Canadian R. Murray Schafer (C.C.) has achieved an international reputation as a composer, educator, environmentalist, scholar, and visual artist. He was born in Sarnia, Ontario and raised in Toronto.
A highly prolific composer, R. Murray Schafer has produced works ranging from opera to chamber and orchestral music, along with pieces for choir and soloists. His work is heavily influenced by the natural environment, mysticism, and soundscapes.
Schafer began to study music at the University of Toronto in 1952, however he dropped out shortly thereafter. Schafer also spent time at the Vienna Academy and studied informally with British composer Peter Racine Fricker.
In the 1970’s Schafer became known as the “father of acoustic ecology”. He was deeply concerned about the damaging effects of noise on people (in particular the habitants of the “sonic sewers” of the city), he began lobbying for anti-noise legislation and urban soundscape improvements. This in turn influenced his music including the creation of No Longer Than Ten (10) Minutes, inspired by charts of Vancouver traffic noise.
In the 1980’s Schafer’s focus turned to the Patria cycle, which he originally began in 1966. This 12-part cycle uses what he called the “theatre of confluence”, exploring the relationships between different art forms including opera, dance, theatre, and music. Schafer encourages performers to draw on their local surroundings when producing the cycle – resulting in outdoor performances near Peterborough, Banff and the Ontario Science Centre.
He received both the Canadian Music Council’s first Composer of the Year award and the first Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music in 1977. Recent awards include the Molson Prize, the Glenn Gould Prize, the 2010 Dora Award for his Soundstreams-commissioned opera The Children’s Crusade, and the 2009 Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Shafer was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2013.