R. Murray Schafer

Last updated: December 13, 2022

1933-2021 | Ontario, Canada

“The world is a huge musical composition that’s going on all the time, without a beginning and presumably without an ending.” (Robin, W., August 2021)

R. Murray Schafer lived within a world of discovery. Despite obstacles, Schafer was always driven to explore. Growing up in Toronto, Schafer was born blind in one eye; because of this, he was discouraged from pursuing studies in music. Schafer ended up attending the Royal Conservatory of Music studying piano with John Weinzweig.

Schafer continued to follow his curiosity, spending time exploring the sounds around him and the “sound worlds” of other composers. Schafer’s life journey led him to Europe. There he had the opportunity to “[interview] British composers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, learning medieval German, [and] attending a folk music conference in Romania.” (Robin, W., August 2021)

Both in his work as a composer and educator, his creative exploration centred around soundscapes that he explored while teaching at Simon Fraser University. This led to the development of creative music education—where students were encouraged to “bring an interesting sound to school” or “hum along with a tune that they had heard on a street corner.”

Murray Schafer believed that we are all composers:
“We are the composers of this huge, miraculous composition that’s going on around us. We can improve it, or we can destroy it. We can add more noises, or we can add more beautiful sounds. It’s all up to us.” (Robin, W., August 2021)

Schafer passed away on August 14th, 2021, leaving behind a legacy of creative work that continues to inspire the next generation.

Source: Great Canadian Orchestra Field Trip, Episode 2 Learner's Companion