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 music.

As his career resumed, he responded to requests for new works with irreverence, composing “Son of Heldenleben”, a parody riff on Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem, and “No Longer Than Ten (10) Minutes”, in which an orchestra tunes up, a conductor enters and leaves the stage, and the players crescendo each time the audience tries to applaud. His 1966 “Requiems for the Party-Girl”, written for mezzo-soprano Phyllis Mailing, is a dark, 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 legendary “Patria” theater, Mr. Schafer composed more conventional scores, including 13 string quartets and “Letters from Mignon”, a neo-romantic love letter song written by Ms. James. His oratorio “Apocalypsis” covering all genres was first performed with over 500 actors in 1980; he received a triumphant renewal and capping his career at the Luminato Festival in Toronto in 2015.

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

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