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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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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.
  • Between 1760 and roughly 1841, the policy towards French culture was largely one of attrition. However, the Parliamentary system which took shape in the 1840s-60s largely recognized the need to protect/accommodate French culture, despite stiff resistance from some quarters.
  • For a long time, colonial authorities did not encourage immigration or settlement at all, fearing that it would interfere with the fur trade. The first and almost only groups allowed to immigrate were Scottish, British, and French.

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?

  • And of course there was also a range of Native cultures already present in Canada.

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.

  • By the 1830s immigration was sharply increasing.
  • 1845-48, the Irish famine leads to a large number of Irish immigrants, many of whom chose to settle in Montreal (why?). They were the first real wave of non-British/Scotch/French immigrants.

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.

  • Circa WW.I. several things, including conscription, lead to increased activity by Québec nationalists.
  • All of this, taken together, helped to intensify the generally colonial atmosphere of early Canada.
  • First, outline essential historical context and features of colonialism as a political/economic institution, along with its typical cultural effects.

Typical results of the colonial situation in Canada…

  • Favouritism/prejudice in immigration policy
  • Institutional support for European cultural forms above local ones
  • General "imported culture" syndrome. Just to name one non-musical example, Canadian spelling (choice between identification with the U.S. or with Britain).
  • Paternalistic and normative attitude towards cultural affairs, partly due to leadership by small, privileged cliques
  • Generally an interest in the home country in exoticism. Canada was in a strange position, since there was a lot of exotic Canadiana that fascinated Europeans and to a lesser degree Americans. So Canada was in a real self/other situation vis-à-vis UK self-image.
  • What kind of musical culture is going to result from this sort of colonial mentality?
  • Consider how this feeds into the general issue we raised at the end of last week: support (or not) for local artists in various regions of Canada in various time periods.

Regarding the point about exoticism and Canadiana...

  • Overheads: Multiple selected images of Canadiana
  • First enumerate typical Canadianisms
  • Look for patterns or general themes in terms of what got emphasized, and what did not. What kind of position and importance was implied for Canada as seen by others and by its own citizens?
  • Side trip: early national songs with respect to colonialism.
  • Overhead: First edition of "The Maple Leaf Forever" (probably 1868). Note the publishing details...
  • Alexander Muir "The Maple Leaf Forever" (1867)
  • Composed in the confederation year and a very popular patriotic song, especially up to about 1950.

Overheads: Images of Alexander Muir Gardens in Toronto

  • TMLF was eventually displaced by "O Canada" partly because the latter was a French song at first, and so had more resonance with francophones.
  • Interestingly, "O Canada" was only approved by Parliament as the national anthem in 1967 (along with "God Save The Queen" as the royal anthem), and legislation to finalize this was only passed in 1980 (and did not include GSTQ).
  • And the colonial outlook continued to provide material for (and to shape) popular culture well into the 20th century. For example...
  • The Happy Gang "There'll Always Be an England" (1939)
  • This was one of the better-known British war songs. Like Don Messer, The Happy Gang were among the most popular CBC acts of the late 1930s through the 1950s.

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.

  • 1841, there is a constitution and the beginnings of a Parliamentary system. In 1847 Britain granted Canada the right of self-government (the right to become the Dominion of Canada).Confederation occurred in 1867, and included New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada (Upper and Lower).
  • So consider, in the late 1960s -- which as we'll see is the period in which Canadian popular music as such begins to gain international recognition, and is also the period in which popular and political interest in the question of Canadian cultural identity reached its peak -- the country was barely 100 years old (and that version of Canada had only included a fraction of what we take to be the country today).

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...

  • 1871, British Columbia joins confederation. As the railway moves west, various cities begin to boom (e.g. Winnipeg).
  • 1920s, the population becomes mostly urbanized. By the late 1940s suburbs are beginning to appear, first as subdivisions on the edge of cities, then as comprehensive suburbs (first was Don Mills, 1954).
  • 1949, Newfoundland joins confederation (partly due to pressure from England, who needed to downsize after the war). Underlying point: full political unification is a fairly recent thing, and depending how you view various outstanding land claims and movements, it could be argued that the political landscape and makeup of the country are still in flux.

Some overall results of this pattern...

  • Lack of a viably dense audience for mass culture in any one region up through most of the 20th century.
  • Tendency for North-South relationships (i.e., regional relationships with the U.S.) to be more important than East-West inter-Canada ones in many areas.
  • Until fairly recently, concentration of economic and political power in parts of Ontario and Québec. A generally mythologized and only partly-integrated understanding of the West in the rest of Canada.

Early commercial popular song…

  • Need to distinguish here between "popular song" in the 19th-century parlour song tradition, and the more aggressive Tin Pan Alley industry that arose a little later.
  • In the 19th-century and earlier, it was not the case that popular styles were as US-specific as they became in the 20th. Early Canadian popular culture mostly imitated that of the UK.
  • Also, pre-Tin Pan Alley cultural industries were not quite so integrated with large-scale performance networks, or so dependent on topical material and rapidly-appearing fads. All of that was favourable to a small indigeneous Canadian popular song industry.
  • This started to change with the ragtime boom and new Tin Pan Alley styles of the late 19th century.

Say a bit about Tin Pan Alley methods and aesthetics…

  • The importance of publishers in this era.
  • Market concentration in New York City, how this achieved a relationship with vaudeville, then emerging musical theater and broadcasting by the 1920s. Hollywood as a secondary dominant area.
  • Increased reliance on mass marketing and mass distribution .
  • Intensified aesthetic focus on two main devices: (i) "universal" themes and formulas; (ii) topical and novelty songs.
  • After a few remarks about Canadian publishing, we'll consider the effect of increasing TPA dominance on Canadian songwriters and popular song styles (apart from the most obvious thing -- reasons that Canadian songwriters needed in general to move to the U.S. to develop careers).

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.

  • The names of two early Toronto-area publishers: Heintzman and Nordheimer. What does this indicate?
  • The total number of titles in any given year was small (just a few hundred), and made up mostly of editions of foreign music. In other words, we need to note that the presence of an indigenous publishing industry in no way guarantees support for indigenous music.

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.

  • Henry Russell was a mid-19th-century singer and composer who was born and died in England, but spent extended periods in the States. This was the earliest of a series of 19th-century songs about Canadian outdoor sports, including canoeing, snowshoeing, and lacrosse.
  • Henry Russell "Canadian Sleigh Song" (ca. 1843)
  • This song is not regarded as a major part of Russell's output, but that in itself tells us something (consider the points about TPA outlined earlier, and also what we said about Canadiana -- even though this is a pre-TPA song there is a point of convergence).

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.

  • Ernest Seitz "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise" (1919)
  • YouTube: Les Paul and Mary Ford version
  • The tune is an example of a song by a Canadian writer with absolutely no distinctively Canadian characteristics (and so forms an interesting pair with the Russell example).

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:

  • One: the pressure to generalize and universalize, which can work against development of idiosyncratic local styles
  • Two: the attraction to clichés and stereotypes, which can cause people from outside a given time/place to represent it anyway.
  • Both had strong but contrasting impacts on Canadian popular culture. They help to explain both the way in which mass popular culture sometimes tended to submerge or avoid distinctive "Canadianness," and on the other extreme, how deeply clichéd versions of Canadianness became widespread.
  • This might be more of a stretch, but also consider the change of style between the two versions of the Seitz song. Even if it had demonstrated some arguable Canadianism, what creates changes of this kind and what might they do to such features in the long run?

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?

  • Claud Graves was from London Ontario, and is now almost completely obscure.
  • Overhead: Claud Graves sheet music cover
  • Claud Graves "Oh! What a Difference Since the Hydro Came" (1912)

Early country music, and especially cowboys…

  • Around 1880 the buffalo are gone, and the first large ranches appear, although smaller cattle-related husbandry was part of Canadian economy from the start.
  • An important thing to realize is that American cowboy music as we think of it was invented in the early 20th century, so even if the ranching tradition is a little older in the US, it isn't so much older as to justify the entirely US-Centric nature of the mass-media cowboy cliché.

Brief summary of the history of country music, and especially cowboy/western variants…

  • 1920s and 1930s old-time recordings. Associations were rural and working-class, but not very geographically specific.
  • 1927 Bristol Sessions, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. General drift towards country music as a distinctive genre, and along with this the move towards a U.S. southern stereotype.
  • 1930s development of Hollywood cowboys, western image in general. General tendency to fuse the cowboy image with other elements of the specifically American frontier mythology.
  • Into the 1950s, concentration of most country music industry in Nashville.
  • But in fact, Canada contributed a great deal to the general nature of the Western myth (since "The West" is a region that runs north to include Alberta).

Also, at least two Canadian performers (and one group with substantial Canadian input) were integral to building that mythology in the mass media.

  • Another widespread oversimplification we should aim to correct: within the development of Canadian country music the Maritimes are just as important as the Prairies in producing influential artists and styles (perhaps statistically more so). Country music and cowboy (or related) images were extremely popular in Québec as well. Cattle were first brought to Canada by French settlers, so they have a long history in Québec, although for geographical reasons these are usually dairy heards, and the ranches aren't huge and sweeping.

Overhead: The Sons of the Pioneers

  • Sons of the Pioneers (Bob Nolan) "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (1934)
  • Bob Nolan was born in Winnipeg, and lived briefly in New Brunswick, but lived and worked pretty much his whole life in the U.S. This group came together in the early 1930s, and became the quintessential western/pop crossover vocal group.

Overhead: Two images of Wilf Carter (note the clear national signifiers/marketing)

  • Wilf Carter "Calgary Roundup" (ca. 1935)
  • Wilf Carter was born in Nova Scotia. He worked as a lumberjack, then moved to Alberta in his late teens (early 1920s) and became a cowboy. He was simultaneously doing this work and performing to entertain tourists, began broadcasting in early 1930s, and recorded for RCAs Montreal division around the same time. In 1935 he moved to the States for a short time and worked under the Montana Slim name. After that pursued parallel careers in U.S. and Canada.
  • Wilf Carter (as Montana Slim) "The Golden Lariat" (ca. 1935)
  • The point: he sounds exactly the same either way.

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.

  • Overhead: "L'adieu du soldat" lyrics
  • YouTube: Soldat Lebrun "L'adieu du soldat" (montage by bobrun1947). (Recording 1942)
  • Notice how this "country" variant is not based at all on cowboy, southern, or western images. This shows the fluidity of the line between "country" and "folk," which arguably remained more flexible in Canada than in the States.

Overhead: Willie Lamothe

  • Willie Lamothe "Je chante à cheval" (1946)
  • Lamothe was discovered by RCA in the mid-1940s. He was somewhat known outside of Québec as well (had performed in Nashville), but for the most part his career was within that province. The peak of his success was in the 1950s (notice the time lag, since this is a largely 1930s style of music he is playing).
  • Besides helping to establish the basic parameters of early country music, some Canadian artists were also crucial in helping to modernize the genre into the 1950s (and again into the 1970s). Probably the best known and most influential was Hank Snow.

Overhead: Hank Snow

  • Hank Snow "I'm Moving On" (1950)
  • How did this visual and musical style represent modernization in the country music world?
  • Hank Snow was from Nova Scotia, although he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958 (in his 40s). He worked in fishery as a youth, but as of about 1930 was very influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, and in the early-mid 1930s was mostly a Rodgers disciple with a ranch image. He went to the U.S. in 1946, and was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry by the early 1950s. He became an absolutely enormous country star.

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.

  • Following Wilf Carter and Hank Snow some started to talk about a Canadian country style, mostly in the style of singing: lower-pitch, rounder tone, clear enunciation, closer stylistic and lyrical adhesion to the folk ballad. This stylistic tendency (where it existed) is another reason that the folk/country divide remained much less sharp in Canada than it became in the U.S.

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.

  • This is one reason that the folk/popular line is so blurry. It also helps to blur the popular/classical line, since the amateur performance of lighter classical music was a big part of popular culture of the late 19th century and early 20th century. There are several places we will see this blurring of popular/classical…
  • Community performing groups and professional groups derived from them, especially choirs.
  • Film, radio, and later sometimes TV music.
  • The careers of classically trained performers who also get into arranging or composing for the above.

Leslie Bell Singers "Music In My Heart" (1948)

  • This group was one of the most popular light choirs in the late 1940s and early 1950s, again partly because they had CBC TV and radio shows. The core of the group began as students of Leslie Bell at Parkdale Collegiate, Toronto.
  • Early Jazz and light orchestral music…
  • In terms of jazz, the Canadian situation was often much more of an imitator than in the case of country music, since jazz was in the early years entirely identified as an African-American style (white jazz musicians even in U.S. were generally seen as apprentices in the early years).
  • In a very few cases, jazz activity by Canadians was connected to black communities here, but that was pretty rare and never became central to community identity.

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)

  • Overhead: Some Of These Days sheet music
  • Shelton Brooks "Some Of These Days" (1910)
  • Shelton Brooks was born in 1886 in North Buxton, which was one of the best-known black communities in Ontario. He ended up moving to U.S. as a boy, became a successful vaudevillian in all-black reviews, and also wrote several hit songs for white vaudevillians (this one became Sophie Tucker's theme).

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.

  • In general this kind of material shows, among other things, the fine line between jazz, vaudeville, and ragtime that existed in the 1910s. That could be taken as an argument against the black-American-centric view I just put forward earlier, and in general arguing for eclecticism is good if you want to make a space for Canadian artists to be understood as something other than derivative.
  • General question: how far could we push that argument? Could early Canadian jazz be reassessed as influential and creative to the same extent as Canadian country music could?

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians "Coquette" (1928)

  • This group formed in London, Ontario, around 1917 (you should notice by now the pattern of importance regarding London Ontario in producing a noteworthy number of early popular writers and performers).
  • Lombardo and his group went to the US in 1923, and the phrase "the sweetest music this side of heaven" was coined by a Chicago critic in 1928. The main vocalist was one of Guy's brothers, Carmen. The group recorded and performed continuously before, during, and after the swing era, and is generally seen as one of the very most popular dance orchestras.
  • Note, the "Royal Canadians" name wasn't adopted until the group was in the U.S. Why? Also note, the overt Canadian references (apart from the name) were limited to sometimes dressing in red and white for photos.

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?

  • Two other names to know about in the jazz and light orchestral area, although the Canadian angle is mostly implicit for both...
  • Percy Faith "Delicado" (1952) Born in Toronto (1908), and began as a classical violinist, pianist, and silent movie accompanist. After an accident in the mid-1920s, went into arranging, composition, and conducting, and became quite successful in Canadian radio (first local and then CBC). This became the springboard for him to move to the U.S. in 1940. Became very successful there, but also kept up contacts at the CBC and with Canadian musical community (e.g. established scholarships at the University of Toronto). In general, his work is marked by a fusion of pop and light classical elements.

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.