MUSI 3104 W12 Early Commercial, Country. Canadian history Pt. I… A bit more about settlement patterns, since this is relevant to the folk lecture from last week, and also is important for understanding the later development of Canadian multiculturalism .
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By the 1780s, free slaves were coming to Canada as black loyalists. They were generally misled regarding their opportunities and not well treated, but many stuck around and began to form communities. 1840-1860 was the period in which the underground railroad was most active. The result was a fairly sizeable population of African-American immigrants who formed settlements, especially in parts of southern Ontario and Nova Scotia. But for many reasons, this did not lead to the same kind of cultural and musical syncretism that was so definitive of U.S. folk and popular culture. What are some of the reasons?
So the thing to note is that early Canadian society was marked by a commonplace view that there were two founding cultures, although other communities were present from the start and made contributions although those tended to be regarded as marginal. And within the construction of biculturalism there was also a very important tension and power imbalance.
In the late 19th century there was tightly controlled opening of Western immigration to non-Anglo Europeans. A little earlier (1880-85), there was also a wave of Chinese (and some other Asian) workers. As a rule, these groups were allowed in because of their reputed willingness to work in labour-intensive areas such as agriculture and railway construction. So like some other groups, they were somewhat segregated geographically and conceptually from the putatively bicultural mainstream.
Another set of historical facts, concerning the pace of populating and urbanizing different regions, along with their political integration into Confederation. Taken together, this will all be helpful to understand when we discuss challenges of Canadian nationalism, and also challenges of building a cohesive Canadian music industry.
1869, The Hudson's Bay Company (incorporated 1670) sold Rupert's Land to Canada. Underlying point: the HBC was a major political player and landowner quite far into Canada's history. Note the colonialist angle to this as well...
There is no evidence of any music having been printed in Canada prior to 1800, and the earliest surviving sheet music dates to 1840. The earliest activity was centered in Québec City and Montreal, although by about 1900 things had shifted mostly to the Toronto area.
Moving on to look at a range of early commercial popular songs. In each case, apart from getting to know the details of the songs for their own sake we'll ask how they reflect particular elements of the increasingly dominant TPA aesthetic and method.
Ernest Seitz was born Hamilton and lived in Toronto. He was mainly a classical pianist, but also wrote tunes for several successful popular songs although sometimes under a pseudonym to protect his classical persona (this song included, initially). The lyricist, Gene Lockhart, was from London Ontario. The song was recorded in many versions, including several by jazz musicians (Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington included). It was a major hit for Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1949.
Between the two examples (Russell and Seitz), note that we've seen two interesting general features of how pop aesthetics and methods can shape representations:
The next song is clearly an example of a topical/novelty song. But is it one without any Canadianness? Or could we see it as a case of a topic with some particular Canadian resonance being universalized?
Brief summary of the history of country music, and especially cowboy/western variants…
Also, at least two Canadian performers (and one group with substantial Canadian input) were integral to building that mythology in the mass media.
Overhead: Two images of Wilf Carter (note the clear national signifiers/marketing)
In terms of Québec country music, Soldat Lebrun is the earliest artist who gets widespread notice, and most see Willie Lamothe (after his mid-1940s hits) as the leader of the field.
Hank Snow did return to Canada frequently for tours and broadcasts, so was still seen as an important founder of Canadian country music even though he didn't live here. This helped to establish a pattern that would become very common among Canadian artists: living and working mostly outside the country (usually in the U.S.), often with foreign audiences having little or no awareness of their Canadian connections, but returning to Canada often enough to remain a direct influence here, and widely claimed by Canadian fans as symbols of national pride and identity.
Another general feature of popular culture in periods before the 20th century is the degree to which it was rooted in community activity (rather than the almost entirely spectatorial culture that dominated later on). Publishing, for example, relied largely on sales for home use. And performing groups of varying degrees of professionalism were central to community life.
However, besides unique stylistic variants this course also looks at how particular genres and contexts provided opportunity to people of Canadian origin, and from that point of view there are a few figures in early jazz and light orchestral music who are important to know about (also because they overlap with the points we just made about blurring of genres)
Brooks' "DarktownStrutters Ball" (1917) became a jazz standard after being recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, and this also makes it one of the very earliest commercial jazz recordings.
Can we make anything out of the hot/sweet divide? Adding in Gil Evans, Moe Koffman, Lenny Breau, etc., is there going to be a pattern worth talking about or would that be giving in too easily to stereotypes?
Robert Farnon "A la clairefontaine" (1955) Born Toronto 1917. Played a variety of instruments in dance bands. Studied composition in 1930s and began getting professional arranging work (some for Percy Faith). First symphony premiered in 1940 by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and was adopted by some US orchestras as well. In the 1940s he ended up in England on wartime assignments, and did some work with the BBC and Vera Lynn. He continued to live in the U.K. and became one of the most influential TV/film composers of the mid-20th-century. Remains an icon in the "light music" world.