R. Murray Schafer’s Introduction to “From the Bow”

I have long been an admirer of Rae Crossman’s poetry, particularly those poems with outdoor settings like “From the Bow”. Rae and I are both members of the Wolf Project, an outdoor ritual performance we have been celebrating at the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve for many years. I have heard Rae recite “From the Bow” many times and I always liked the way he would take a paddle and illustrate the canoeist’s manoeuvres through the water as he recited.

In deciding to give the poem a musical accompaniment, I knew that a clarinet would have the fluidity to illustrate the various states of water. We have an excellent clarinettist in the Wolf Project, Tilly Kooyman, for whom I have written several pieces.

Sometimes I write scores graphically to illustrate the quality of the desired sound with shapes or colours rather than notes.This is a particularly effective technique with children, but adults can also be influenced by the shapes or illustrations combined with the notes of the score. Rae had seen some of these scores and wondered whether “From the Bow” could be notated this way. So we went through the poem and Rae explained to me the various water movements the canoeist encounters while I drew sketches of them: souse holes, whirlpools, rollers, haystacks, and so forth. The result is the present score.

—R. Murray Schafer

Murray and Rae with display of score.