My Life on Earth and Elsewhere

Front Cover
The Porcupine's Quill, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 280 pages

Music is central to many of R. Murray Schafer’s memories. ‘One of the sounds that I’d almost forgotten until I began to write this chronicle was the tinkling of the piano keys when my mother used to wipe them with a wet cloth,’ he writes. ‘In the early years the high and low keys would be passed over quite quickly while the middle notes got the heavy scrubbing.’ The detail of this small, nearly-forgotten childhood memory is a poignant example of the way sounds can remain present in the imagination even when they are originated in the distant past.

Schafer recounts childhood summers spent in Manitoba lassoing gophers (and being paid two cents a head for them) and a music education marked by his cheerful but total resistance to the conventional instruction that was available. His youthful travels in Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Eastern Europe are recreated in a lively, impressionist style with plenty of comic and melancholy stories gleaned from his diaries of the time, including an account of a folk music convention in Communist Romania (which he attended with imaginative but shaky credentials identifying him as a representative of the CBC, The Globe and Mail, the University of Toronto Press and even the Kiwanis Club). The conference proving dull, Schafer eluded the government minders and took an unauthorized trip to see a girl he had met on the train, and despite knowing nothing of the language spent an idyllic few days with her at her parents’ remote village -- while the police questioned every young man with a beard in the area of Bucharest in a fruitless search for the suspected ‘spy.’

On his return to Canada, teaching assignments took him first to Newfoundland, then to Vancouver, where he created the World Soundscape Project. In 1975 Schafer resigned from university teaching and for many years has devoted himself full time to writing and composing. My Life on Earth and Elsewhere continues the story of his domestic and international musical adventures up to the present day.



Artist or Musician?
Behind the Iron Curtain
The Soundscape
Monteagle Valley
Indian River
Canada and the World

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

Born in Sarnia in 1933, R. Murray Schafer is an internationally-acclaimed composer, environmentalist, educator, scholar, visual artist and writer. Despite only one formal diploma (the LRSM -- Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music in London), Schafer has taught at Memorial and Simon Fraser universities, and received honorary degrees from Trent, Simon Fraser, Carleton, Toronto, and Concordia universities in Canada, and from Mendosa (Argentina) and Strassbourg (France). His music is widely praised and performed all over the world. His major achievement, the epic Patria cycle, is more often praised than produced, since it requires wilderness settings and performances that last all night -- or longer. Schafer lives in Indian River, just outside Peterborough, Ontario.

Bibliographic information