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Honorary degree citation - R. Murray Schafer

By: Roddy Ellias, June 2010

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Mr. R. Murray Schafer, internationally acclaimed composer, educator, researcher, writer, ecologist and visual artist.

Born Raymond Murray Schafer in Sarnia, Ontario, he grew up in Toronto. As a boy, he began studying harpsichord, music theory and piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He received a Licentiate in piano from the Royal Schools of Music, London.

Today, he stands as Canada’s pre-eminent composer, and has produced works in every musical genre, from opera to musical theatre to chamber and orchestral, as well as works for choir and soloists. His compositions such as Loving (1965), Lustro (1972), Music for Wilderness Lake (1979), Flute Concerto (1984) and his twelve-part cycle for music theatre Patria are an evocative expression of the diversity of his work. The Toronto Star called Patria, “the most wildly imaginative and physically ambitious series of music theatre works in the history of the Canadian stage.”

Les onze compositions pour quatuor à cordes de R. Murray Schafer sont au nombre de ses oeuvres majeures et témoignent de l’évolution de la musique et de la théorie musicale au cours des deux derniers siècles. Elles figurent sans aucun doute, avec les quatuors de Béla Bartók et de Dmitri Shostakovich, parmi les contributions les plus importantes de l’ère moderne à ce genre musical. Extraordinaire à lui seul, cet accomplissement ne représente pourtant qu’une fraction de l’oeuvre de M. Schafer.

Mr. Schafer is also a pioneer and innovative thinker in the field of acoustic ecology, bringing together the social, scientific, and artistic aspects of sound. His celebrated book The Tuning of the World (1977) documents the results of the World Soundscape Project, research that introduced the notion of sound ecology. In fact, Mr. Schafer is the originator of the word ‘soundscape’.

As a writer he has contributed to numerous publications, edited multiple collections like British Composers in Interview from 1963, and written
groundbreaking books of his own including The Composer in the Classroom, The Book of Noise and The Thinking Ear: On Music Education.

Among his many honours, Mr. Schafer was the first recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize. He was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts, the first Louis Applebaum Composers Award, the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, the Composer of the Year Award from the Canadian Music Council and the SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award. Most recently, he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2009 for lifetime artistic achievement.

Celles et ceux qui se trouvaient parmi nous il y a quelques années se souviendront peut-être que M. Schafer était artiste en résidence à l’Université Concordia au trimestre d’automne 2005. À ce titre, il a consacré d’innombrables heures à travailler en étroite collaboration avec les étudiants et la communauté universitaire, qui ont ainsi pu profiter de son dynamisme, de son inspiration et de son génie.

Mr. Schafer truly embodies the artistic and academic approach that we hold dear in the Faculty of Fine Arts. His interdisciplinary achievements and artistic vision make him an excellent role model for all of us. His integrity is exceptional; his enthusiasm is contagious; his artistic vision is unparalleled.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you R. Murray Schafer so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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