheimer’s Masterpiece. The concert will also feature a short excerpt of Schafer’s Labyrinth, during which the musicians will play excerpts of 4 different quartets on beautiful cinematographic images produced by Barbara Willis-Sweete. Eventually, Schafer’s Labyrinth will be a live performance of all 13 quartets over the film.
More information on the performance is available at https://quatuormolinari.qc.ca/en/event/a-tribute-to-r-murray-schafer/