Celebrating the Legacy of R. Murray Schafer

Canadian composer, author, music educator, and father of acoustic ecology’ dies at 88

people in a green garden
Following our soundwalk on the inaugural day of Sound Megalopolis, in March 2009, R. Murray Schafer and Hildegard Westerkamp discuss our experiences.

The Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology is saddened to learn that Canadian composer, author, music educator, and father of acoustic ecology’ Raymond Murray Schafer, died at his home in Southern Ontario on Saturday, August 14, 2021.

Schafer is known internationally as one of Canada’s most prolific and influential composers of contemporary art music, and founder of the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University.

Among his many articles and books, The Tuning of the World, published in 1977, later re-titled Soundscape, introduces the first non-technical vocabulary for describing our experience within the acoustic environment. 

Inspired by Schafer’s invitation to Sound Megalopolis: Sounds in danger of extinction, participation in this conference launched the MSAE’s deep commitment to building local and international involvement in soundscape studies with the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE).

Initiating the annual World Listening Day with the World Listening Project, the MSAE and WFAE annually honor and celebrate his legacy on R. Murray Schafer’s birthday, on July 18.

R. Murray Schafer was 88 years of age with Alzheimer’s disease when he died. He is survived by his wife and mezzo-soprano Eleanor James. She related that while as his memory declined, he was quite happy making and listening to sounds virtually to the end.

To mourn his passing and celebrate his gifts, our colleagues in the WFAE and community are organizing tributes and memorials. We will keep our newsletter subscribers updated on future events and opportunities. In the interim, this 2009 post reflects on the early years of the MSAE’s connection with R. Murray Schafer and the WFAE.