Passings: Professor Emeritus Austin Clarkson, musicologist and writer

A photo of Austin Clarkson
Austin Clarkson

Austin Clarkson, Chair of York University’s Music Department in the 1970s, has died at the age of 88. He was a musicologist and writer who published numerous articles and reviews in the fields of medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary music, as well as a book on the pianist Reginald Godden.

During his time as Chair, Clarkson brought many distinguished musicians to York’s campus including John Cage, Alvin Lucier, Max Neuhaus, Harry Somers, Pauline Oliveros, and he even had a hand in introducing jazz legend Oscar Peterson to the York community.

His interdisciplinary spirit led him to pursue many interests in music education and other artistic mediums. He studied Dalcroze eurhythmics and Laban Analysis of Movement to explore the role of the body in music learning. He also became qualified to administer the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to help students understand the psychological dynamics of teaching and learning.

In 1990, Clarkson was commissioned to introduce audio programs to the Canadian Historical Wing of the Art Gallery of Ontario. His contributions were enjoyed by visitors for over a decade as the audio recordings allowed visitors to enjoy a variety of interpretive approaches to the artworks.

“The Department of Music has lost an influential early member and former chair of the department who contributed greatly to the vision of the music program in its formative years,” says Louise Wrazen, Chair of the Music Department in the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design. “Austin Clarkson continued his association with the department even after his retirement and remained energetically active as a researcher (with a project on the composer Stefan Wolpe) and as an educator and advocate for music. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife and family.”