Adaskin, Murray (1906–2002) By Strachan, Jeremy
Born in Toronto, Ontario and passing in Victoria, British Columbia, Murray Adaskin was a violinist, composer, and academic whose music was widely performed in Canada. Adaskin was violinist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1926–36, and held senior academic and administrative positions at the University of Saskatchewan (1952–73) and the Canada Council for the Arts (1966–69). His compositional style largely avoids allegiance to modern and experimental currents of the twentieth century, balancing conservatism and lyricality with atonal and folk elements. An expedition to Canada’s arctic to record Inuit singing in 1965 proved influential to Adaskin, resulting in several works including Qala and Nilaula of the North (1969, for small orchestra), Rankin Inlet (1978, for piano duo), and Eskimo Melodies (1980, for piano). Adaskin wrote that he hoped his music would “someday be recognized for its Canadian flavor,” and much of his programmatic oeuvre dedicates itself to regional and national topics (Canadian Music Centre, Musicanada, 9). His chamber opera based on a Metis fur trader, Grant, Warden of the Plains (1967), was commissioned for Canada’s centenary. The Adaskins, including Murray’s brothers John (1908–1964) and Harry (1901–1994), were significant influences on the cultivation of art music in Canada during the postwar period.