Canadian composer, writer, and educator R. Murray Schafer studied piano, harpsichord and composition at the Toronto Conservatory but was expelled for insubordination. While still in Canada, he obtained a piano degree from the Royal College of Music in London. A grant from the Canada Council for the Arts (1956-61) allowed him to study journalism, philosophy, and literature in London and Vienna. He has received six honorary doctorates from universities in Argentina, Canada, and France.
A lifelong educator, Schafer has raised awareness of the environmental effects of sound. With the support of UNESCO, he founded and directed the World Soundscape Project as part of his pioneering research into acoustic ecology. A prolific writer, Schafer has contributed articles to numerous publications and has written many books on the phenomenon of sound, e.g. “Voices of Tyranny: Temples of Silence”, and “The Tuning of the World” (1977). He has received numerous awards for his compositionsa Guggenheim Fellowship (1974), the Glenn Gould Prize for Music (1987), and the Louis Applebaum Composer’s Award (1999) for his entire oeuvre. Schafer’s free and intuitive body of work is rooted in the major trends of the 1960stwelve-note serialism, indeterminacy, the use of space and mixed media. Although known primarily for his numerous musical theater works, Schafer has also created significant chamber works for strings.
The composer writes: “Although I have written a number of string quartets, I had never considered writing a trio until I received a commission from the Arizona Friends of Music. While a trio may seem to be a more balanced ensemble than the top-heavy string quartet, it has never proved to be as popular. In fact, there is something unsettling about a trio, like a marriage plus onea triad of tensionsor at least that is the way I found myself thinking about it when I began to write the piece.
“Everything moves smoothly at the beginning; the violin plays a melody in the Lydian mode to a simple accompaniment in the viola and cello, but after a few bars the mood becomes more agitated. It is this mood, aside from a few quiet intervals, that is sustained through most of this single movement work. The climax is reached with a powerful descending scale in the cello on the notes E-flat(S), C, H (B natural), A, F, and Efollowed by a surprising modulation into a Gustav Mahler adagio. This leads back to the gentle opening theme to bring the work to a close. Could the Trio be autobiographical? The sphinx shakes his head.”
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