b.1933, Canada

R. Murray Schafer has achieved an international reputation as a composer, educator, environmentalist, scholar and visual artist. Born in Sarnia, Ontario, he was raised in Toronto. As the ‘father of acoustic ecology’ Schafer has been concerned about the damaging effects of noise on people, especially dwellers of the ‘sonic sewers’ of the city. Of the various publications Schafer released after his work with the World Soundscape Project, the most important is The Tuning of the World (1977) where he summarizes his soundscape research, philosophies, and theories.

Schafer’s dramatic works employ music and theatre in a manner that he calls the ‘theatre of confluence’ (a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk reflecting his urge to explore the relationships between the arts). His diversity belies generalizations of style; his work could be described as a synthesis of 20th-century avant-garde techniques with the 19th-century romantic spirit.

He has received many awards such as the Canadian Music Council’s first Composer of the Year award in 1977 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.

Schafer holds honourary doctorates from universities in Canada, France and Argentina, and has his own publishing house, Arcana Editions, where his entire oeuvre may be investigated.

A new R. Murray Schafer work commissioned by Soundstreams will be premiered at the 'Canadian Choral Celebration' concert on February 2, 2014. This event will be streamed live on Soundstreams.ca.

Artist Compositions


Premiere Title of Commission Listen
02/02/2021 Hear The Sounds Go Round Listen Close

This setting for three choirs commissioned by Soundstreams Canada is an abbreviated version of the full spoken text - a poem which has accompanied me worldwide to conferences and workshops and which captures the elusive playfulness of our ever-changing soundscapes. -

11/07/2021 The Soul of God Listen Close

Conceived for four choirs, separated in different places around the audience to suggest the mystical omnipresence of God in unlimited forms and revelations, this work brings together texts from diverse eras and cultures.

06/04/2021 Isfahan Listen Close

Isfahan’s three brass quintets occupy different spatial positions throughout the performance. Co-ordination is provided by a leader sounding a seven-stroke motif on a slapstick or a drum.

06/04/2021 Death of Shalana Listen Close

Shafer composed The Death of Shalana with the intention that it should eventually be sung across a lake, with the four choirs on different shores.

02/29/2004 The Fall into Light Listen Close

The Fall into Light is a syncretic work based on texts from a wide variety of sources, mostly gnostic, hermetic, and mystical, but also including writings by Rilke and Nietzsche, along with some reflections of Schafer’s own.