In the first half of the twentieth century Canadian composition was largely either of French influence or of English. Claude Champagne (1891-1965) was one of the most famous composers of French training. After returning from studying in Europe Champagne became involved in music education in Montréal and began composing for orchestra in the forties. Symphonie Gaspésienne is described by the composer as “an expression of the Gaspé countryside-and the melancholy of its people…[it] describes the physical aspects of the landscape…the breaking of water upon the shore.”
In the first half of the twentieth century Canadian composition was largely either of French influence or of English. Claude Champagne (1891-1965) was one of the most famous composers of French training. After returning from studying in Europe Champagne became involved in music education in Montréal and began composing for orchestra in the forties. Symphonie Gaspésienne is described by the composer as “an expression of the Gaspé countryside-and the melancholy of its people…[it] describes the physical aspects of the landscape…the breaking of water upon the shore.”

© 2010, National Arts Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of composer Claude Champagne

Claude Champagne (1891-1965) was one of the most famous composers of French training. After returning from studying in Europe, Champagne became involved in music education in Montréal and began composing for orchestra in the forties. His composition Symphonie Gaspésienne is intended to evoke images and feelings of Québec's Gaspé Peninsula and is considered to be one of the most notable example of Canadian landscape painting in music.

Wikipedia Commons

© Wikipedia Commons


Harry Somers (1925-1999), one of the many students of Canadian composer John Weinzweig, took inspiration from various subjects as Louis Riel, Yeats, and Zen. He was also inspired by the geography of his home province of Ontario. North Country, an early work, takes the ruggedness, tranquility, majesty, and energy of northern Ontario as its inspiration.
Harry Somers (1925-1999), one of the many students of Canadian composer John Weinzweig, took inspiration from various subjects as Louis Riel, Yeats, and Zen. He was also inspired by the geography of his home province of Ontario. North Country, an early work, takes the ruggedness, tranquility, majesty, and energy of northern Ontario as its inspiration.

© 2010, National Arts Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of composer Harry Somers

Harry Somers (1925-1999), one of the many students of John Weinzweig, took inspiration from various subjects as Louis Riel, Yeats and Zen. He was also inspired by the geography of his home province of Ontario. North Country, an early work, takes the ruggedness, tranquility, majesty and energy of northern Ontario as its inspiration.

André Leduc

© André Leduc


Norman Symonds (1920–1998) was born in British Columbia and cites the sea and Duke Ellington as his major influences for composing. His Three Atmospheres contains three movements “Loon and Lake,” “Mist the Mountain,” and “Sun and Sea” and each give accurate and poetic portrayals of the title subjects. Woodwind loon calls, almost silent mist, and crashing waves are heard in this work.
Norman Symonds (1920–1998) was born in British Columbia and cites the sea and Duke Ellington as his major influences for composing. His Three Atmospheres contains three movements “Loon and Lake,” “Mist the Mountain,” and “Sun and Sea” and each give accurate and poetic portrayals of the title subjects. Woodwind loon calls, almost silent mist, and crashing waves are heard in this work.

© 2010, National Arts Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of composer Norman Symonds

Norman Symonds (1920-1998) was born in British Columbia and cites the sea and Duke Ellington as his major influences for composing. His Three Atmospheres contains three movements "Loon and Lake," "Mist the Mountain," and "Sun and Sea" and each give accurate and poetic portrayals of the title subjects. Woodwind loon calls, almost silent mist, and crashing waves are heard in this work.

Canadian Music Centre

© Canadian Music Centre


Allan Gordon Bell (b. 1953) took inspiration from Australian aborigines’ “song maps” for his Spirit Trail. This piece is a sonic journey across the prairies, the composer’s home. Contrabassoon represents the “sounds emerging from the bowels of the earth” and string harmonics are reminiscent of wind creating waves through long grass.
Allan Gordon Bell (b. 1953) took inspiration from Australian aborigines’ “song maps” for his Spirit Trail. This piece is a sonic journey across the prairies, the composer’s home. Contrabassoon represents the “sounds emerging from the bowels of the earth” and string harmonics are reminiscent of wind creating waves through long grass.

© 2010, National Arts Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of composer Allan Gordon Bell

Allan Gordon Bell (b.1953) took inspiration from Australian aborigines' "song maps" for his Spirit Trail. This piece is a sonic journey across the prairies, the composer's home. Contrabassoon represents the "sound emerging from the bowels of the earth" and string harmonics are reminiscent of wind creating waves through long grass.

Canadian Music Centre

© Canadian Music Centre


Malcolm Forsyth (b. 1938) was born in South Africa. He studied in his home country before moving to Canada in 1968. Soon after he became a teacher at the University of Alberta. In 1984 Shell Canada commissioned him to compose a piece to mark the opening of a new refinery northwest of Edmonton. Forsyth visited the oil sands to research for composing Atayoskewin. He found the area forbidding, majestic, and, like the people who inhabited it, quiet. This description of the land and people is also an accurate one for this composition.
Malcolm Forsyth (b. 1938) was born in South Africa. He studied in his home country before moving to Canada in 1968. Soon after he became a teacher at the University of Alberta. In 1984 Shell Canada commissioned him to compose a piece to mark the opening of a new refinery northwest of Edmonton. Forsyth visited the oil sands to research for composing Atayoskewin. He found the area forbidding, majestic, and, like the people who inhabited it, quiet. This description of the land and people is also an accurate one for this composition.

© 2010, National Arts Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of composer Malcolm Forsyth

Malcolm Forsyth (b.1938) was born in South Africa. He studied in his home country before moving to Canada in 1968. Soon after he became a teacher at University of Alberta. In 1984, Shell Canada commissioned him to compose a piece to mark the opening of a new refinery northwest of Edmonton. He found the area forbidding, majestic, and like the people who inhabited it, quiet. This description of the land and people is also an accurate one for this composition.

Ron Checora

© Ron Checora


Learning Objectives

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.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans