Session/Séance 1c: IASPM Panel 1 From the Hip to the Square: Canadian Celebrations, and Popular Music Nations

Session/Séance 1c: IASPM Panel 1.  Thursday/jeudi 25 May 2017. 10:30AM-12:30PM, EJB 330.
From the Hip to the Square: Canadian Celebrations, and Popular Music Nations
     Moderator: STUART HENDERSON

1. “We Are Not the Country We Think We Are”: Canada 150, Colonial Legacy and Gord Downie’s The Secret Path
     Susan Fast, McMaster University

In October, 2016, Gord Downie released his fifth solo album. Titled The Secret Path, the album, along with an accompanying graphic novel by Downie and Jeff Lemire, tells the heart-wrenching story of Chanie Wenjack, an eleven year old Anishinaabe boy from the Marten Falls First Nation in Northen Ontario, who escaped from a residential school in 1966 and died while trying to walk the 600 kilometres back home. Downie’s purpose in telling Chanie’s story is both to bring attention to the horrors of Canada’s residential school system and to raise money for his fund to support the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. On the project’s website, Downie writes: “Chanie’s story haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada ... We are not the country we think we are.” In fact, in the same statement, and also in an interview Downie gave to the CBC, he admits that thinking of – or rather feeling – Canada as a country is difficult for him, which he now recognizes as stemming from the ongoing legacy of colonization. For this reason, Downie concludes that the last 150 years “aren’t as much worth celebrating as we think.” For Downie, the telling of Chanie’s story serves as a metaphor for this legacy. But what kind of story does he tell; how does the metaphor work with respect to his idea of a failed and fractured Canada? In this paper, I will examine the overarching narrative of the album, and then focus a deeper analysis on the opening track, “The Stranger,” taking into account lyrics, animation and music. While taking nothing away from the exquisite beauty of this record, it is a reflection crafted from a settler’s point of view and, as Anishinaabe writer Hayden King has already noted, the almost-exclusive focus on pain risks a “chronic re-victimization that accompanies most discussions of residential schools.” Sean Carleton has also noted Downie’s focus on the individual child to the exclusion of the state’s role in facilitating “colonial dispossession and capitalist accumulation.” I will figure these insights into my analysis, while holding what I perceive to be Downie’s quite complex metaphor – a metaphor that can be explored in part through Avery Gordon’s notion of “haunting” – in tension with them.

Keywords: nationalism, colonialism, race, rock music, music analysis


2. Criticisms and Counter-Narratives to “Canadianness”: The Tragically Hip and Canadian Identity
     Michelle MacQueen, Carleton University

The Tragically Hip have been a fixture in Canadian popular culture for over three decades, and in many ways this band and Canada have become synonymous. Due in part to the combination of their commercial and popular successes within Canada and the band’s lack of success elsewhere, The Tragically Hip have a large and highly dedicated Canadian following, and have achieved status as Canadian national icons. While The Hip have attained this national status, they often create narratives that counter common tropes of Canadian nationalism and identity, as is most evident in the band’s lyrics. These less-than-celebratory texts create a disjuncture given the band’s status as “Canada’s band”: by reframing these symbols and tropes, the Hip create a more critically-aware construction of Canada. This dissonance between the band’s national status and their counter-narratives to “Canadianness” is the focus of this study. I compare selections of The Tragically Hip’s songs to examples by prominent Canadian musicians from the 1960s and 1970s, many of whom created nationalistic narratives within their music. Through lyrical analyses of songs by Stompin’ Tom Connors, The Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot, and The Tragically Hip, I examine how The Tragically Hip differ from these more patriotic lyrical narratives in their framing of Canadian symbols, namely references to hockey, specific Canadian place names, and the Canadian landscape. This project provides insight into the narratives surrounding national identity and specifically how nationally-celebrated musicians like The Tragically Hip can shape, influence, and reinvent these concepts through their platform as iconic popular musicians.

Keywords: The Tragically Hip, counter-narratives, Canada, identity, nationalism


3. Local? Heroes? The Music Industry and Music Tourism in Canada
     Richard Sutherland, Mount Royal University

Music tourism is not an especially new phenomenon, but it is becoming much more prominent and more widely pursued. Canada is no exception, with an increasing number of promotions for music festivals, museums (such as Calgary’s National Music Centre), or local urban music scenes aimed at leveraging music activity as a means of attracting visitors. In Canada a particularly intriguing aspect of this new emphasis on tourism is that much of it is not being spearheaded by local governments or tourist bureaus, but by the music industry, in particular multinational record companies and their representatives – a segment of the music industry that would appear to have very little to do with tourism in most respects, and even less with Canadian tourism in particular. In contrast to the mobile, placeless nature of commercial models such as music streaming, which represents the primary means of growth for these companies, music tourism relies fundamentally on the identification of music with a particular locale. This is also interesting because in Canada this sector has generally viewed territorial identification at the national level as more of a hindrance than an asset. This paper examines the circumstances that have led to the multinational recording sector involving itself in music tourism, and at its considerable efforts at lobbying municipal and provincial governments in connection with music tourism and related issues. It also looks at which versions of local music identity are promoted, and how they fit within with the industry’s other strategic goals. At a time when the federal government is reevaluating Canadian content, and cultural industries policy, such developments suggest the possibility that some of the strongest voices in the policy community are less interested in Canadian cultural identity than in local identities that they view as more lucrative or otherwise advantageous to their interests.

Keywords: music industry, tourism, local, cultural policy, Canada


4. What Would You Tell Your Mother!? Vice and the Golden Age of Jazz in Montreal (1925-1955)
     Vanessa Blais-Tremblay, McGill University

Historical narratives about the so-called “golden age” of jazz in Montreal (1925-1955) always begin with its inter- national reputation as a “wide-open” city against the background of Prohibition, and always end with mayor Jean Drapeau’s morality raids in Montreal nightclubs. Vice and jazz are intricately woven together at the point of emer- gence and at the point of dissolution of the scene. But how could a morality squad, a state apparatus that functions above all to discipline women’s bodies and sexuality, possibly bring an end to an era generally described as being animated almost exclusively by bandleaders and instrumental soloists – positions which, in Montreal as elsewhere, were most commonly occupied by men? This presentation critiques the gendered outline that goes from brothels to a soloists-sustained golden age to a strippers-induced demise and repositions the importance of unruly bodies of women in sustaining Montreal’s jazz scene through this entire era. First, I reposition jazz in Montreal as a cultural practice that was above all danced to – not just listened to. Second, I draw on a previously unexplored collection of interviews with Montreal-based black women performers, as well as on jazz criticism from various media, to map the ways in which Montreal’s jazz scene interacted with an emerging French Canadian nationalism that considered “Americanization” to be its most immediate cultural threat. Third, I discuss specific challenges that black urbanity posed to discourses of female respectability in a nation that was imagined/idealized as agrarian, catholic, franco- phone and white until the end of the Duplessis years (1936-1939; 1944-1959). I suggest that jazz provided actors and critics in Quebec with a liminal zone where theories about the gendered and racialized embodiment of morality and vice, in particular as they intersected with ideas about the French Canadian nation, could be articulated, resisted, and challenged.

Keywords: jazz, dance, gender, nationalism, Quebec modernity.


Thursday Schedule | Programme - jeudi
(Session 1 | Séance 1)

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