Terry Rusling

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Terry Rusling
BornApril 2, 1931
DiedNovember 27, 1974
Years active1963–72

Terry Rusling (April 2, 1931 – November 27, 1974) was a Canadian electronic music composer, who used graphic notation. Some of his works were used to accompany radio and television broadcasts.

Rusling graphic notation from Notations by John Cage

Introduction to electronic composition[edit]

Terry Rusling worked as an engineer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). He was on-air engineer for the Gilmour's Albums hosted by CBC broadcaster Clyde Gilmour. In the early 1960s, Morris Surdin, a composer working at the CBC, suggested to Rusling that he try out the electronic studio at University of Toronto, Faculty of Music (UTEMS).[1] Through Surdin, Rusling was introduced to Dr. Myron Schaeffer, to whom he submitted his first electronic compositions. Schaeffer invited Rusling to attend the graduate seminar with Dr. Schaeffer at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, using the renowned electronic music studio (UTEMS) which included instruments designed by Hugh LeCaine such as the Special Purpose Tape Recorder. Rusling was awarded the title of Research Associate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. Among the notable composers who studied at University of Toronto's Electronic Music Studio (UTEMS) University of Toronto, Faculty of Music were John Mills-Cockell, Pauline Oliveros, Ann Southam, Gustav Ciamaga, John Beckwith, among others. After receiving a Canada Council he travelled to studios in the USA and Europe. He continued his studies and composed music in studios at the Psycho Acoustic Institute at Ghent University, Belgium; the University of Utrecht; and the University of Illinois.[2] During this period he was also known to be the recipient of a Canada Council Grant in support of his travel, education and production of electronic music. He also did work at the University of Rochester with Wayne B. Barlow as well as in Paris where he studied with Pierre Schaeffer. He spent two months at the Phillips lab in Holland learning about their new electronic equipment. All of Terry's music was precisely notated using mathematics and other symbols. His music was often inspired by his interest in visual art. During this period Terry also reported on an interview on CBC Radio that he worked at the BBC Radiophonic. He specifically mentions Barry Burmage.

Composition No. 5 by Terry Rusling

Broadcasts, exhibitions and performances[edit]

Several of his works, including The Trains, a piece of musique concrète,[3] were broadcast on the CBC and he composed an electronic theme for the nightly news.[4] One of his public performances at computer tape music was at the Bohemian Embassy in Yorkville, Toronto. October 1964. He also collaborated with visual artist Zbigniew Blazeje in a large multimedia exhibition in 1967 called Audio Kinetic Environment which began at the Art Gallery of Ontario and travelled to other galleries in Canada. The exhibit initially opened with music prepared by Blazeje. In an interview with Terry Rusling on CBC Radio, Rusling said that Blazeje approached him as he found the music he made was not good enough. Rusling stated he spent some time watching the kinetic installation and then proceeded to create a new score for the exhibition in Toronto and this music was used throughout the exhibits tour of Canada. The installation toured to other galleries including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The music was set to trigger lights in the installation. There was also a radio program combining Rusling's music with Earle Birney's sound poetry on CBC Radio. After the piece was performed they discussed their personal approaches to their art forms. Birney discussed various approaches he took including sound poetry and using chance techniques, such as cutting phrases from newspapers including comics into bits of paper and finding combinations by chance. A related collaboration with poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, combining poetry with electronic music was also broadcast on CBC Radio. Rusling also worked with performance artist and sound poet Bob Cobbing and dancer Rima Brodie.[5]

Audio-Kinetic Environment[edit]

Audio-Kinetic Environment, in collaboration with Zbigniew Blazeje with Terry Rusling providing electronic music.[6] The exhibition toured 10 cities:[7]

The installation was described in ArtsCanada February 1967 as follows: "Toronto artist Zbigniew Blazeje's Audio-Kinetic Environment, seen at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, last year (January 19 – February 2, 1966) consisted of about twenty-two panels and several moving pieces constructed of wood and plastic. All were coated with fluorescent and phosphorescent paints. Their colours were activated by the continuous play of a lighting system synchronized to taped electronic music patterns."[15] A notice of the exhibit travelling throughout Canada was printed in Maclean's magazine.[16]

Other work[edit]

His compositions are listed in International Electronic Music Catalog compiled by Hugh Davies (M.I.T. 1969). His compositions are also listed in an article in Dimensions magazine about University of Toronto Electronic Music Studios.[17] His scores were submitted to John Cage's Notations project and two items are included in the book and demonstrate his use of graphic notation. He composed incidental music for CBC radio shows such as Trains (1966)[18] a documentary program on the railroads of Canada produced by Allan Anderson and Val Clery. He also composed incidental music for the TV show Telescope (TV series), in particular, an episode on Marshall McLuhan (1967).[19] Another project Terry produced for CBC Radio was "On The Beatles." The show is described in the CBC's magazine RPM Weekly: "The show is a montage of dialogue, musical sound effects and electronic music. Rusling has chosen his own favorite Beatle songs over which he often superimposes electronic effects."[20] In addition to this he composed pure experimental music.




  • Composition No. 1[22]
  • Var. 3 Comp. 1
  • Bullet 3
  • on hearing the first sine tone – experiment


1. Conclusion: piano.
2. Title: timpani, vibes, piano, garbage can, tone signal
3. If I Could Find the Thing to Hate: guitar, human voice, tone signal
4. The Predator?: human voice, garbage can
5. They Marry – They Meet: tone signal, garbage can, square wave, sine tone
6. Three Blind Etc. - tone signal, garbage can, square wave, pulse, vibes, piano
7. In Which Non-Being is Absolution: piano, violin
8. Prelude – tone signals.

  • Black and White'[24]
  • Frag. Des.
  • Freedom
  • Furthermore
  • Haiku No. 1
  • Sans Motion Quickly
  • Spatial Motion
  • Three Blind etc.
  • Variation
  • Variations on Black and White
  • Comp. K


  • Untitled
  • Basu Sen (radio)
  • Dag Hammerskold Memorial (radio)
  • The Trains (radio): Created the electronic theme music for the series.
  • Military Mind (radio)
  • Fate vs. Will (radio)
  • Industrial State (radio)
  • Law versus Revolution (radio)
  • Audio Kinetic Environment (Installation) with artist Zbigniew Blazeje. Rusling created music for this installation which was installed in the Art Gallery of Ontario. The music. was set to trigger the lights in the installation. The installation was also shown at the Stable Gallery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as well as seven other locations.[25] At first Blazeje installed Audio Kinetic Environment at the Art Gallery of Ontario then Art Gallery of Toronto in 1966 using pre-recorded music. He was not satisfied with the music and contacted Terry Rusling to compose music for the installation. Audio Kinetic Environment travelled to 8 cities in all as well as to Expo 67.


  • Telescope (TV) "McLuhan is the Message"[26]

Undated Works[edit]

  • Collaborations:
  1. Earle Birney reads poetry with electronic accompaniment by Terry Rusling which was broadcast on CBC Radio.
  2. Gwendolyn MacEwen reads her poem Subliminal over electronic music by Terry Rusling which was broadcast on CBC Radio.
  3. Bob Cobbing

Posthumous Notices[edit]

In 2018 Terry Rusling was awarded Associate Composer status posthumously by the Canadian Music Centre. His profile can be seen here. Also in 2018 Brenda Longfellow made a Documentary about Gwendolyn MacEwen called Shadowmaker, Gwendolyn MacEwen, poet. It features some of Rusling's collaboration with the poet.


Terry Rusling, The Machine is Broken, (2019), Spool (Spurn 3) Produced by David Porter and Daniel Kernohan.


  1. ^ "The Electronic Music Studio of the University of Toronto" by Myron Schaeffer, Journal of Music Theory, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring, 1963), pp. 73-81
  2. ^ University of Illinois @ Urbana Electronic Music Studio Archive: List_of_All_Items_Found_in_EMS_Archive: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/100315
  3. ^ CBC Archives Accession number 1990-0110; production date November 24, 1966; catalogue number 661124-9. Production credit: producer, Alan Anderson & Val Clery, music, Terry Rusling
  4. ^ "The CBC's daily National TV newscast for some years used a theme by Louis Applebaum and later employed an electronic composition by Terry Rusling." Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, ed. by Kallmann, Potvin & Winters (University of Toronto Press, 1981, Toronto, ISBN 0802055095) p. 478.[full citation needed]
  5. ^ The piece Rusling made with Bob Cobbing was broadcast on CBC during the same show where Birney and Rusling also collaborated. They also discussed Rusling's collaboration with Rima Brodie. CBC Archives.
  6. ^ Regina Leader-Post, February 17, 1966
  7. ^ "A Tone Meister Indeed!". Ottawa Journal. August 27, 1966. p. 48. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  8. ^ New Brunswick Museum Archives & Research Library in their file contains a letter from Dorothy Cameron Gallery signed by Cameron which refers to the show at Albright-Knox and that Andy Warhol had said that he thought Blazeje was better then anyone in New York in the kinetic art field.
  9. ^ Kriztweiser, Kay (January 20, 1966). "Ziggy turns on art plus electronic score". The Globe and Mail. p. 10.
  10. ^ Toronto Star, January 22, 1966, p. 27.
  11. ^ The show was originally to be exhibited at the Dorothy Cameron Gallery. The Cameron Gallery was forced to close and the Art Gallery of Toronto picked up the show. Dorothy Cameron continued to seek new venues for this show even after closing. This is documented in a letter New Brunswick Museum archives from Brydon E. Smith, Assistant Curator of the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario to Barry Lord, Curator of Art, New Brunswick Mueum.
  12. ^ Regina Leader-Post, February 17, 1966
  13. ^ In a letter from the New Brunswick Museum archives, Ronald J. Bloore, curator, reported that the exhibit "is breaking all attendance records at this gallery."
  14. ^ Press Release. Retrieved November 15, 2018 from Mary Kuna, Archives & Research Library, New Brunswick Museum, dated February 17, 1966. "Tape 1 features Terry Rusling's electronic music..."
  15. ^ ArtsCanada February 1967
  16. ^ "Who They? People talked about... that's who," Maclean's, February 19, 1966, p.2
  17. ^ "University of Toronto Electroacoustic Music Studios" by Kevin Austin, dimensions i p.18.
  18. ^ CBC Times, October 8–14, 1966 pp. 4–5
  19. ^ CBC Archives, Item number (ISN) 103464; Accession number 1986-0810, October 8–14, 1966 pp. 4–5.
  20. ^ "RPM Weekly". Vol. 12 no. 25. February 7, 1970. p. 9.
  21. ^ Davies, Hugh (1969). International Electronic Music Catalog. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-04012-9.
  22. ^ A Provisional List of Electronic Music Compositions, by Sven Hostrup Hansell (University of Illinois, School of Music, Experimental Music Studio, 1967), p. 114
  23. ^ Davies, pp. 12, 13 & 187}}
  24. ^ A Provisional List of Electronic Music Compositions, by Sven Hostrup Hansell (University of Illinois, School of Music, Experimental Music Studio, 1967), p. 114
  25. ^ p. 18, The Globe and Mail, January 20, 1966, p. 10. Fonds Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal 1960–2009: "Audio-Kinetic Environment" June 29 – August 14, 1966.
  26. ^ CBC Archives: This episode was broadcast on April 13, 1967 and was narrated by Fletcher Markle


  • CBC Archives
  • Terry Rusling Archives
  • University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign- Champaign Electronic Music Studio archives
  • Art Gallery of Ontario Archives (documents related to the Audio-Kinetic Environment)
  • New Brunswick Museum Archives (documents related to the Audio-Kinetic Environment)
  • Davies, Hugh (1968). International Electronic Music Catalog. New York: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-04012-9.
  • Maclean's, February 19, 1966, p. 2
  • Cage, John; Knowles, Alison (1969). Notations. New York: Something Else Press. ISBN 0-87110-000-2. OCLC 33372429.
  • CBC Times, October 8–14, 1966 pp. 4–5
  • Globe & Mail, Saturday October 3, 1964.
  • "University of Toronto Electroacoustic Music Studio" by Kevin Austin from Dimensions i.
  • Library & Archives Canada
  • University of Toronto Electroacoustic Music Studios (UTEMS) Archive
  • Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, ed. by Kallmann, Potvin & Winters (University of Toronto Press. 1981. Toronto)