Raymond Murray Schafer ‘RA’

Raymond Murray Schafer 'RA' LP front cover
Raymond Murray Schafer 'RA' LP back cover
Hapi, son of Horus (drawing by Murray Schafer)

Raymond Murray Schafer’s RA is a sundown to sunrise outdoor musical and theatrical ritual performance, commissioned by the COMUS Music Theatre who premiered it at Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, in May 1983. RA was later added by Murray Schafer as Part 6 of his month-long Patria cycle, whose hero is Theseus the Wolf, appearing in RA as Anubis. The outdoor performance of RA is devised for solo singers, chorus, actors, musicians and 75 robed and masked attendees Murray Schafer calls Initiates, who are invited to revive Ra’s descent to the Netherworld as described in The Egyptian Book of the Dead. They are supposed to feel exhausted after their nightly journey, until they revive when the new day finally comes, experiencing a kind of rebirth. During the night, they’ve been offered tea and food, as well as quieter moments called Suspension:

At approximately 2:40 a.m., the Initiates are left alone, in darkness, for nearly an hour, to rest, perhaps to meditate. At the end of this period, called Suspension, the Initiates are gently roused and served small cups of tea. At the same time (around 3:30 a.m.), the voice of Amente-Nufe (‘Beautiful West’) is heard, accompanied by the tolling of 75 varied gongs and bells (corresponding to the 75 magic names of Ra). [from Murray Schafer’s liner notes]

♫ As RA is conceived as a night-long piece, this LP merely offers key moments of the performance, and is therefore entitled RA – Selections. Said selection highlights a number of vocal pieces that might not be representative of the entire work, which also included periods of silence and various processions with instrumental accompaniment, including “Egyptian music” written by qanûn player George Sawa. In a final analysis, the disc offers yet another example of Murray Schafer’s mastering of vocal and choral music, with two of the lead singers having performed with COMUS before, namely contralto Maureen Forrester (#2) and soprano Katherine Terrel (#4). The lyrics are entirely based on the Ancient Egyptian text established with University of Toronto Egyptologist D.B. Redford. The music is essentially provided by percussion instruments, with the exception of violin and qanûn. Some sections with qanûn part reminds Soliman Gamil’s music, while the percussion sometimes sounds like a Chinese opera’s liveliest moments. The score of RA is beautifully illustrated by Murray Schafer’s drawings, some of them included in the LP liner notes (see scans in d/l file below).

RA – Selections
01 Procession – Excerpt (5:56)
02 Aria of Amente-Nufe (14:42)
03 Aria of Hasroet (11:36)
04 Duet of Isis and Nephthys (10:08)

Total time 42:20
LP released by Centrediscs, Toronto, 1983


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3 Responses to “Raymond Murray Schafer ‘RA’”

  1. 1 Dalis Crespo September 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Hermano saludos… No habia comentado el post… Gracias verdaderamente por el material… Y muy buenas las ultimas publicaciones. Me preguntaba si tambien dispones de The Vancaouver Soundscape de M. Schafer. Ese material no he podido encontrarlo! Me despido.. Los mejores deseos para usted!

    [Greetings, brother … I had not commented on the post … Thanks for the really good stuff … I like your last posts. I was wondering if you have also M. Schafer’s The Vancouver Soundscape. I have not been able to find it! I say goodbye .. Best wishes to you!]

  2. 2 continuo September 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Hi, Dalis. Thanks for your comment. I do have The Vancouver Soundscape CD reissue. As it is widely available, it is unlikely to appear on this blog. Thanks for your interest.

  3. 3 Dalis Crespo September 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Ok gracias a usted por la atencion que dispone.. Igual en la brevedad que yo disponga le envio una copia de Ars Sonorus (Arte Sonoro de Venezuela)y otras piezas de colaboracion en Electroacustica. Le estare escribiendo amigo.. Saludos

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