Landscape and Soundscape

Landscape and Soundscape explores how the land and sounds of Canada have influenced Canadian orchestral composition. In the words of Canadian composer Norman Symonds, it explores how the immense, often empty, landscape, keeps us “forever conscious of [our] smallness”.

Landscape is connected directly to the soundscape, a term first used by composer R. Murray Schafer. In the seventies Schafer led an international research project exploring how sounds that make up specific locations affect the inhabitants. This work culminated in his book The Tuning of the World. The soundscape and landscape of Canada have influenced much of Schafer's compositions.

“Our space is perceived as immense, empty, mysterious, harsh, indifferent, producing a response of awe mingled with terror and an intense sense of spiritual loneliness.” (Keillor, 2006). The Canadian composers featured here have been inspired by this space and its sounds both figuratively and literally. Champagne's Symphonie Gaspésienne, Somers' North Country, Symonds' Three Atmospheres, Bell's Spirit Trail, and Forsyth's Atayoskewin include mosquito strings, triumphant mountain fanfares, seagulls diving down scales, and the sonic descriptions of the poetry of sunrise and sunset.

Landscape and Soundscape is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives.

  • Learn about how the landscape of Canada influences our identity
  • Understand how musical composition can make use of environmental sounds.
  • Make a personal connection to the landscape and/or soundscape through listening to the music of these five composers and also make a connection through composing music inspired by immediate surroundings.
Virtual Museum of Canada

To access the Virtual Museum of Canada's complete digital learning resources and lesson plans, visit the VMC Teachers' Centre.