Snowforms

 Snowforms, for a cappella treble voices, was composed by R. Murray Schafer in 1981, revised in 1983, and published in 1986. The idea for a work based on winter landscape textures came from the composer's 1971 flight over Greenland, and from many winters in Ontario during which he would "...study the snow from my farmhouse window... ."

Although Snowforms began as a series of sketches, in its final form it is one unified piece. Schafer, a skilled painter, used graphic notation (visual symbols rather than standard musical notation) in his highly inventive score that makes use of improvisation and requires the voices to glide between pitches. The use of humming further gives the work the peacefulness and unpredictability of falling snow. The text is based on some of the many Inuit words referring to snow: apingaut (first snowfall); mauyk (soft snow); akelrorak (drifting snow); and pokaktok (snow like salt).

Schafer has been intensely involved in acoustic ecology, the study of how humans are affected by natural and artificial sounds, and has written many works based on descriptions of nature including Epitaph for Moonlight, Music for Wilderness, and The Enchanted Forest.

Snowforms is about 8 minutes in duration. It was premiered by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and recorded by the Elektra Women's Choir on its first CD in 1992 which was nominated for a JUNO award.

See alsoWinter Themes in Music.