The Sociomusicology of an RCM Music Exam

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ March 9th, 2013

Many students of mine have arrived at the School of Music via the well-travelled road of the Royal Conservatory of Music examination system. And almost all of them trod down this path as youthful pianists.

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For those not in the loop, I should quickly summarize the august institution that is known simply as the RCM. It is venerable, like its counterparts in England from which it received its essential outline. “How venerable?” you ask. Let me take you back to 1985. I was watching the Anne of Green Gables on CBC (the one with Megan Follows, not its successor with Sarah Polley). Circa 1900, an older Anne (with an e) had achieved her dream; to enrol in a university. She was crowding around her new female friends, sharing in the excitement of the first week of classes. Then, one of the girls suddenly becomes alarmed.  She had forgotten about her RCM exam which was scheduled to take place across campus within mere minutes. I was equally jolted, but with surprise and delight, at the fleeting reference to such an important, modern Canadian musical landmark in such an historic setting.

The RCM was founded in 1886, the same year that Vancouver was chartered to be a municipality. And whereas pre-Vancouver Gastown was nothing more than a Wild West assortment of clapboard buildings populated mainly by rough-and-ready, loggers and bushwackers, the RCM was housed at the opposite end of Canada, in a stately Victorian building on a sophisticated, tree-lined street in Toronto. Those who are avid followers of Murdoch’s Mysteries will have an excellent picture in their mind.  Back then, the mandate of the RCM was to provide an out-of-school music education to the daughters of Toronto’s moneyed classes, in keeping with the usual Western bourgeois’ bid to make young women more marriageable in higher society. Cynical, I know, but there’s substantial body of research to justify this view. That is not to say that the same young ladies didn’t use the opportunity to explore their musicality on their own terms, only that the outcome was different from the process.

Today the RCM coincidentally has one of the most amazing distance education programs on the planet. But before I explain it in more detail, I should make a few things clear. There is the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, a music conservatory housed in the newly-refurbished heritage building on Bloor Street, and then there is the RCME, the Royal Conservatory of Music – Examinations. It is the latter which interests me the most, mainly because I have been an examiner for the RCME for many years. My specialty is woodwinds, brasswinds, and percussion.  Some of what I am going to describe is true for the strings and voice, but I’m not overly familiar with those exams, so I will restrict my comments to my own experiences with winds and percussion examinations. Or rather, “assessments”, the preferred term today.

Distance Certification

Here is where the distance-education thing becomes remarkable.  Imagine that you want to train for a professional certificate. You discover that there is a national, highly respected yet distant educational establishment that provides you with a certification process right in your city or town, rather than requiring you re-locate to their location. And unlike standard distance education programs, the institution will examine and certify your knowledge in person, one-on-one, each time you complete one of the levels in their clear series of progressive skills that ultimately ends in a complete education. You acquire the knowledge necessary to pass each graded exam by hiring a local teacher on a weekly basis, thus supporting the local economy and allowing you to stay home.

The institution sends out examiners three times a year to personally conduct an assessment and judge whether you are ready to move on to the next step with your local teacher. You can fail as many times as you want (before the sad truth sets in). You can take the same exam as many times as you want. You can even skip grade levels (but not in the final grades).  At the end of the process, you acquire a certificate from one of the most respected educational establishments in the world, for use in one of the most secure self-employment job markets in the world (private music instruction). The only downside is that you will most likely have to work the afternoon shift (3 PM to 10 PM).

The only organisation I know of that functions on the same distance-education model is dance, with ballet at its core. And therein lays a great research paper for somebody. How do they compare? Are the outcomes similar?

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From a nationalist point of view, there is one small problem with the RCME. For all intents and purposes, it functions as Canada’s national music conservatory. And yet its final certificate of graduation is labelled ARCT – Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, instead of ARCC – Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Canada. I have mentioned this snag many times to the RCM, but there does not seem to be any real interest in changing the designation. Toronto-centrism at work? I hope not.

So, in no particular order, I present you with a few of many examples of the sociology of an RCM exam, as seen from my side of the desk as both examiner and participant-observer. My comments may seem carping, so I hasten to add that the RCM graduation certification is without a doubt, one of the finest of its kind in the land and recognized all over the world.


First, and most important, is the ensemble portion of a wind exam (as well as strings and voice).

Every music candidate, piano and otherwise, is expected to play standard pieces of repertoire as well as shorter examples of technical achievement like studies and technique (scales, arpeggios, etc.). When the wind players enter the room to perform their repertoire, they arrive with a pianist who accompanies them. I see mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, local piano teachers hired at the last minute, and every other combination you can imagine, thrown together to present two or three pieces of music in a tremendous moment of intense cooperation and mutual music-making. During the preparations and then the exams, they create strategies, suffer defeats or celebrate success, as they go through the process of achieving the height of human cooperation known to mankind. Christopher Small calls the process spiritual, and re-named it musicking.

So what of the piano students? Nothing. No sharing. No cooperation. Just solo performances encased in solitude. I find this part of the piano exam shocking. If it were up to me, I would have the pianists perform at least one example of accompaniment in their repertoire preparations. Like the winds, strings and vocal candidates, they must arrive at the exam with a second person, perhaps a friend who plays the flute, or their piano teacher who is also a singer,  or a fellow bench-warmer doing 4-hand piano. Piano teachers will likely howl in protest, saying that the repertoire of solo literature is already full to overflowing, and not open to more additions, let alone another List of requirements. I say, drop one of the entire lists, edit the remaining solo lists, and create a new list of accompanied pieces of music. One less Bach; one more moment of supreme example of human cooperation and engagement. And in the process, young people are prepared for the rigors of socialisation at the very times in their life when they are most in need of practice and advice.

The details are daunting, I admit, but where there is a will, there is a way. And right now there is no will, not even a glimmer of possibility. Perhaps the next generation will lobby for such an important change.

The look

Here I shall applaud the pianists, instead of berating them. Sort of. They are required to memorize their music, and the winds are not. The result of this oversight is the vision of wind players, including highly advanced players, staring intently at their music stands, oblivious of “the audience” (i.e., me). Although the sound of the music may be glorious, the “look” of the performance is generally stagnant and alienating. Such a performance style is well known as the kiss of death in the theatre world. When the time comes to make a living on the stage as a performer, the reality of this situation will hit hard. If even the tiniest of munchkins are required to memorize their repertoire, as well as the Glenn Goulds, then so should the wind players.

Of course, pianists do not necessarily shine visually when they have their music memorized. They usually stare at the keyboard, sometimes blankly as their inner player downloads the notes, sometimes rapturously.  Because of the nature of piano performance, pianists must commit the gravest sin on stage, presenting their shoulder to the audience instead of their entire body. With this in mind, its interesting to see how pop musician pianists like Tori Amos and Jerry Lee Lewis solve this problem. They stand. I admit that such a position denies the player many advantages built into the seated position, so frankly I am baffled to think of a solution. Except perhaps the obvious. The piano, like the string quartet, plays on stage as if alone, and the audience is forced to play the role of cultural voyeurs, gazing in amazement while holding their breath in an oppressive blanket of silence, lest they interrupt the solitary musings of the musician.

Be that as it may, acknowledging the importance of the look of the music performance will stimulate discussion and research the difference between good theatre and damaging histrionics, the most pressing issue in stage performance today.

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The consequences

When a student does badly, or is mediocre, where does the fault lay? This answer may appear obvious at first, given the dedication of music teachers who do as well as they can to prepare their students for the exams, talent or not. But many’s the time I’ve heard mediocre performances that are obviously the result of mediocre teaching. But only the student suffers the consequences. This is a conundrum I have never been able to solve, but I always hope that my written comments that accompany the marks can be read between the lines.

The future

In the 1980s, the RCME, and private music teachers, seems to have gone into a decline as young people pulled away from their parent’s middle class ambitions for their children, choosing instead allowing their kids to pursue their own destinies and musical interests. They rejected WAM (Western Art Music) in favour of popular music. Given that pop music is a living entity with exciting possibilities, residing at the heart of modern culture, the decision is understandable. In contrast, Western Art Music has steadily become marginalized, museumfied and relegated to a niche segment of the population.

Then, in the 90s, a new wave of immigration from East Asia arrived on the shores of Canada, particularly after the hand-over of Hong Kong to the PRC in 1997. Student enrollment ballooned and continues to be bullish. But there is a fear is that the burgeoning numbers may be a bubble as the young arrivals begin to see the Western world through the eyes of their local counterparts. To accommodate this possibility, the RCME is expanding into the US and early indications are that will be very successful, simply because of the far greater numbers of candidates, regardless of cultural conditions that favour popular music.

The RCM is also heavily committed to the non-musical benefits of learning how to play music, such as increased mental acumen, but I have not seen any research that says garage band players or karaoke devotees are any less prone to developing their mental prowess.

In a future instalment, I’ll chat about some other sociomusicological issues that I have observed – the pathological fear of the ear tests, the dread of scales and arpeggios, the seeming complete disconnect between Canada’s university departments and schools of music with the RCM…


Ezra Schabas (2005) There’s Music in These Walls: A History of the Royal Conservatory of Music

Christopher Small (1998) Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening

Derek Scott (1989) The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour

Tia DeNora (2000) Music in Everyday Life

Richard Leppert (1993) The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation and the History of the Body

Re-enactment. Boon or bust?

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ March 3rd, 2013

There have been several times in my life when I decided that re-enacting the original context of a music composition’s performance was an exciting and viable option. I once called it Theatre of Music (as opposed to Music Theatre).

When you hear or read the word “re-enactment”, you might recall vacations or school day-trips when you visited a historic site such as an old-fashioned farm, stately mansion, or stone fort. As you walked into the grounds of the sprawling network of buildings or the hushed drawing room of a fussy Victorian house, you were probably greeted by people dressed in the same time period as the historical location. Those individuals manning the printing press or the kitchen or the stockade are called re-enactors and their job is to bring life to the walk-around exhibit by re-enacting the roles and occupations associated with the historical site. And, when they weren’t busy with their occupations, they engaged with the visitors to explain what they were up to, answering questions, joking about their life in 1890, or 1790, or even 990 in L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland. The re-enactors in the American site of Plymouth are unique in that they speak in first-person, as if they really are living in the age of their historical re-construction. Pure, glorious theatre. In other places, the re-enactors have been replaced by interpreters in the uniform of Parks Canada or whatever because of cutbacks. No theatre. Just polite lectures.

Some of my most memorable life moments have been in the company of re-enactors. Just to take one example among many, the young, passionate re-enactors at Old Fort Henry, brought a lump to my throat as I watched them practice their military duties and music instruments fife and drummers in snappy military cadet garb.

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Of course, I knew that at the end of the day, the “soldiers” stuffed their uniforms and flutes in their lockers, strolled out of the fort and returned to their everyday lives as young people on summer break from university, enjoying one of the best summer jobs ever. But when they were in costume, they looked and acted like the real thing of long ago, and we modern visitors, some in Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts, did not feel remotely out of place interacting with these soldiers of 200 years ago. We were time travellers, and they were our willing hosts. The magic of theatre was at work, where the suspension of belief is as natural as breathing.

If you find yourself drawing parallels with music videos, congratulations. You’ve made the leap.


I could turn this little essay into a full-blown book if I added all the other re-enactments I have enjoyed. But I will admit in the next breath that I do have my limits of suspended belief. The motley crowds at LARP (Live Action Role Playing), CosPlay (Costume Play) and SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) seem to me to be comprised of individuals, dressed in meticulous costume re-construction, compromise their authenticity with fantasy. Besides, SCA and CosPlay often relegate their re-enactment to themselves while neglecting their environment, which is usually a convention or festival.

Did you notice the word “authentic”, the soft under-belly of re-enactment, in the previous paragraph? Re-enactors of all stripes, from fantasy to history, are accused of being inauthentic (i.e., fake) because it is impossible to really know how events or people were thinking or feeling back then, no matter how meticulous the research. Then there are the nitpickers who rightfully point out that such-and-such a re-enactor or re-enactment couldn’t possibly act or be that way because of the march of history that has brought about modern medicine or machine stitching or whatever.  These critics come from the ranks of the self-righteous post-modernists, constantly looking over their shoulder for signs of a Grand Narrative, the untenable, if not unconscionable, buttress that supports one or another “-ialism” such as post-colonialism.  Finally, there is the sharpest barb of all; re-enactors are pretending, the alleged opposite of real. Recall the exchange of quotes by the chess-masters Spassky and Fischer, who argued, “chess in not like life, it is life”. They dismiss the theatre of re-enactment as a charade of histrionics. And, if the truth be told, I have seen some truly awful histrionics on stage.

Theatre of Recital

Despite the discomfort of these accusations, re-enactment has been embraced by myself and many music groups that I have joined, albeit with some trepidation.

My earliest exposure to re-enactment was during my years with the Towne Waytes, a six-man ensemble that played Renaissance wind instruments. We were fanatical about historical performance practices and authentic reproductions, even going so far as to read original music notation. No bar lines! (Musicians will gasp at the idea.) And yet, knowing our music was esoteric almost to the extreme, we wanted to make a living. Our solution was to perform our music in hundreds of schools in a theatrical manner, with scripted dialogue.

When we arrived at the back door of a gym, we pulled out our music instruments, props and costumes and proceeded to assemble renaissance town squares in each corner of the gym. The students were assembled in the middle, and we toured four countries (i.e., four corners of the gym), playing the music of their long-ago resident waytes. The children were entranced, either gawking in disbelief or hooting and hollering as one of their own got up to try a galliard taught by one of us.

Oddly enough, we never did this performance for adult evening audiences, opting instead for the classic stone-statue gaze of the typical Western audience assembled in a darkened theatre. Many’s the time I looked out at the crowd and saw nodding heads as we laboriously worked our way through Byrd’s fantasy for 6 recorders. Those evening concerts were nerve-racking, unlike the school shows which were out-and-out fun for everybody.

And then there was my program of pub music in London circa 1750, and best of all, my program that featured wandering flutists from both sides of Eurasia, the Komuso of Japan and Will Kemp of England.


“What was the point of these theatrical concerts,” you ask? They addressed the difficult issue of musical meaning. Each program placed unusual music in its context so that its sounds could be humanised. They replaced passive listening and faceless puppets manipulating music instruments with active conceptualisation; information combined with experience. I came to realize that almost every kind of music is greatly enhanced by contextualisation. This style of performance is already common in groups that have decided to offer spoken introductions to their music, usually done badly because of musicians’ notorious lack of public speaking skills. Perhaps they think that their speaking roles are forgiven because they are brilliant musicians. If so, I have a bridge they may be interested in purchasing.  In contrast are groups like Canadian Brass who hired theatrical directors to give them the “look” that could accompany the “sound” they were making. The door to this world is marked “dramaturgy”.

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Re-enactment aligns with fundamental shift in grade school style of education, where facts are being replaced with experiences, rote-learning with creative curiosity, up-load/down-load autocrats to information mediators. A perusal of any modern school board policy statement or faculty of education research goal will quickly reinforce this new move from providers of information, now profusely available on the internet and social media, to the leaders of experiences, the fuel that sparks the imagination which in turn trolls the internet for information.

Music, again

I find that I can listen to music wrenched out of its context and place naked in the recital hall when I am utterly familiar with its context. It’s possible (but not obvious to me) that such an enlightened form of listening is the goal of Musicology. But how general audiences “from the street” can extrapolate context and listen in alleged rapturous silence to the bare bones of the music, is beyond me. Well, not entirely beyond me. It seems to me that the context of the music has been replaced by an obsession with musical form. “Did you hear that, self? The secondary theme came back in the tonic instead of the dominant!” But truly, how many members of a typical WAM concert can listen like that. Long ago, when I taught Music Appreciation classes, my rooms were constantly filled with anxious listeners who blamed themselves for their failure to be transported by classical music. “My mind wanders within the first five minutes! What’s wrong with me!?”

I have already acknowledged that re-enactment has its scathing critics. And I am troubled by the lack of research that could help listeners (and performers) differentiate re-enactments from histrionics. It is entirely uncharted country, although the new social science of Performativity is providing guidelines for discovery. I feel proud of the fact that the students who have taken my two courses, Introductions to the Study of World Music and Popular Music, have walked away from the lectures with at least a glimmer of understanding and hope.


Richard Schechner (2002) Performance Studies: An Introduction

Michael Ann Williams (2006) Staging Tradition: John Lair and Sarah Gertrude Knott

Richard Handler and Eric Gable (1997) The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg

Stephen Eddy Snow, with a foreward by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimbett (1993) Performing the Pilgrims: A Study in Ethnohistorical Role-playing at Plimoth(sic) Plantation

Stacy F. Roth (1998) Past into Present: Effective Techniques for First Person Historical Interpretation

Learning to be an amateur

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ February 24th, 2013

Although I was a professional musician who played the flute in a former life, I was flung into the world of the amateur, and a beginner at that, thanks to my anglomania, and my new ambition to play the cornet and become a full-fledged brass bander. Therefore my participation in a British Brass Band was coloured by the fact that I was a beginner player, while recalling my previous life as a contract musician in Western Art Music ensembles, and my current roles as flute clinician and a national winds examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music.

On the other hand (full disclosure here) I continue to struggle with my ambition to play the cornet at a high level of technique, a daunting predicament given that I am recognized and lauded for my advanced ablility to play a music instrument (the flute) in another world. After ten plus years of on-and-off practicing on the cornet, I can pull off a half-dozen high Cs in any given rehearsal. (Brass players will know what I’m talking about.) It is my ability to read music notation quickly and accurately that allows me to sit with the big boys and girls, not my stellar technique. A side benefit of my adventure in the Brass Band is my new-found respect and heartfelt admiration of brass players who play for me when I am conducting their RCM wind exam.

Professional participation in an Amateur Ensemble

You would think that membership in a recreational musical activity would be a viable alternative for professional performers and career music students who want to play music without the pressure of the workplace. Not so. Most chafe at the thought. They are trained to excel, not to simply hope for the best. Some professional musicians might claim that they already get their musical fixes in their workplace ensembles, or that their work schedules don’t allow it, but those excuses are covers for the more pressing issue of oil and water – amateur and professional abilities.

If professional musicians are not in the top five per cent of their expected level of expertise, the practical consequences are devastating. Their careers can collapse or their entry to the professional world via an audition can fail, all within a heartbeat. Parallel with this life-threatening consequence is the desire to be musical artist, the root of their original ambition. The relationship of their love of music to the pressures of acquiring and maintaining a job in music, has barely been researched. I can think of only one monograph, Stephen Cottrell’s Professional Music-making in London: Ethnography and Experience (Ashgate, 2004).

Regardless of the pressures to succeed, professional musicians describe the environment of the amateur ensembles as tepid if not torpid when compared to their high-octane culture.

The assumption in the above scenario is that a career musician plays the same instrument in both worlds – vocation and avocation. My situation is rather different, thanks to the dramatic switch I have made from flute to cornet. Curiously, my particular scenario is strikingly similar to many Early Music players and ethnomusicologists who find themselves learning a historical Western music instrument, or ethnic music instrument from the ground up, after having trained for decades to play a modern Western music instrument at a high level of accomplishment.

Participation in an Amateur Ensemble

One of the major issues in any amateur ensemble like a brass band is the range of technical abilities among the players that individually contribute to the collective whole. As the old saying goes, “a chain is as strong as its weakest link”.

The following discussion does not include British Brass Bands in England, and oddly enough, youth ensembles in the Far East, especially in the grade schools. Their model of participation that is almost sacrificial. Practices include three and four sessions on weekdays and even weekends.  (The usual practice of amateur ensembles in the Old and New World is a couple of hours, once a week. Schools are a bit different.) In Japan, the one experience that I have seen described extensively, in addition to many, many hours of group instruction, young musicians will often break out into groups of like instruments where the seniors will teach the juniors on tone development and bar-by-bar perfection of their parts. It is as if their lives are consumed by their hobbies. When this regimen is first encountered it can appear to be a kind of blind obsession, but I was reminded by some associates that the model greatly resembles recreational athletics, where young and old alike practice and play for countless hours each week.

The model where players meet only occasionally is buttressed by the additional understanding that players practice on their own, for countless hours a week. I am reminded of activities like book clubs, where members are required to read books from cover to cover before they meet to discuss the book at hand for a couple of hours. Herein lies the flaw. Private practice is in the hand of the individuals, and adults in particular, have many more competing interests and levels of commitment. The fall-back for some (many?) is to “privately practice” at the rehearsals, in the midst of the entire band or orchestra.

In any amateur music ensemble, there is a tension between those who are advanced, and those who are not. Many players are often drawn from people who were in bands or orchestras in school, who then abandoned those musical hobbies as they went about the business of pursuing post-secondary education and establishing families and careers. Now, as they return to those instruments, many discover that their adult lives are not as conducive to perfection as the time when they were young, footloose and fancy-free. Others may be adult beginners, the brave new world of music education.

The personal reasons for those who are technically handicapped may include limited (or no!) time for individual practice, due to the pressures of neighbours and non-musical obligations. Older beginners may be unfamiliar or repelled by the imposed life-style of young beginners (especially pianists) who are closeted away for an hour or so each day to grind through technical development and mind-numbing repetition.  One unique problem seems to exist for older (retired?) amateurs. They have the time and interest to join several music ensembles, thus setting themselves up for conflicting concert and rehearsal schedules, and even less time available to perfect individual pieces of music during home practice. Some older amateurs will even say that they have no real talent; a condition they may even claim was true even when they were younger. It is interesting to contrast this excuse with young beginners, where the question of talent is bypassed by their private music teachers who guide them through the well-tread labyrinth of technical development, regardless of natural ability.

One way for amateur ensembles to bypass the baggage brought by amateurs handicapped with limited technique is to institute auditions. But that works against the universality of equal access to music-making. How to motivate the players to strive for excellence, without recourse to auditions that inevitably create a cultural gap between the have and have-not players, is the big question for me. Given that all players are equally motivated when beginning their musical ventures, and ignoring the mythology of “talent”, how can players be nurtured to strive for perfection, even if they assume they are not likely candidates for such a role? One stop-gap measure is the assignment of second and third chair positions for beginners, but that is a false economy. The parts may be easy, but their place in the music is still crucial. Even if the parts can still be played with a modicum of technique, the possibility of moving up to the more challenging parts in first and solo chairs should be ever present

Within non-audition amateur western art music organisations in the West, avoidable mistakes and limited technique are often shrugged away with a sheepish grin or a judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged stance. Those who have every intention of doing well and yet cannot, no matter how hard they try, can be a serious liability and detriment to the ensemble. They challenge the conductor’s patience and mandate to provide an enjoyable listening experience for their home-town audience. “Amateur” becomes a synonym for “mediocre”.

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The simple question is this. How can a motley ensemble of amateur musicians be motivated to individually excel, without the threats levelled at the professional musicians – expulsion or financial reward? No doubt the same question, rephrased to fit the context, are at the heart of amateur popular and folk music ensembles as well.

The benefits

Given the awkward realities I have just described, why would anybody join an amateur ensemble? Or, perhaps to put it another way, why do amateur music ensembles exist?

When I think about this question, I am reminded of my first encounter with a professional symphony when I was fresh out of advanced flute studies. It was a shock. Instead of the earnest aspirations coloured by worshipful behaviour found in the youth symphony, I encountered a business-like atmosphere seemingly devoid of inspiration. Musicians worked hard, then went home, like any working person. The dull atmosphere of high-end rehearsals were complicated by the constant threat of failure in the space of a micro-second and the stultifying role of the conductor whose position was autocratic and presumptious. His mime and stick technique was allegedly brought life and art to the compositions being performed, while the performers were tabula rasa. It seems to me that he (or very, very rarely, she) is nothing more than a mediator of tempo and dynamics, like a sound engineer.

Amateur ensembles have one magnificent obsession. They are utterly and completely devoted to the “flow”, as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

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Each contributes equally to the whole in a moment-to-moment panorama of a soundscape that is exquisitely alive and integrated. To put it another way, the ensemble is also the prime audience. They are both the creators and the recipients of the music experience, from the inside-out, unlike the passive members of the audience who witness them. Even audiences are unlike the masses who crowd the symphony halls. Many are relatives and friends who witness their loved ones and associates perform “flow” as if by magic. And those who wander in from the streets are motivated not by the commitment to seek value for the cost of their admission, but rather to hear “the little engine that could”. To think that composers and arrangers create the soundscapes for such a beautiful experience. We tip our hats to Hindemith’s Gebrauchsmusik and Telemann’s Der Getreue Musikmeister (1728). And we recall that ethnic ensembles like the Indonesian gamelan and African drumming ensembles function in the same aura of “flow”. Professional ensembles are also aware of the “flow” in their efforts, but it is heavily mediated by the imperatives of the work place. Not so, in amateur ensembles.

Further study

It is in this field of inquiry that Participant-Observation could move from passive observation to active intervention. Guideposts would be provided by research material, ethnographic interviews with successful amateur ensembles, and access to the International Journal of Community Music and International Journal of Lifelong Education. And courses designed in a new field I have called Applied Sociomusicology. Clues could come from surprising domains like karaoke. I especially enjoy reading about the research conducted by Robert A. Stebbins of the University of Calgary. His blog is entitled Serious Leisure and his findings are some of the most important discoveries of this century.

Given the crisis of audience attendance experienced by many professional art music organisations, it would seem that this academic direction is crucial to the future of music-making. Music-makers are the core of music listeners.


Robert A. Stebbins (1996) The Barbershop Singer: Inside the Social World of a Musical Hobby

Harris M. Berger and Giovanna P. Del Negro (2004) Identity and Everyday Life: Essays in the Study of Folklore, Music, and Popular Culture

Thomas Turino (2008) Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation

Paul Fleming (2009) Exemplarity and Mediocrity: The Art of the Average From Bourgeois Tragedy to Realism

David G. Herbert (2012) Wind Bands and Cultural Identity in Japanese Schools


Ethnomusicology at Home

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ February 19th, 2013

As I continue “doing ethnomusicology at home” my most recent engagement is within a Western Art Music ensemble, a surprising domain for a World Music researcher. The ensemble is a British brass band and I participate as a cornet player and an “amateur” musician. I have no interest in playing a brass instrument per se, only in participating in a British Brass Band.

It is a perfect successor to my study of (and participation in) another iconic English working-class avocation, morris dance. My interest in the British Brass Band began as a chance encounter with the movie Brassed Off, which is based on the story of a brass band and its players swept up in the collapse of its patron, a member of the coal-mining industry, during the years of Thatcherism. Morris dance and then the British Brass Band also provides me with plenty of grist for my Anglomania.


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I am living two lives simultaneously – the “participant” in me is actively and wholly committed to the success of the ensemble by striving for perfection of my own part within the group. And as an observer, I am looking at the “familiar”, a Western Art Music Ensemble, as if it were Other. For those of you who are new to ethnomusicology, anthropology and related disciplines, the Other, or more properly, Others, are normally found in the realm of ethnic communities “from away” where compositional and performance features are often quite unlike anything in the West. By contrasting ensembles in the West with musical groups and soloists from elsewhere I engage in a kind of cultural triangulation championed by writers such as Bruno Nettl (Ethnomusicological Reflections on Schools of Music) and Christopher Small (Musicking).

Western music-making ensembles often come out of triangulating comparisons with a fearful list of failings. But, I want to find the original value of Western Art Music instrumental ensembles buried under centuries of encrusted convention instead of simply dismissing Western Art Music ensembles as cultural anachronisms. I should say “re-find” because my youth was filled with junior orchestras and bands that thrilled me. Later, as a young man, I examined my treasured Western Art Music ensembles, questioning the autocratic role of the conductor and the passive nature of the audience. Were the spectators concentrating, or lost in thoughts about work and family? And if they were concentrating, what were they concentrating upon – the structure of the form, and its unique take by a long-dead composer, or the back desk of the first violins who don’t seem to work quite as hard as the first desk? Knowledge about harmony and structure was information we struggled to learn, like novitiates in an esoteric cult. Given that most members of an audience have no idea what a sonata or rondo form is, even if it jumped up and bit them on the nose, do they understand the logic of the music on a subliminal level, or are they immersed in a fantasy that promises enlightenment if they simply listen to Western Art Music often enough. In the meantime, I imagined that they take comfort in the certainty of an acquired, heightened status, simply by witnessing a Western Art Music event.

Such are the existential rants of a young man.

Below are a few, very preliminary observations I’ve made about the British Brass Band experience. In a later posting, I’ll comment on its variation found locally, and in North America generally, with an aside on the sociology of playing in an amateur ensemble.

The British Brass Band

The British Brass Band is a specific type of brass ensemble, not just a collection of high and low brass instruments. Further, the British Brass Band has its own distinctive culture, a characteristic that is valued as much as its music repertoire. Jeremy Paxman (p. 22) adds it to his list of quintessential English touchstones.  England has its fair share of professional brass banders, but the overwhelming general membership participates at the level of avocation. Still, there are some that will claim their volunteer work in a Brass Band is their vocation, while their day-job is the avocation. The shining silver coating of the brass instruments (hence the synonym, Silver Bands) symbolically contrast with the coal-dust enveloping the bodies of the miners of northern England, home of the greatest brass bands in the world. Even today, companies and villages each have their own bands which compete vigorously in national brass band competitions that are the equal of the national sports leagues. In fact, English brass banders perform in competitions far more often than on the stage.

The British Brass Band is a member of the world-wide dissemination of brass band ensembles, from Romania to Indonesia (Tanjidor), New Orleans to the Ivory Coast. Each in its own way is boisterous and exuberant. Some are polished; all are joyful.


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The Instruments

The instrumentation of the Brass Band sets it apart from other large brass ensembles, particularly with their use of cornets instead of trumpets, and tenor horns instead of French horns. The baritones and euphoniums are distinctly different, as opposed to the generic concert band baritone/euphonium. Many of these instruments have a rather modest cultural capital (Pierre Bourdeau) in Western Art Music circles. For example, the tenor horn is called the “peck horn” because of its allegedly lowly musical contribution. And yet, in the world of the British brass band, the large variety of brass instrument types are highly valued for their subtle shades of timbre, in the same manner as a pallet of spices.

Brass instruments in general make extreme physical demands, even when played with restraint. Playing a brass instrument resembles long distance running where the forces of effort are in constant war with the forces of fatigue. I can play the flute for hours, but the cornet is entirely a different matter; once the mouthpiece goes up to the mouth, the clock is ticking before facial muscle exhaustion sets in, sometimes within minutes. Playing a brass instrument seems to me to be similar to any athletic venture that requires constant muscle development and toning. Miss a day of workout; lose a week of ability.

A very curious debate simmers over the use of vibrato. In the early decades of the 20th century (and possibly before that) every English brass band instrumentalist played with vibrato, creating a total effect akin to a string orchestra. But somewhere along the way, the brass banders, mostly in the south of England, gave up on the sound quality and adopted the “wall of straight sound” that seems to come from American (Chicago) school of Brass playing. Further, the vibrato was scorned as a virus derived from “jazz” as heard, for example in the sound of Louis Satchmo and his generation. Essentially, the aesthetic of vibrato as an expressive device has been devalued by the encroachment of an outside (read “American”), globalizing musical culture. In its defense, the straight tones of a brass ensemble resemble a pipe organ in full voice. There is no doubt that straight tones allow a kind of perfection of tuning that is without peer, where major and minor thirds are tempered for the real sound from the world of physics, instead of equal temperament. There is, however, one member of the brass band genre that has insulated itself from the outside force of the straight sound and continues to use vibrato with impunity – The Brass Bands of the Salvation Army. Like the British Band culture of long ago, the Salvationists are also deeply rooted in English working class culture, providing an alternative to the grinding life of hard (or no) labour. Even today, their outreach program of social assistance is second to none.

Another striking convention is the use of treble clef in all music notations, from the highest (Eb soprano cornet) to the lowest (BBb bass). With the exception of the bass trombone. Mysterious. Be that as it may, the use of the treble clef means that anybody in the band can switch instruments, and still play effectively, if needs be. The one rather odd exception is the trombones who read treble clef, and yet still have to gauge the length of the slide for each note. Only trombonists can do that. Although the possibility of moving from one instrument to another is available to the players, the reality is hampered by the demands of the different size of mouthpieces. When I played a baritone for a couple of weeks, I could not make a single sound on a cornet! It was alarming. However, there are superstars in the British Brass Band world, seen in videos on the internet, who play multiple instruments on stage as soloists, so it must be possible.

Sometimes I see the band as a composite of two, overlapping groups – high and low brass – reminiscent of pipe organ designations like 4-foot rank, 8-foot rank, and the behemoth 16-foot rank. This distinction is provoked by the curious term of “tenor” horn. From the vantage of the low brass, it is an alto horn, but from the view down from the high brass, it is a tenor voice. And, just as the cornet is the dominant solo voice of the high brass, the euphonium is the soloist within the low brass choir. It occupies exactly the same range as a baritone, but unlike the largely cylindrical bore of the latter, the conical bore of the euphonium gives it a darker timbre. The baritone, when seen from a distance, looks like a tenor horn. It can also be identified as a trombone, folded up for convenience, and equipped with the standard 3 pistons. They share the same type of mouthpiece. Most curious of all is the flugel, which can also be identified as a piccolo tuba.

The repiano cornet is the most enigmatic brass instrument for me. It sits beside the flugel player, acting as a kind of stand partner (they usually share the same music, albeit with occasional divisi high and low melody lines), and yet it shares the role of solo-playing with the solo section, albeit at different times.

The cornet – heart of the brass band

A “cornet” is not a “trumpet”. I discovered that mistaking a cornet for a trumpet is blasphemy in the brass band world. Although they have structural differences, which includes the engaging “shepherd’s crook” in one of the bends of the cornet, if the truth be told, they sound almost the same when played in their comfort range. But it seems to me that a cornet can never re-produce those extreme moments of trumpet bravura and even excess a la Doc Severinsen. It is as if the cornet emulates the traditional reserve of the English citizen. Regardless of this acoustic modesty, the champion players and even the rank and file achieve unimaginable technical virtuosity.

Even the pronunciation of the word “cornet” is subject to some disagreement between England and North America. Compare “aluminum” and “aluminium”. In England, the word is pronounced CORnet (cf. TRUMPet), not corNET (cf. corNETTO, the curved renaissance wind instrument that is a blown like a trumpet, and played like a recorder).

After several years of practicing in the cracks of the day, I moved up to the “solos”. The term “solo” is an anachronistic term for the cornet players playing the first parts. Those parts are usually very, very high in tessitura, making what I believe to be unreasonable demands on the players. (I’m probably the only one who feels this way.) The result of this demand is the most amazing cooperation. The 4 or so “soloists” will take turns playing very difficult high-note passages, sometimes resulting in only 2 players performing, while the other 2 pause for 8 bars or so to let the blood come back to their lips. Nothing is written in the music to indicate this strategy, and the players very rarely discuss it among themselves. It just happens, almost organically. I originally thought that we were alone in this strategy, but I have observed soloists in other bands do exactly the same thing. Mind you, in the high-level bands in England, the soloists don’t need that sort of strategy; they truly are a collection of concert soloists.

The British Brass Band culture

Perhaps the most vivid cultural component of the Brass Band in England is the club-like camaraderie, the defining sub-text in the movie Brassed Off. The close-knit associations are not surprising given the vast amount of group practice an English bander will volunteer – as much as 12 or so hours a week, in off-hours. Traditional bands were all-male affairs, so they had an overtone of testosterone and a penchant for pubbing after banding. Some practice halls in England are even equipped with a bar. Today bands have opened themselves to women. And naturally, women are excelling, particularly in the realm of baritone (Katrina Marzella, Kristy Rowe) and tenor horn (Sheona White).

In a future posting, I’ll describe some impressions I’ve gathered from 11 years in a local brass band, perhaps one of the most satisfying experiences of the 2000s for me.


Andew Duncan (2005) Scoring and Arranging for Brass Band

Trevor Herbert, editor (2000) The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History

Christopher Small (1998) Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening

James Spradley (1980) Participant Observation

Bruno Nettl (1995) Heartland Excursions: Ethnomusicological Reflections on Schools of Music

Jeremy Paxman (1998) The English: A Portrait of a People

Ian Buruma (1998) Anglomania: A European Love Affair

Matthew Riley (2004) Musical Listening in the German Enlightenment

A Canadian Music Ensemble

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ February 2nd, 2013

UBC is blessed with some first rate ethnic music ensembles that perform music from Sub-Saharan Africa, Korea, Bali and China, all directed by stellar music directors that are at the top of their game. These ensembles allow Western Art Music students (and non-music students) to see how “the other musical half live” (more properly, the other 90 per cent) by experiencing performance practices, technical demands and the roller-coaster ride of new emotional responses from other music worlds. There seems to be an additional benefit for visiting or recently immigrated students who want to explore, or even discover, their ethnic musical roots.

But what would a Canadian Music ensemble look like? And sound like?

Before answering those questions, another one demands an answer right now. Who would be interested in such an ensemble? You would think that young Canadians, newly arrived in Canada, and visiting foreign students would be first in line for such an opportunity. I know that my appreciation of Japan and England was deepened beyond measure when I participated in their music and dance culture. Canadianists and ethnomusicologists from around the world and even within Canada would be equally intrigued by such a resident ensemble, perhaps even arranging for Monbukagakusho 文部科学省奨学金, Fulbright and SSHRC scholarships to research and report in the same manner as ethnomusicologists. And then there are the home-grown students who feel the need to explore what it means to be Canadian.


But there’s a problem.

Any discussion of a Canadian anything must first of all confront the fact that Canada is now multicultural. Therefore, in the domain of music, for example, there are no historical or recently arrived music ensembles that can lodge a claim to be Canada’s musical Intangible Cultural Heritage.  Further, the music of Canada’s founding immigrant communities will never again serve the agenda of the Vertical Mosaic, where Anglo and Francophone Canada once sat at the top. The short of it is that Canada now has no single cultural identity beyond its Bill of Rights, only multiple identities that comprise the Canadian cultural landscape. Further, some ethnic groups in Canada (and other diasporan locations) are so devoted to the music of their homelands that they maintain it in a more traditional frame, un-blemished by modern cultural events (i.e., hybridisation) and even neglect, back home.

This artistic and cultural conundrum did not exist several decades ago. The answer to the question, “what is a Canadian ensemble?” was simple. It was comprised of the fiddle, singularly and in groups like the string band and the Quadrille ensemble. This was the quintessential sound of Anglo and Francophone Canadian pioneers, inherited from the Old World and shared with the US.  And yes, they are now the sound of the voices of the top of the vertical mosaic, now destined to become equal members of Canada’s ethnic groups in a more equitable, horizontal configuration. Some day.

The Canadian Fiddle

There are some twists and turns that put the Canadian stamp on the fiddle. It was enthusiastically picked up by Metis and First Nations people in the boreal forest. There are First Nations fiddle masters from James Bay to the Yukon.

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Francophone-Canada introduced crooked music (la croche) with its bar lengths of unequal length and the chair dance, known as podorhythm  (les tapements de pieds).

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Cape Breton became known as a far-flung outpost of Scottish fiddle style that even the Scots used as resource to re-discover their homeland musical heritage. There was a time when the most popular radio and then television in Canada was directed by Maritimes-native Don Messer, a household name that is still revered by the dozens of fiddle clubs from BC to Nova Scotia. As you watch the video below, you will marvel at the simple, some would say, corny side of old Canada. Welcome to the roots.

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All of this activity has been pushed to the back of the room. If you are an ethnomusicologist from say, Japan, you would be hard-pressed to make contact. But with persistence, you would find yourself in a kitchen or a dance-hall filled with multi-generation families in the midst of a party. It’s more likely that the researcher would mistake a Suzuki violin class for a fiddle club because Suzuki violin instructors have enthusiastically picked up the fiddle and added it to their Western Art Music repertoire as a kind of popular music division.  The most telling manifestation of this activity is the set of fiddle books introduced into the pedagogy of the violin program of Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

Where there is the fiddle, there is dance. But song tends to take a back seat. Canada has an equally rich history, some of it unique, in Anglo and Francophone folk song. It was (not “is”) a major feature in the music programs of grade schools across Canada. Edith Fowke was the most prominent compiler but there are many others going all the way back to Marius Barbeau, Canada’s star ethnomusicologist, and even before him. Many of these songs made their way into Canada’s busy Kodaly program of early childhood music education. All of this activity has faded to grey as Canada embraces multiculturalism.

Among the many voices that would protest the creation of a Canadian music ensemble in a university school or department of music, I can hear one clarion criticism. Its folk music, now re-named vernacular music. The West moved on from that shibboleth long ago when Dylan stepped out on the stage with an electric guitar and Pete Seeger tried to cut the electrical cable to the stage. That protest is easy to accommodate because essentially, folk music is the Early Music of times long since passed among “the people” and nicely folds into all the interests and concerns of the multitude of Popular Music Scholars who populated organisations like the International Study of Popular Music, including the Canadian division.

The Vision

So, would you like to imagine what it would be like to enroll in the Canadian Music Ensemble? What would you do each Monday and Wednesday afternoon from 3 to 4:30 pm, each semester?

You would be issued a violin and begin a series of group lessons. Now I hear a new howl of protest from the violin division of the School of Music. The fiddle does not embrace virtuosity (although some professional players go there.) All their music is in First position. They may or may not hold their fiddles under their chins. No one will use a chin rest or a shoulder rest.  Detachable frets allowed! Like training wheels, they may come off later, but not necessarily.

In addition to playing jigs, reels and country dance tunes, the students will learn how to dance them. More important, students would be introduced to step-dancing, the aural percussion accompaniment par excellence of fiddle music.

Students would also learn some songs that would open the door to falderal – one singer providing the verses, the class chiming in on the chorus.  The instructor would have a box of percussion as well – spoons(!), tambourine, bones…stuff like that. Would the piano be introduced to the class? Perhaps, but solo and group fiddles (i.e., string band) are the norm so they might not be a fixture, only an occasional luxury providing rhythmic accompaniment. Accordion and melodeons might sneak in the door as well. Perhaps even penny whistles, although they were not found in Canada. The end-of-semester concerts would be dances held in a community room, not the stage of the recital hall.

So how do I make this ensemble “multicultural”?

The fiddle is found around the world as a crucial piece of luggage carried by the colonisers that followed in the wake of the imperialists, and sometimes adopted by the colonists, around the world. For example, there is an amazing world of violin in India.

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Even China dabbled in adapting the violin for their own ethnic use (in sizhu ensembles, along with the saxophone!) at the same moment they were falling head over heels into love with Western Art Music.  It would seem that the sizhu violin is now completely overshadowed by the “Chinese violin”, the er-hu which borrowed many of the Western Art Music techniques like vibrato and playing high up the neck.

My “vision” of the violin in a World Music context is 180 degrees opposite to the usual potpourri where ethnomusicology music directors look for ethnic equivalents, such as the Chinese er-hu in place of the violin, and the South Asian sarangi as a stand-in for the cello.

My excursions into World Violin would be brief tangents before the class would get right back to developing the skills for that well -known Canadian historical past-time, the fire in the kitchen.  Graduates of the program will always have a secret smile on their lips when they hear Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat and see the Faust spin-off, The Devil and Daniel Webster. Not to mention concerts of klezmer, Taraf de Hoidouks and Muzsikas.

I doubt my vision of a Canadian Music ensemble will occur any time soon, so UBC music and non-music students will have to be content with my lecture on the fiddle in my World Music course, M328. Yes, fiddle as “ethnic instrument”.


Pauline Greenhill (1994) Ethnicity in the Mainstream: Three Studies of English Canadian Culture in Ontario

Peter Burke (1978/1994) Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe

Christopher Marsh (2010) Music and Society in Early Modern England (the successor to the above)

Jacqueline Cogdell Djedje (2008) Fiddling in West Africa

Drew Beisswenger (2011) North American Fiddle Music: A Research and Information Guide

Malanka! Not. Or maybe so.

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ January 26th, 2013

It’s that time of year again, when Ukrainians in the homeland and the Canadian prairies celebrate their culture by mounting a party called malanka. I was reminded of this occasion when I watched a recent episode of the Rick Mercer Report where Rick attended a malanka party in Saskatoon. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a malanka, you will find yourself in a spirited and noisy evening of dance and music in a hotel ballroom or community rec room, full of all generations. Think wedding reception. Sprinkled throughout the evening are interludes of entertainment, especially Ukrainian folkloric dance in spectacular costume – women wearing peasant dresses and streaming ribbons, men in Turkish trousers, and everybody wearing shiny red boots. Or not. I’ve seen the dancers simply strut their stuff in street or party clothes. Here in Vancouver, Ukrainian malanka makes barely a ripple on the cultural landscape, but on the Canadian prairie arctic that is Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg at this time of year, it is the biggest event in the January’s social calendar, in the cities and out in the countryside. The reason is because Ukrainians in massive numbers settled in that part of Canada in the late 1800s.

Malanka celebrations (Malanckyn Vechir) occur on New Year’s Eve according to the Julian calendar, which runs a little more than a week later then the modern Gregorian calendar. That puts the date on January 13. It is part of a constellation of day-time festivities called Shchedryi Vechir (Generous Eve) where people share in carol singing (shchedrivky), dancing and feasting. The fun high day follows similar festivities about a week earlier on Christmas Day (Sviata Vecheria) when carols (koliadky) are sung at home and during Christmas house-visits, koliadnyky. Think wassailers.

Both Christmas day and New Year’s Eve festivities feature mummers plays. The plays and their associated shenanigans have a heightened spin in Western Ukraine among the rural Hutsul people of the Carpathian Mountains. Rowdy young men go house to house with ritualized greetings, group singing, dancing (hutsulka, kolomyjka, both shoulder-to-shoulder round dances) and of course, a mummers play.

The Christmas Day event is called vertep (related to the Russian petrushka – Stravinsky alert), centred on the nativity scene. Sombre re-enactments of the Jesus’ birth are contrasted with hilarious skits about the shepherds, the antics of the animals (especially the goat, koza, which also had a story of its own), and the comic characterizations of the accompanying costumed stereotypes – a local policeman, a blacksmith, the gypsy, a chimneysweep, etc.. The mummers play at New Year’s Eve is called malanka, and features many of the same stereotypical, comic characters.  In each instance, the accompanying characters make brief appearances, where they are announced by the performance of their defining songs (in the style of koliadky).

The malanka play is named after the central character. According to the song lyrics, she is beautiful, shy and on the look-out for a worthy husband. According to the lyrics. But in reality, “she” was a male dressed in shabby women’s clothing, blustering and wreaking havoc in the kitchen, pretending to clean it up, until “she” was persuaded to sit down and have a drink. Other, even shorter skits could be invoked, with specific songs performed during the mimed antics of one or more of the other comic characters who accompanied malanka. Food and drink would be consumed copiously and couple dances would spontaneously break out, much to the delight or chagrin of the females in the house. Behind the façade of merriment was an opportunity for the young people of the town to size each other up for potential romances and dalliances. The narrative of the play is concerned either with a portrayal of pre-nuptial ritual or a knock-about re-enactment of a myth about a young woman who finds herself caught in a web of intrigue similar to Persephone.

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When I became a morris dancer, I learned that many English folk arts (such as morris dance) were also timed to coincide with high days in the festive year, like malanka and vertep. I also learned that at Christmas time in England, mumming was far more prevalent than morris dance, so in order to go deep into this performance art I became the foreman of a mumming troupe drawn from morris dancers in our organisation. I quickly discovered that mumming was the equal of morris dance with its complex representations and vigorous performativity. And just as I had done in my later comparative studies of ethnic dances in relation to morris dance, I found a multitude of astounding examples of ethnic theatre resembling mumming. I hasten to add that is almost all “street” theatre and “kitchen” theatre, not the high tone productions found on stages, performed by professional actors and thoughtfully written by playwrights exploring human dilemmas, triumphs and hubris.  The examples of folk theatre I found were usually brief, physical and brimming with the kind of rough-and-ready humour Mikhail Bakhtin called Carnival Laughter.

It was during my mumming phase that I discovered traditional malanka. But, no sooner did I revel in this discovery, I became bamboozled by the malanka that I was seeing and hearing about on the prairies.  It had virtually no resemblance to the malanka I had read about.  What’s more, when I began to make inquiries in the Ukrainian communities I visited, I discovered that many of the malanka celebrants were entirely unaware of the traditional malanka.

The Malanka that one sees today is a party of an entirely different colour. Instead of “folk” it is “dance club” with music performed by a polka or soft rock band.  Although the event resembles a supper club, the many generations of people in attendance make the event more like a wedding reception. Granted, a typical malanka New Year’s party will have guest appearances by the local Ukrainian dance troupe, and party-goers may even have a go at a traditional dance and sing-along. Ukrainian language even makes an appearance at these events. Obviously the original kitchen “party” component has morphed into something more contemporary, in the tried and true manner of all folk customs that adapt to changes and modernity in general. I have no problem with that, but what I did find alarming was the seeming ignorance among many young Ukrainian-Canadians about the origins of their malanka.

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Of course, the picture is never black and white. One finds videos on YouTube with young people having a whale of a time, pumped up by the hot music of young Ukrainian-Canadian musicians like Zirka. And come to think about it, the fun seen in internet videos suggest that young people are still sizing each other up at malanka parties.

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The gap between the old and the new does not stop at the parties. I had heard of a video performance of a malanka play that was produced by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in 1995 for sale to educational institutions across Canada. Imagine my disappointment when I found myself watching a dance-mime performance of the story of the “pagan goddess malanka” who was portrayed by a slim young ballerina dressed in beguiling Ukrainian costume, being escorted across the dance floor, and through the narrative, by gallant young men, also in traditional folkloric costume. The choreography was a mix of ballet and modern Ukrainian “folkloric” dance. I sat back in astonishment, pondering the thousands of young people in grade schools and universities who would use the video as the basis for their papers and multicultural presentations.

Young third and fourth Ukrainian-Canadians may have been unaware of the roots, but not the generation of their grandparents. The older the informant, the more aware they were of traditional malanka. But there was also a kind of shame and reluctance that tempered their fond memories. The grandparents seemed uneasy about the transvestism of malanka, and the general  foreign-ness of the event, given their desire to become “Canadian”. That is, Anglo Canadian, a hybrid of America and Britain. The internment of Ukrainians during World War II also made those mixed feelings even more complicated.

How times have changed. A traditional Malanka would be greeted with open arms today, if she could be found. I despaired of seeing or hearing about a real Malanka until a few years ago when I visited a small town in central Saskatchewan, almost entirely populated by many generations of Ukrainian-Canadians. There I discovered that the original Malanka and her troupe were alive and thriving. I also learned that researchers and scholars in the Ukrainian Studies department of the University of Alberta in Edmonton were delving deep into the mysteries of the original malanka play, just like scholars in England (and Newfoundland!) were investigating the roots of mumming.

When I began teaching at the School of Music at UBC, I dreamt of engineering a centre for ethnic music, dance and theatre where all the seasonal traditions like old malanka would be studied and performed. Given that they touch upon domains found throughout the Arts Faculty, they would make excellent cross-faculty fodder. The explorations would start with Old World (i.e., European) examples and then perhaps branch out to similar events around the world. For example, Sestubun in Japan has remarkable points of commonality.  You can find the project in my blog under Ethnomusicology ensembles.

Now, conditions may not be right. The tide of diasporan communities from Asia seem to have no interest in these hold-over cultures from Europe, and the latest generation of born-and-bred Canadian children have long since separated from the homelands of their European grandparents.  For example, it is typical to speak to children of English parents who have never heard of morris dance or mummers plays. I suppose each of these segments of modern society is re-shaping Canada into a transcultural image more suited to their needs.


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

Robert Klymasz (1985) ‘“Malanka”: Ukrainian Mummery on the Prairies,” in Canadian Folk Music Journal, volume 13 (1985), pp. 32-36

Orest Subtelny (1991) Ukrainians in North America: An Illustrated History

Tamara Livingstone (1999) “Music Revivals: Towards a General Theory,” in Ethnomusicology, volume 43, number 1 (Winter), pp. 66-85

Phil Ryan (2010) Multcultiphobia

Cheryl Avery, Mona Holmlund (2010) Better Off Forgetting? Essays on Archives, Public Policy, and Collective Memory


Tafiychuk Family

Hutsulshchyna No 1 Music of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains (Koka)

With a family line from the Hutsul village of Bukovets, between Kosiv and Verkhovyna in the Ukrainian part of the Carpathian Mountains, this family has been cultivating local music traditions for decades. Their repertoire is recognized as a canon of Hutsul folklore. This first CD consists of ritual wedding music – kolomyikas and ritual games and spontaneous, archaic dances sung and performed on violin and instruments such as sopilka, floiara, telenka among others. This CD also includes a small booklet with a short story about the creation of the world.

Hutsulshchyna No 2 Music of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains (Koka)

Volume two of the music by this family from the Hutsul village of Bukovets, between Kosiv and Verkhovyna in the Ukrainian part of the Carpathian Mountains, focuses on songs and improvisations of traditional melodies performed on violin and instruments such as sopilka, floiara, telenka among others.

These CDs and similar music productions are available at CD Roots.


Are Live Lectures Becoming Redundant?

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ January 18th, 2013

Online versus conventional lectures; that is the question (not asked by Hamlet). The recent issue of UBC Reports (January 2, 2013) has several senior administrators musing about the future of university education. What looms large is the assumption that online instruction may become the equal, if not the superior, mode of delivery.

My course material is now almost entirely online, and my office is virtual (via Connect and Skype). Everything in my courses (readings, lecture descriptions, word lists, bibliographies, exams, assignments) can be accessed online from the comfort of a living room or a coffee shop.

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All, that is, except for one crucial component- the lectures.

Online lectures

The next and final step would be to deliver my lectures online. But how? Most of the online courses that I have seen are text-based. The student buys the course, opens up the course modules, reads a whole lot, and then completes the assignments. Borrring. And very likely redundant, given that so much information is available online, and for free no less, starting with Wikipedia.

Lectures via webinars might be a solution, but they are tied to particular time on a calendar. Then there are the audio podcasts which involve listening to somebody reading the text of a lecture. Borrring.

The most likely candidate is the video podcast, which a student could access 24/7 until the final day of the course. It gives new meaning to the idea of cramming, where a hapless, last-minute student spends umpteen non-stop hours in front of a screen before the posted last date to complete the final exam, and hyper-ambition, where the student completes the course in 3 days of non-stop viewing and assignment completion. For students who properly pace themselves to take full advantage of the video podcast, the experience is somewhere between reality TV and a Ted lecture.

The obvious advantage of online lectures is the convenience. An online form of instruction must seem very attractive to those students who truck in from distant homes and sit row upon row to listen and make notes, especially if all they want is 3 credits and a pass so they can get on with the business of graduating and finding a job. Rote-learning is served well by this method.

Another advantage is the false sense of personalisation that comes from one-on-one lectures – you and me on your computer screen.

My third and fourth year courses require a rather large population (30-40 students) to be financially viable. In other words, they lie somewhere between the massed classes of 200 or 300, and the cozy seminars with 6 or less students around a table. They are still relatively crowded with each precious consciousness in danger of being lost in the crowd, so the lure of the video podcast is strong.

The living lecture

With all this in mind, what’s the point of lectures? Enter in, the timeless role of the teacher. University professors are certified as PhDs, Doctors of Philosophy, They frame their academic expertise in the context of a philosophical point of view.  Their real-time musings, pacing, change of mind, tangents, and other instructional ticks reflect the organic nature of their experience of the discipline. In the end, the experience of them in real time is similar to visiting say the Ryōan-ji in Kyoto, as opposed to going there virtually, online.

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Teaching reminds me of the power of oral transmission. I learned about this form of music education in Japan when I was there to learn how to play the shakuhachi. I quickly discovered that the music notation contained about 30 per cent of the information needed to perform each piece. The other 70 per cent was supplied by instruction from the teacher (sensei). In the process of instruction, sometimes by demanding nothing more than direct imitation, the teacher insured that the spirit of the music was conveyed, as well as the technical requirements.

The drudge of the commute and the inconvenience of the scheduled visits to the campus are offset by the experience of the teacher first-hand. Think of the difference between a CD or video production of a pop star’s music, versus the live experience of seeing them on stage. Or more cogently, and relevant to WAM (Western Art Music) students, imagine learning to play the piano or whatever instrument from self-help manuals or online instruction, using the notation that is readily available in any music store, versus living lessons.

But the 21st century teacher must not slip back to the 20th century where instructors simply downloaded factoids, to be uploaded on a written exam later. Millennials want experiences before facts. University instructors must also come to grips with the reality of 21st century presentations where the entertainment industry inevitably influences public talk. Even if a teacher is not charismatic, they need to explore the kind of personal development that comes from instruction similar to good old Dale Carnegie, or Toastmaster Clubs.

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Gone are the days (I hope) where students are required to overlook eccentric, even anti-social behaviour in a teacher in order to glean the expertise encased in the teacher like gold in dross.

My particular solution to the challenge of teaching in the 21st century is to blend live lectures with student presentations and end-of-the-week tweets (in Connect) where students can speak their minds about the course.  And just to make it worth the time, I make those weekly contributions worth a mark towards the final mark. Does it get any better than that? If so, please send me a line using the comment function, below.


Anne Dhu McLucas (2010) The Musical Ear: Oral Tradition in the USA

James A. Davies, editor (2012) The Music History Classroom

M328C World Music, the 2013 version

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ January 11th, 2013

Good news.

The university has scheduled one of my courses for May-June of 2013. Last summer, they chose my Popular Music course (M403J); this year they’ve opted for my version of the study of World Music (M328C). It is designated with a “C” because it keeps company with the same course taught by the other excellent instructors in the department of ethnomusicology, marked A or B, depending on the teacher. My version contrasts with theirs because of the unique content. Interestingly, because of the differences, students are welcome to enroll in all the various versions of M328. From my vantage, that option is a somewhat intimidating, given that the comparison of teaching styles is inevitable.

So what will be unique in my version of M328 in 2013?

The heart of all my teaching, past and present, is triangulation – the comparison of WAM (Western Art Music), the heart and soul of a School of Music or conservatory, with the sounds, contexts and performance practices of music from different parts of the world. I discussed this personal take in a previous post in this blog, and I review the concept in the first lecture.

The course will begin with an overview of the music of the world. Given that the such a perspective is vast, and in constant danger of degenerating into a Cook’s Tour of World Music (“if it’s Wednesday, it must be Belgium”), I have chosen to illustrate how music ideas have flowed around the world in the form of cultural diffusion. My examples are from the Black Atlantic and Eurasia from south to west.

This excursion into ancient globalisation will be followed by some in-depth presentations. I’ll begin with a topic that has never been more urgent – First Nations music and dance. As the Idlenomore movement gains traction (as of January 2013), Canadian citizens are in need of a greater depth of understanding of First Nations culture as aboriginal people empower themselves. Because this is a music course, the vehicle to achieve this greater depth of understanding is the music that accompanies the intertribal Powwow. Common throughout Canada, the Powwow and its heartbeat, the drum, has deep historical roots but it is also a living, vibrant cultural expression that has adapted and kept pace with modern times.

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Next will be a foray into Canada’s candidate for musical Intangible Cultural Heritage. UNESCO has stimulated a lot of interest in various exotic music and dance productions that are often identified as symbols of specific nationalities. Some examples of ICH are even imperilled, gasping for air as the tsunami of Anglo-american pop culture washes over them. So does Canada have an ICH? According to the Federal government, the answer is “no”. When the answer was “yes” in the long ago, it was the fiddle, played by First Nations and successive waves of immigrants from coast to coast to coast.

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We will review that perspective, and then show how an up-and-coming contender, the jing-hu, may take its place beside the fiddle as a member of Canada’s twenty-first century panorama of multicultural musical symbols.

Following the familiar we will travel to the exotic – Zen Buddhism in the service of music. Zen can make an enormous contribution to make to the life and times of a WAM musician, from its attitude to its quintessential meditation skills. But how? All will be revealed.

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Then, we will jump from the easternmost island nation of Eurasia, Japan, to its westernmost isle – Great Britain and England in particular. Who would have thought that Ol’ Blighty was “ethnic”? But surprise, surprise, it has maintained a form of “ethnic dance” that is as intriguing as flamenco or any other ethnochroreography . Called morris dance, it is a variant form of morisco that has been around since the Middle Ages .

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In order to lay the groundwork for a proper understanding of morris dance, students will be introduced to Country Dance. Jane Austin fans are in for a treat.

Being the 21st century, all the lectures will not be just wall-to-wall blah blah. Volunteer students will provide mini (20 minute) presentations that describe their musical passions and guilty pleasures, followed by questions from the class and more revelations. Each week ends with a twitter festival (using Connect) where everybody comments on the content of the preceding week’s lectures and presentations. Each individual weekly contribution is worth a precious mark, so it’s time well spent. Six weeks; six marks.

Building on the lectures, students will be challenged and immersed in music recognition assessments, reading submissions, online (yes online!) exams and a final assignment to show the results of their 6-week discoveries. If all goes well, certification and 3 precious units will be the final outcome, not to mention a new point of view that will stay with them for the rest of their musical lives.

Belly Dancing Men

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ January 4th, 2013

Lately I’ve rekindled my interest in frame drums. My first encounter was with the tambourine – a frame drum with some added tonal colour provided by miniature cymbals called jingles. Back then, I had decided to challenge myself by writing a high-brow academic paper about a seemingly trivial, low-brow music instrument, the tambourine. What a wonderful adventure that was. It may be trivial in the hands of Mr. Tambourine Man, but in the Middle East and the Mediterranean it is very sophisticated low tech. You can read about some of the results of this research in my blog entry entitled Ethnomusicology by and for Women.

A few weeks ago I encountered a frame drum that was new to me. It was massive – perhaps the bass drum of the frame drum world.  Although normally played while holding it in an upright manner, a brilliant frame drummer percussionist named Glenn Velez devised a new ergonomic model of playing with the drum resting on the knee. Regardless of the playing position, the frame drum, called daf, tar, deff, duff, shares the same musical vocabulary as the doumbek and other Middle Eastern drums (and even South Asian drums).

As I marvelled at the drum, I asked myself, “Where do the players play this drum?” That question led me to belly dance. Suddenly I had a perfect point of discussion and debate for my teaching module on ethnochoreology, presented in my course entitled Introduction to the Study of World Music.

Dance of the belly

“Belly” is a crude way of describing the muscles of the hips and intercostal muscles (i.e., the belly, aka the six-pack), that “dance” to the rhythmic beat, instead of the feet. Whereas many choreographies outline geometric patterns on a stage, ice rink, swimming pool or whatever, by travelling through space in a forward or backward motion, mobility in belly dance is virtually non-existent. It shares many of the same “hip” movements as hula dance, but the mimesis of the hands is very different. In hula, the fluid gestures tell a story; in belly dance they simply outline an arabesque around and above the body, enhancing the shimmer and beats of the hips and stomach. Oddly enough, belly dance seems to share some of the same body choreographies gestures as bhangra. And its relatively stationary dance location resembles hip hop!

The history of belly dance is fraught with Orientalism, as evidenced by the term, “belly” (actually derived from the French la danse du ventre). One has to look past the sometimes dark moments of Oriental Othering (while acknowledging that they happened) and see the modern hybrids and historical re-enactments that have arisen. There are roughly two camps of belly dance,  approximately categorized as Raqs Sharqi, the hypersexualized cabaret style originally from Egypt that eventually became the most prominent form of Western belly dance, and Raqs Baladi (or Beledi), the vernacular (aka folk) version that de-emphasizes the hypersexuality while maintaining the essence of the motions. Baladi  is fully participatory, with all dancers welcome on the dance floor, while Sharqi is strictly presentational. The prominent element of hypersexuality in Sharqi has been transformed by many women into an exploration and discovery of sexuality and sensuality, completely inverting the dominant male gaze into pro-active Third Wave Feminism. Some Westerners and Middle Eastern male dancers have created a hybrid of both styles, using the modest dress of Baladi with the presentational aspect of Sharqi.

What particularly interests me is the fact that Baladi is also the kind of belly dance that is the common to the Middle Eastern everyman, and everywoman, at celebrations like weddings and parties. In most Middle Eastern countries, the gender differences are highlighted because both genders rarely dance together, not because of any interest in hypersexuality. Men dance in the company of men; women ibid, even if the opposite sex is present, simply watching and admiring. This form of belly dance is difficult to research, no doubt because it is of limited interest to the West and its fascination with Sharqi.

Frame Drums

I discovered that frame drums are commonly used to accompany belly dance. They perform this unusual accompaniment role by utilizing the rich and complex vocabulary of Middle Eastern Rhythmic modes.  These modes consist of additive metres as long as 10 or more beats of sound and silence, consisting of smaller units of twos and threes that are made richer with breath-taking improvisation, even to the point of disguising the beats. The rhythm of the dancer and the drummer is a tour de force of unison and layered rhythms.  Imagine a familiar dance, such as waltz or salsa, with only the accompaniment of percussion? Perhaps a crazy idea, but I think very intriguing. That is not to say that melody instruments do not join in the fun of Belly Dance, only that they are equal partners, and even ancillary at times.

Dancing Male Bellies

So having determined that the frame drum accompanies belly dance, is a performer restricted to accompanying females? For some men that might seem like heaven, and for women players, it must seem liberating. But, the answer is “no”.

Male belly dance – the outermost region of acceptability for many heterosexual men. Homosexual males have a long history of belly dance in the Turkish courts, but after much poking around, one discovers that Middle Eastern heterosexual guys from every walk of life, from soldiers to taxi drivers, are also comfortable dancing with their hips and bellies. This casual, participatory style is in addition to the male versions of hypersexual Sarqi which is a major hit in some cabarets and restaurants (including Greek restaurants!) around the world and in Vancouver. Given the hybrid form of belly dance performed by both men and women, abroad and in the Middle East, the distinction between homosexual and heterosexual presentation is blurred to the point of unidentifiable.  A six-pack is a six-pack, regardless of gender preference.

Male versus Female Bellies

So the next question posed is this. Is there a mimesis of gestures that are distinctly male, in opposition to female gestures? The answer appears to be “yes”, as seen in the video instructional entitled Learn the Art of Male Belly Dance, by Wesley Gomes. Although the beat is still highlighted by the hips, the gestures are masculine, although subtly so.

Still, Mr. Gomes is in the business of presentation. Is there a male form of social Baladi that avoids hypersexuality? According to an un-named informant, there is.

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So could a male Physical Education, sorry Human Kinetics instructor in a high school, introduce belly dance to a mixed class? Could there be a club at university devoted to convivial belly dance performed by both sexes. Given that the dance form does not involve couples, would it would resemble a typical free-for-all of a downtown club? Probably not in my lifetime.

This entire discussion does not take into account the wishes and needs of Muslims from the Middle East which is another, far more complicated and necessary investigation for another day.


Jennifer Fisher and Anthony Shay, editors (2009) When Men Dance: Choreographing masculinities across borders

Anthony Shay, Barbara Sellers-Young, editors (2005) Orientalism, transnationalism, and harem fantasy

Stavros Stavrou Karayanni (2004) Dancing Fear and Desire: Race, Sexuality, and Imperial Politics in Middle Eastern Dance

Merry Kitschmas

by Dr. Norman Stanfield ~ January 2nd, 2013

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, editors Sheila Whiteley and Brian Miller have produced thought-provoking collections of essays that revel in the myriad contradictions of Christmas in our global village. But the articles are academic and demanding. A fast track to the reality of Christmas in the 21st century is found in the books and blogs that explore Kitschmas. “Kitsch” is a favourite topic of mine, and also figures into one of my lectures on popular music (week 7: High and Low).

For those very, very few of you unfamiliar with the term kitsch, Wikipedia and then the internet can be your guide. You will discover that irony and nostalgia are its fundamental attributes, and garden gnomes are its poster child. For one person, the doll-like statue is a highlight that contrasts the beauty of a floral bed display with a dash of whimsy and memories of childhood fantasies. For another, it is a vacuous icon that trivializes nature and bastardizes sculpture. Ibid black velvet paintings, naugahyde upholstery, Spanish Colonial decor, the Carpenters, North Korea, etc. Rather than express outrage, the ironist simply shrugs his or her shoulders and smiles the smile of pomo scorn. The ironic shrug is the default mode in Canada’s current environment of cultural relativism.

If your particular pleasure is the target of the kitsch cognoscenti, you can defend your taste vigorously, open your eyes for the first time, or ignore the slings and arrows.  “Ignore” seems to be the reaction of choice. Vancouver’s most famous, if not notorious example of kitsch is the domestic architecture known as the Vancouver Special, a genre of  house construction built in the last 40 years that is optimal in its use of space, while being remarkably, if not mind-boggling cheesy in its architectural façade.  The more budget-conscious the neighbourhood; the more frequently it is seen.  Despite the scorn that is heaped on the Specials, they and their successive variations sell like hot-cakes.

Christmas music is a feast for culture-vultures with a penchant for kitsch. The musical high ground is occupied by the lofty likes of Handel’s Messiah and the Ceremony of Carols heard in King’s College, Cambridge.  However, the mainstay repertoire consists of classics like Away in a Manger, Silent Night, and a host of similar titles first brought together in 1871 and entitled Christmas Carols Old and New.

The low ground is where you find the kitsch – crooners from the 50s, Mel Torme and Bing Crosby, all the way to Jingle Bell Rock and Phil Spector’s LP A Christmas Gift to You. (Wait. I’m just now listening to Schubert’s Ave Maria sung by Luciano Pavarotti, which goes to show that musical cheese can indeed be found on the high ground.) Kitschmas music consists of sentimental lyrics set to every imaginable genre of popular music, including blues and funk. Listen to James Brown’s Merry Christmas Baby. Ironically (there, I said it!), the rock and soul music versions are often first rate in their musical settings and painfully tacky in their lyrics. So much so, in fact, that they may very well be an unspoken parody. However, the Christmas music fodder heard in the mall and you parent’s radio is overwhelmingly soft adult and soft pop.

The Catch

The conversation about Kitschmas music would normally consist of a bottomless pit of “my taste versus your taste” argument with no conclusion in sight, except for two difficult problems that demand a resolution.

First up is the high ground of Christmas music, including the vast carol repertoire, which hangs on a singular thread – Christianity. Anybody associated with intense multicultural communities like grade schools, public service, and governments knows that the observance of Christmas celebrations can no longer privilege Christianity or any other religion for that matter, and even atheism. So the safe Plan B is to program secular, non-Christian musical fare like Jingle Bells and Chestnuts Roasting o’er the Open Fire. Enter in, Kitschmas.

The second problem is found in the modern-day family. Traditional Christmas sets out to celebrate a concept of family that is largely derived from the Victorian twin cults of domesticity and the child. The former defined women as consumers, home-makers and subservient, and the latter replaced childhood’s original sin and primal wildness with inherent innocence. Both understandings are still with us today, albeit highly contested, unlike the past. Enter in, nostalgia.

Kitschmas occupies a neutral zone where multicultural sensibilities are not offended and nostalgia functions unfettered. It is also the Lowest Common Denominator, or so say the ironists and culture vultures. But, like everything from the 80s and 90s, irony is now viewed with suspicion. Signs that point to this re-assessment are seen in articles about the death of irony, beginning with an article in Vanity Fair dated September 18, 2001. X-gen and Y-gen (millennials) wonder if irony is actually a peculiar cultural trait of the boomer generation, now hoary and incongruous.

Many traditional cultures, especially from South and East Asia, do not recognize irony, as evidenced by their unalloyed devotion to melodrama. Also, the aural transmission of their traditions and customs is not a wistful memory, but an ever-present fact of life. The sanctity and cohesion of the traditional family, called Family Honour, may suffer the usual strains of generational differences, but rarely fractures, unlike the West. For them, and their diaspora cousins living in Canada, Western Kitschmas is benign, seemingly genuine, and easily enculturated. Further, immigrants newly arrived in Canada will have memories of Western Kitschmas exported long ago to their homelands, along with other forms of soft adult and soft rock. Its inherent nostalgia has even been “melodramatized” into a sentimental vehicle for young lovers. For example, in Lee-hom Wang’s music video Kiss Goodbye, the protagonist laments a lost love while singing at the piano with a Christmas tree as a backdrop. These expressions of sentiment do not function in binary opposition to irony, as they do in the West, so their appearance is strangely vacuous to outsiders like critical theorists. The opposite pole is seemingly occupied by their own, imperilled vernacular culture.

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The Future?

As the millennials and the zeros arrive at their moment in history, they will likely be served almost exclusively by popular music’s secular messages while (Christian-based) carols and soft-adult seasonal music will move inexorably into a specialized niche populated by rapidly shrinking audiences. The soft pop music fare fueled by nostalgia will likely be challenged by new Christmas popular music that adopts more meaningful lyrics, stripped of clichés. In the process, Kitschmas will evaporate. But will Christmas survive? If we accept the evidence of Western May Day, which evolved from the most celebratory day of the year to an empty long week-end holiday, the prognosis is not good.

For those who just can’t wait for the evolutionary change from Kitschmas to Christmas music, I recommend Fairy Tale of New York by the Pogues.

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Melodrama and Asian Cinema, edited by Wimal Dissanayake (1993)

Irony, by Claire Colebrook (2003)

The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, by Stephanie Coontz (2000, second edition)

It’s a Wonderful Christmas: The Best of the Holidays 1940-1965, by Susan Waggoner (2004)

The Innocent Child and Other Modern Myths” by Henry Jenkins , in The Children’s Culture Reader, edited by Henry Jenkins (1999)

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