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Music in the Cold: The Remarkable R. Murray Schafer

Music in the Cold: The Remarkable R. Murray Schafer

November 5, 2013

Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer and his long-time partner, mezzo-soprano Eleanor James, live in a farmhouse located in the rural outskirts of Peterborough, Ontario. Upon pulling into the driveway, a pastoral landscape frames Schafer, who is standing in the doorway with slightly dishevelled hair and an oversized sweater. James follows outside to greet me with a warm smile and asks, “Did you find the place okay?”

The 150-year-old farmhouse opens into a large living room lined with what seem to be hundreds of books. Jung, Chekhov, Nietzsche and Tolstoy appear in his library. After expressing his fondness for literature, Schafer points towards what he calls his “favourite section”: nearly forty books he published on topics ranging from sound ecology (The Tuning of the World, 1977), to music education (The Composer in the Classroom, 1965, Ear Cleaning, 1967), to his autobiography (My Life on Earth & Elsewhere, 2012). Marked by a large mandala hung from the ceiling at the back of Schafer’s home is his composition studio. It appears to be a converted sunroom, with huge windows revealing an ideal country landscape. “This room is an obvious source of inspiration,” Schafer says. “In fact, my piece Snowforms (Inuit words for ‘snow’) (1981) originated from this very view.” ...


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