R. Murray Schafer and Soundscape
Murray Schafer is a Canadian composer born in 1933 (not to be confused with Pierre Schaeffer, who influenced his ideas). He began forming ideas on soundscape in the 1960s and 1970s through his work at Simon Fraser University
Schafer compares the world to a musical instrument or composition, and refers to the “tuning of the world”, suggesting that we are responsible for our sonic environment and achieving a kind of state of harmony. According to Schafer, “noise equals power” (1977 chapter 5). In particular Schafer is concerned about the increase of noise with the advent of technology and industrialisation. His work has in part led to the development of a field called acoustic ecology – study of the relationships between organisms (people, animals, etc.) and the environment through sound. This often takes the shape of mapping and preserving sounds.
Schafer defines soundscape broadly as “any acoustic field of study”, including musical composition, radio programmes, or acoustic environments. This latter category is generally the focus of his writing and is perhaps the easiest starting point. He suggests that soundscapes can be analysed according to three key features or “event types” (these have been expanded over the years – see the Wikipedia links below):
According to Schafer, soundscapes can generally be classified as hi-fi or lo-fi, according to the amount of detail that can be perceived. With the constant noise of technology Schafer suggests that modern soundscapes are increasingly lo-fi.
- An Introduction to Acoustic Ecology (CEC): http://cec.sonus.ca/econtact/5_3/wrightson_acousticecology.html
- Sensing the City: http://www.david-howes.com/senses/sensing-the-city-lecture-RMurraySchafer.htm
- Monoskop: http://monoskop.org/index.php?search=schafer&title=Special%3ASearch&go=%E2%8F%8E
- Soundscape composition: http://www.sfu.ca/~truax/scomp.html
- Soundscape on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soundscape
- World Forum for Acoustic Ecology: http://wfae.proscenia.net/
- World Soundscape Project: http://www.sfu.ca/~truax/wsp.html
- Interview with Schafer, covering soundscape and noise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX9VzICmKpA
- Schafer as a composer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6LsvEt952Q
- Iturbide, M. R. (2009). Structure and Psychoacoustic Perception of the Electroacoustic Soundscape. Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library.
- Schafer, R. M. (1969). Ear Cleaning: notes for an experimental music course. Berandol Music; sole selling agents: Associated Music Publishers, New York.
- Schafer, R. M. (1993). The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
- Westerkamp, H. (2002). Linking soundscape composition and acoustic ecology.Organised Sound, 7(01), 51-56.