Murray Schafer and acoustic ecology

January 17, 2017

Essays written by students of the “Introduction to Sound Art” workshop at (Art)ScienceBLR, Bangalore.

Raymond Murray Schafer.

by Diya Ullas.

A topic that captured my interest was the sounds that surround us, building something out of our auditory experiences.

Raymond Murray Schafer is a Canadian composer, an environmentalist, a writer, a pianist, and quite an artist. He was born on the 18th of July, 1933 which makes him 83 today. He began his journey wanting to be a painter, but decided against it when he joined the Royal Conservatory of Music. Within the walls of this school, he met Marshall McLuhan, a professor and a philosopher who ended up having a lasting influence on Schafer.

Murray Schafer first began his musical endeavours, by playing the piano and performing pieces composed by other artists. He decided that if others could compose music, so could he and he took to it, learning under the composer, Peter Racine Fricker.

In the early 60’s, Schafer found serialism and it found it’s way into his compositions. This ended up being a very influential period in the life of this great composer. He began to teach at the Simon Fraser University in 1965. Working there, he established the World Soundscape Project which is an international research project seeking out the acoustic ecology of a space and attempts at reducing noise pollution. This is why, R. Murray Schafer is known as the Father of Acoustic Ecology. He created a different outlook on the world and has made many nature inspired soundscapes using instruments and human voices, to put forth his message.

Since the 60s were also a time for technological development which took it’s form in commercial jet planes and loud cars called “Muscle Cars”, known for their voices, leading to an excess in the noises that filled the environment. R. Murray, longing for the sounds of nature in this situation, moved to a farm in 1975. He was very influenced by the French composer, Pierre Schaeffer who was known for his contributions to environmental music.

2 years later, he produced one of his most famous works, ‘The Tuning of the World’. According to him, just as you can tune an instrument like a violin or a guitar, you could tune the world around you, drowning out the noises that pollute our surroundings, bringing out an acoustic environment where the beautiful sounds aren’t crushed or eliminated by noise. According to him, instead of going indoors to avoid noise, we have to find a way to eliminate it so that we can experience the world as we should, in nature.



R. Murray Schafer was influenced greatly by the Eastern thought process as he has incorporated the words of Rumi, Buddhism and even Rabindranath Tagore into his musical compositions along with a multitude of others.

Murray Schafer encourages other musicians to draw inspiration from their surroundings. In his sheet music, we witness his artistic dream which he gave up as a younger man in order to pursue the world of trebles and clefs. His sheet music has graphic notations and is visually appealing with drawings and pictures incorporated along with the musical notes. It’s spectacular.






Murray Schafer has made some very significant contributions to the our world in multiple spheres. His impact on the world of soundscapes, though is large and everlasting.


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