R. Murray Schafer, composer who heard nature's music, dies at 88

Upon his return to Toronto, Schafer in 1962 co-founded the innovative Ten Centuries concert series, which featured new and rarely heard m...


Upon his return to Toronto, Schafer in 1962 co-founded the innovative Ten Centuries concert series, which featured new and rarely heard music.

As his career gained momentum, he irreverently responded to requests for new works, composing “Son of Heldenleben”, a parody riff on the symphonic poem by Richard Strauss, and “No Longer Than Ten (10) Minutes”, in which an orchestra tunes in, a conductor enters and leaves the stage, and the players crescendo with each time the audience tries to applaud. Its 1966 “Requiems for the party girl”, written for mezzo-soprano Phyllis Mailing, is a dark and virtuoso monodrama in which a woman sings about her impending suicide.

Mr. Schafer married Ms. Mailing in 1960 and they divorced in 1971. His second marriage, to Jean Reed, from 1975 to approximately 1999, also ended in divorce. He married Ms James in 2011 after a long partnership. With her, he is survived by his brother, Paul.

Dr. Schafer began his research on soundscapes after joining the faculty at Simon Fraser University in 1965. He also invented a radical approach to teaching, calling it “creative music education”. In a series of influential booklets, he offered exercises to encourage children’s creativity, asking them to “bring an interesting sound to school” or hum a tune they had heard on a street corner.

Alongside the mythical theater of “Patria”, Mr. Schafer composed more conventional scores, among which 13 string quartets and “Letters from Mignon”, a neo-romantic song frame of love letters written to her by Mrs. James. His genre oratorio “Apocalypsia “ was first performed with over 500 actors in 1980; he received a triumphant and capping his career renewal at the Luminato Festival in Toronto in 2015.

In a 2009 short film directed by David New, Schafer offers philosophical reflections on listening amid the snowy soundscape outside his home, a remote farm in the Indian River region of southern Ontario.

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Newsrust - US Top News: R. Murray Schafer, composer who heard nature's music, dies at 88
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