Guided Listening #4: Notes Between Notes and Please Use Your Voices

For this Guided Listening you will need the following:

A copy of these teaching steps
Text asset: R. Murray Schafer, East
Audio asset: Excerpt of East by R. Murray Schafer
All assets are provided below.

I. Listen

  • Share the following:

R. Murray Schafer is a composer who has broken many rules of traditional composition such as seating the orchestra in different spots throughout the hall, bringing a snowmobile in as an instrument, and writing operas to be performed in the forest by a lake. As you listen to the following excerpt from East, try to determine what non-traditional technique Schafer is using.

  • Listen to the audio asset excerpt of East by R. Murray Schafer.
  • Discuss, asking students to describe what they have noticed. Can they identify any non-traditional techniques used? Of note:
    • The string and woodwind players are doing the shushing and whistling. These vocalizations are written into their parts. At times these players must match notes played by various gongs.
  • Many of the instruments have to play notes that lie between the regular twelve semitones. These notes between notes have not had much place in Western Music for hundreds of years. Schafer often makes uses of the infinite number of pitches by writing parallel glissandos in two or more instruments. Listen to an example like this at 5:03.
  • Read the text asset: R. Murray Schafer, East, and confirm the non-traditional techniques used in East.

II. Create

  • Ask: What possibilities are opened up by using the notes between the traditional 12 semitones?
  • Have students try composing a short melody that uses these notes. What instruments can play these notes and which ones cannot?
  • Suggest that if they create a melody they like, they may want to try composing some harmony to go with it.

R. Murray Schafer, East
R. Murray Schafer (b. 1933) has long had a reputation of "breaking the rules" of composition and has at times done so largely for the purpose of challenging listeners and performers. Even then his creativity and compositional skill are always present. East is no exception, containing non-traditional techniques often used by Schafer such as slow harmonized glissandos and also challenging performers by asking instrumentalists to sing and hum while also playing. East was composed in 1972 and first performed in 1973 by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Bath, England.

Excerpt from East by R. Murray Schafer (0:02:27)

Excerpt from East by R. Murray Schafer - Play now

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In this section, found half way through Schafer’s East for orchestra, string and woodwind players are asked to shush and whistle while at other times perform glissandi (scoops) between given pitches in a given amount of time. 

Credits and Copyright

  • Text Asset: R. Murray Schafer, East
    Copyright: R. Murray Schafer
  • Audio Asset: Excerpt from East by R. Murray Schafer
    1972, R. Murray Schafer
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