Dr. John Higney presented his paper ‘Mixing Pop and Politics: Stephen Harper’s Musical Amateurism as Personal Branding’ at MusCan’s annual conference, June 3-5 2015, in Ottawa. Higney situates Harper’s performances, including his 2009 rendition of ‘With A Little Help from My Friends’ at the National Arts Centre, within the history of politician-musicians and further explores these performances from the vantage points of current theories of celebrity and advertising, with an eye to understanding their political intent and effect.  This includes dealing with the “almost comic discord” between the image projected through such performances and  “the widely held perception of [Harper] as a driven and ruthless political operator.”

The interest from the national media in his research was immediate and intense.  Over the course of 3 days, Higney performed 12 radio interviews across the country with CBC, one of which was rebroadcast nationally and resulted in a CBC web article. He was also interviewed for a story run by the National Post on June 5th and again for a forthcoming article on campaign songs. A list of media appearances, including some links, is provided below.

Speaking of the interest, Higney says: “Though often obscured, music, image, and power have been tightly bound together at least since the middle ages and work such as mine reminds us that there is little new under the sun. I think this paper resonated with the media simply because it paid some ‘attention to that man behind the curtain’ in an age of celebrity politicians and celebrity politics where manufactured image increasingly trumps policy.”

Dr. Higney is a lecturer in the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University, as well as being active on the musical scene in Ottawa.  His interests encompass a range of musical activities from early music to indie rock, from roots to experimental and improvised musics.  He completed his doctoral dissertation, on the reception and dissemination history of Henry Purcell, at the University of Western Ontario in 2008, and the ‘interplay of music and the politics of identity’ represented in the current paper is a recurring theme in his research and teaching. Dr. Higney has been a member of MusCan since 1998, and this was the third time he has presented at the annual conference.

Media appearances

Thursday June 4, 2015

       CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/stephen-harper-gets-by-with-a-little-help-from-his-songs-paper-suggests-1.3097099?autoplay=true
       (National Newswatch link to this story http://www.nationalnewswatch.com/?s=Higney)

Friday June 5, 2015

       The National Post: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/pop-music-and-politics-787126

 Monday June 8, 2015

        CBC News: Interview with Haydn Watters (Article forthcoming)

Radio:

Wednesday June 3, 2015

1. CBC Ottawa - Ottawa Morning

Friday June 5, 2015

2. CBC ST. JOHN'S -- On the Go
3. CBC EDMONTON -- Radio Active
4. CBC HALIFAX -- Mainstreet
5. CBC YELLOWKNIFE -- Trail's End
6. CBC WINNIPEG -- Up to Speed
7. CBC TORONTO -- Here and Now
8. CBC SASKATCHEWAN - Afternoon Edition
9. CBC CAPE BRETON (Sydney) -- Mainstreet
10. CBC KELOWNA -- Radio West
11. CBC WHITEHORSE -- Airplay
12. CBC CALGARY -- Homestretch

Wednesday June, 10

13. CBC Radio 2--The Story From Here  (National Rebroadcast of Ottawa Morning interview: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thestoryfromhere)