At the opening 2017 General Assembly of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) in Vancouver, which is concurrent with its annual contemporary music festival, the ISCM World New Music Days, the membership of the ISCM unanimously voted to elect composer, educator, author, and acoustic ecology pioneer R. Murray Schafer as an Honorary Member of the ISCM. The first Canadian to be so honored since the Society was founded in 1922, Schafer joins a roster of 71 musical luminaries which includes Béla Bartók, Jean Sibelius, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, John Cage, Toru Takemitsu, Kaija Saariaho, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Arvo Pärt. A complete list of ISCM Honorary Members can be found here.
Born in Sarnia, Ontario, in 1933, and raised in Toronto, Schafer attended the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto where he studied composition with John Weinzweig and also interacted there with media philosopher Marshall McLuhan which ultimately had the most lasting influence on his artistic development. Schafer’s 1977 book The Tuning of the World, which summarizes his ideas about the role of sound in our environment, has been translated into many languages and has been extremely influential around the world. A pioneer of soundscapes and graphic notation, Schafer has composed works in all media that engage with the environment on a thematic as well as structural level. In addition to a substantial body of choral, orchestral, and chamber works, including twelve string quartets, he has created a cycle of a dozen immersive site-specific music theatre works collectively called Patria. Schafer’s music has been performed several times during the ISCM’s annual World New Music Days festivals, first in London where From the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a 1968 work for flute, clarinet, soprano solo, chorus and tape, was performed in 1971, and most recently in Vancouver in 2017 at the historic Christ Church Cathedral where The Star Princess and the Waterlilies, a 1984 composition for women’s voices, mezzo solo, narrator, and percussion, was performed by Fabiana Katz, George Roberts, the Elektra Women’s Choir, and the Vancouver Chamber Choir under the direction of Jon Washburn.
(Text by Frank J, Oteri. Photo of R. Murray Schafer courtesy of the composer via the Canadian Encyclopedia)