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Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

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Blue pages and orange shirts; R. Murray Schafer's complex legacy, stirrings of life on the live concert scene; and the Bookshelf is back. This and much more. Print to follow. Welcome back from endless summer, one and all.


REMEMBERING R. Murray Schafer’s Complex Legacy DAVID PERLMAN The Horned Enemy from The Princess of the Stars, (Wildcat Lake, 1997) designed by Jerrard and Diana Smith. SEAN HAGERMAN “ Murray had the tendencies of a renegade and rascal, but one with a benevolent and honourable artistic purpose in mind,” wrote Esprit Orchestra conductor and music director Alex Pauk, in a September 10, 2021 remembrance for The Globe and Mail. And Pauk should know, having, by his own count, conducted more than 80 performances of R. Murray Schafer’s music over the years, with Esprit and other orchestras. ALEXINA LOUIE R. Murray Schafer and Alex Pauk, in Schafer’s studio. “He was a consummate artist – a no-holds-barred kind of guy who’d never take on a project or cause without his total commitment” Pauk went on later to tell me. “He’d always be straight and never let you down once he agreed to work with you. ” Esprit was not the start of their relationship though. They had already met, a decade before Esprit was founded – a meeting that Pauk, in his Globe remembrance, credits with setting Pauk on his long-term musical path. “[It was] 1973, when I moved to Vancouver and made an appointment to see if he’d hire me for his World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University,” Pauk writes. And Schafer’s response as Pauk remembers it? “Alex, don’t get involved in academia – just go on being a conductor and composer – a much better thing for you to do!” Esprit’s founding, a decade later, anchored a lifelong relationship between the two men, creating a whole repository of “Murray stories” to confirm Pauk’s “renegade and rascal” characterization of Schafer. One is mentioned in the Globe story: the composition North/White in which pristine layers of orchestral sound depicting the purity of the Arctic environment are gradually overpowered by sounds of chains and oil drums, culminating with a roaring snowmobile that shows up in the percussion section to represent the deluge of industrial activity brought to Northern Canada by humans. “The audience goes from laughing to spellbound,” Pauk writes, “enthralled at the piece’s powerful, searing visual and sonic imagery having a serious environmental message.” Another example of what Pauk calls Schafer’s “mischievous ways” dates back to 1971 – Schafer’s piece No Longer Than Ten Minutes, commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Strategically placed at the beginning of the concert so as not to unsettle audiences, such commissions had contractual stipulations for the piece’s duration possibly aimed at fulfilling content quotas for government support without too much impact on the audience’s tolerance for new music. “But, audaciously, Schafer’s score specified that at the end of the piece, with its tam-tam fadeouts, each time the audience began applauding, the percussionists should begin a new rolling tam-tam crescendo and fadeout. Each fadeout therefore, would lead to a new wave of sound if the audience began applauding. Thus ensued a loop that could go on for much longer than ten minutes.” Just naughty or with a deeper intent? “Certainly we can chalk it up to Murray being a trickster with a hilarious sense of humour, but definitely with a deeper intent to make people aware of time, contemplate the piece they’d just experienced and/or consider the relationship between composers, orchestras and audiences? It only works because it is actually a fine piece of music – not just a gimmick. But the audience at the premiere sure was confused!” The Quiver of Life, 1979 “Music keeps us in touch with this entire vibrating world both outside and in,” says Yehudi Menuhin, almost exactly 17:30 minutes into the first episode, titled The Quiver of Life, of his eight-part documentary series called, comfortably at the time, The Music of Man. As he says the words, the camera cuts from a groomed European cottage garden to a farm hillside near Bancroft, Ontario. September and October 2021 | 7

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