The Study of Music in Canada

As Canada moves into the 21st century, it is due for a re-assessment of its “national” music. Canada is now one of the most multicultural countries in the world because of its very conscious decision to add significant numbers of immigrants to its nation-building future. It is no longer possible to speak of Canadian music, only Canadian musics, reflecting the cultural diversity without the insidious effect of the vertical mosaic (John Porter, 1965). Even western art music is under review as it now understood to occupy a niche place along with all the other musics, despite its reputation as a core cultural place-marker. This new perspective runs counter to the traditional view of various Canadian music histories based on First Nations, and the Second Nations of Britain and France. But there also appears to be an interest in the possibilities of musical and cultural hybridity where new ethnic groups combine their musical traditions with existing, older Canadian musics. Mixed in with this possibility is the wild card of Popular Music which is simultaneously Anglo-American and global. Given this dynamic yet confusing scenario, you will be introduced to the major players and decide for yourself how the story will play out in the future. In doing so, you will find yourself in the company of the international world of Canadianists.

You will begin your tour of this cultural landscape with a survey of the issues of music and multiculturalism, followed by introductions to the traditional sites of Canadian music, from earliest times to modern times. You will then explore example of the musics of early and later immigrants who transplanted their musical customs to the new homes and communities they established in Canada. The music of Canada’s First Nations will be examined in order to determine the extent of change that has occurred in the music that has the greatest credibility for being truly indigenous. Finally, the question will be posed in regard to the future of music in Canada as either a hybrid of all the new and old citizens or a melange of ethnic musical sounds that are unique and inviolate members of a culture of relativity.


Elaine Keillor (2006) Music in Canada: Capturing Landscape and Diversity

Lecture schedule and reading list:

Note that each “week” in a summer course is equal to one evening’s class.

Week 1 Introductions and expectations

Gelbart, Matthew (2007) The Invention of “Folk Music” and “Art Music”: Emerging Categories from Ossian to Wagner

Biddle, Ian (2007) Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location: Between the Global and the Local

Week 2 A survey and thematic guide to the music in Canada

Atwood, Margaret (1972/2004) Survival: a Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature

Morey, Carl (1997) Music in Canada: a Research and Information Guide

Week 3 The 3 D’s: dress, dance, diet

Shay, Anthony (2002) Choreographic Politics: State Folk Dance Companies, Representation and Power

Cho, Lily (2010) Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada

Week 4 Music from pioneer times: New France and “New Britain”

McKay, Ian (1994) The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia

Gallat-Morin, Elisabeth and Jean-Pierre Pinson (2003) Vie musicale en Nouvelle-France

Week 5 Canada’s great songcatchers

Jessup, Lynda, Andrew Nurse and Gordon Smith (2008) Around and About with Marius Barbeau: Modelling Twentieth-Century Culture 

Greenhill, Pauline (2003) “Radical? Feminist? Nationalist? The Canadian Paradox of Edith Fowke,” in Canadian Folk Music, volume 37, number 3

Week 6 The development of the fiddle

Hart, Laurie and Greg Sandell (2011) Dance Music of Quebec

Bertin, Johanna (2009) Don Messer: The Man behind the Music

Week 7 Popular music in Canada

Edwardson, Ryan (2009) Canuck Rock: A History of Canadian Popular Music

Durand, Alain-Phillipe (2002) Black, Blanc, Beur: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the Francophone World

Week 8 Musics of Early Minorities

Robert Klymasz (1970) The Ukrainian Winter Folksong Cycle in Canada (with music transcriptions by Kenneth Peacock)

Taïeb Moalla (ca. 2006) The Irish of Quebec: at the crossroads of two cultures

Week 9 Musics of Later Immigrants

Yoshihara, Mari ((2007) Musicians from a Distant Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music

Roy, Anjali Gera (2011) Bhangra Moves: From Ludhiana to London and Beyond

Week 10 First Nations

Ellis, Clyde, Luke Eric Lassiter and Gary H. Dunham (2005) Powwow 

Hoefnagels, Anna and Beverley Diamond (2012) Aboriginal Music in Contemporary Canada: Echoes and Exchanges

Week 11 Canadian Music Identity, Hybridity and Relativism 

Mitchell, Gillian (2007) The North American Folk Music Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945-1980

Steingress, Gerhard, editor (2002) Songs of the Minotaur – Hybridity and Popular Music in the Era of Globalization 

Moran, Albert and Michael Keane (2010) Cultural Adaptation

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