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R. Murray Schafer

Raymond Murray Schafer is a Canadian composer, soundscape artist, scholar and environmentalist. Schafer established the World Soundscape Project (WSP) at Simon Fraser University in the late 60s, a research group that initiated the study of acoustic ecology, recording the sound environments of cities and villages in Canada and Europe. Over the span of its existence, the group included artists and researchers Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp and others. Schafer’s 1977 book The Tuning of the World (The Soundscape) incorporates the WSP’s research to explore changes in our sonic environment over history, particularly the increase of noise pollution from industrialisation. In it, he offers ways of listening to be more aware and discerning of our acoustic surroundings.

More recently, David New’s short film “Listen” (2009) offers a compelling portrait of Schafer and his ideas on acoustic ecology and listening. Schafer contemplates, “In a way, the world is a huge musical composition that is going on all the time, without a beginning and presumably, without an ending. We are the composers of this huge, miraculous composition that’s going on around us, and we can improve it or we can destroy it we can add more noises or we can add more beautiful sounds, it’s all up to us.” Listen is available to watch for free on the NFB site here.

Since 2010, Schafer’s birthday, July 18th, was chosen to celebrate ‘World Listening Day’ by the World Listening Project.

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