The earliest forerunners of ethnomusicologists in Canada were explorers, travellers and missionaries who described the music and dance practices of First Peoples. Marc LESCARBOT's Histoire de la Nouvelle France (1606) and Father Gabriel Sagard-Thodat's Histoire du Canada (1636) include the earliest transcriptions of songs. The JESUIT RELATIONS (1632 ) described traditional ceremonies or social gatherings as well as First Nations participation in both Christian and secular European music making. Among the earliest cylinder recordings were those made by James TEIT of Salishan, Thompson River singers (1897) and Alexander Cringan of southern Ontario IROQUOIS (1897-1902). Late 19th-century studies of Native Canadian music by both musicologists such as Carl Stumpf and anthropologists such as Franz BOAS have been regarded as landmarks in the development of these academic disciplines. Early studies embodied a split between the description of sound and the description of the uses of sound. Until the late 20th century, cultures were usually regarded as self-contained and different from one another. Borrowed and adapted musics, for instance, Native hymnody, fiddling, band music, or popular music in indigenous languages, were given more serious attention by the 1970s.
By the late 19th century and coincident with the building of the Canadian nation, folklorists and folk-music collectors were active in both francophone and anglophone immigrant communities. For French Canada, ErnestGAGNON's Chansons Populaires du Canada (1st edition, 1865) transcribed a core repertoire with some indications of performance practice in the first edition, still definitive when Marius BARBEAU began several decades of collecting in Québec in 1913. Among other widely published folk music collectors of Anglo-Celtic and francophone traditions in the 20th century are Helen CREIGHTON, McEdward Leach, Maud Karpeles, Edward Ives and Kenneth Peacock in Atlantic Canada; Anselme Chiasson, Charlotte Cormier, Ronald Labelle, George Arsenault and Donald Deschenes in Acadian contexts; Barbeau and subsequently Carmen Roi, Luc Lacourciere and Roger MATTON in Québec; Edith FOWKE and Germaine Lemieux in Ontario; Barbara Cass-Beggs, and Philip Thomas in Western Canada. Field recordings by many of these collectors are still available in the catalogue of Smithsonian Folkways records.
Institutions as contrasted in purpose as the CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY and the NATIONAL MUSEUMS OF CANADA fostered attention in the early 20th century to the literature, music and dance of diverse ethnocultures within the nation. As early as 1927, the CPR's publicity director John Murray GIBBON, along with folklorist Barbeau and composer Ernest MACMILLAN, organized a series of landmark multicultural festivals in Québec City and subsequently various Western cities. The study of traditional music cultures was also fostered by the CANADIAN MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION both through the Anthropology Division created in 1910 by linguist Edward SAPIR, and more recently through the Canadian Ethnology Service / Service canadien d'ethnologie and Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies / Centre canadien d'étudies sur la culture traditionnelle. Particularly since the 1960s, the Canadian Museum of Civlization has played an active role in commissioning research on the music cultures of culturally specific communities, among them Métis, Ukrainian, Doukhobhor, and Chinese as well as Inuit, Blood Indian, and many others.
The professional development of ethnomusicology as an academic discipline began when Polish-born Miceczyslaw Kolinski taught the first courses at the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO in the late 1960s. By the 1990s, post-graduate training in the field was available at several academic institutions, including the UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, the UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA, YORK UNIVERSITY, the University of Toronto, the UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA, the UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL, as well as the folklore departments of UNIVERSITÉ LAVAL and MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY. Because music is often a part of other cultural practices (story-telling, festivals, etc), anthropologists, historians, sociologists and many others continue to contribute significantly to the study of music as culture.
What Ethnomusicologists Do
The work that ethnomusicologists do is extremely varied in its aims and styles. Historical factors have often shaped the objectives and methods. Many early collectors were less concerned with the social worlds of the singers who collaborated with them than with the styles and structures of the songs themselves. They mapped tune variants, attempted historical reconstructions of texts, and in some cases developed classification systems for song types. By the late 20th century, the perspectives and discourses of musicians and other culture bearers have generally been valued more and studies are written by both insiders and outsiders to many traditions. Studies of individual tradition bearers have considered world views and learning processes, acknowledging folk artists as important spokespersons about the meaning of expressive culture in their communities, and challenging earlier misperceptions that held that oral traditions were usually anonymous. Historical studies have appeared, especially in relation to ethnocultural groups such as Ukrainians or Doukhobours who have a century or more of residence in Canada. Studies of specific communities and places have emerged together with other studies of music "scenes" that cut across local communities. Ethnomusicologists have explored questions of process: ways in which individuals learn music in different cultural communities, the means by which music is transmitted via both social and media networks, the significance of music revivals, or the impact of new contexts on the style and meaning of music. Questions of identity have also been a central concern: how is music used to represent the ethnoculture, age or gender of a social group, and how does performance become a place where identity is negotiated. The complexity of hybrid urban music cultures has been studied particularly in Toronto and Montréal where such topics as Caribana or Chinese festivals have attracted scholarly attention. By the 1980s, scholars began to consider the impact of international market strategies, especially the industry niche generally labelled "world music", the effect that competition has had on musical traditions, the changes that new technologies have made on the creation and reception of music, and the continuities between traditional music and popular culture. In Canada, as elsewhere, a growing number of professional ethnomusicologists are also engaged in public-sector work, for example, as advisors on cultural policy or curriculum development, and in the film and recording industries.
Author BEVERLEY DIAMOND
The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. The United States and Canada, (2001); Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, 2nd edition (1992); H. Myers, ed, Ethnomusicology: Historical and Regional Studies (1993).
Links to Other Sites
MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
This site features transcriptions and audio clips of traditonal Cape Breton and Newfoundland folk songs in the Leach collection. Click on the menu items on the home page for a biography of MacEdward Leach, profiles of singers, commentary about the historical significance of local tunes and music genres, and more. From the Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive.
Staying in Tune: Traditions and Musical Instruments of the Francophonie
Experience world music and culture as you listen to the distinctive sounds of traditional musical instruments, such as the African balafon, in this multimedia Virtual Museum website.
The Astonishing World of Musical Instruments
This site features the University of Montreal’s extensive collection of musical instruments from across the globe. Explore the links between music, language, and culture. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
The Virtual Gramophone
An extensive multimedia database that covers the history of recorded music in Canada. Search the site for musician biographies and notes about the early years of sound recording, online audio clips of recordings, podcasts on specific themes, videos, and more. From Library and Archives Canada.
I's the B'y
Trace the history of "I's the B'y" and other traditional Newfoundland songs at this Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage website.
A brief history of the accordion and a short sound clip of accordion music. From the Virtual Museum Canada.
This bilingual tribute to Marius Barbeau features comments by Helen Creighton, Kenneth Peacock, Graham George, Père Anselme Chiasson and Edith Fowke. From the Canadian Journal for Traditional Music.
The Native Drums web project traces the history and mythological significance of the drum in Canada’s aboriginal societies. Their very extensive website focuses on aboriginal drums, drumming, singing and dancing. Features stories, interviews, downloadable learning resources, multimedia (click on “Mediabase”) and the Canadian Aboriginal Research Database. Produced by Carleton University, the Sumner Group Inc., and other partners.
A Note on Métis Music
This article by ethnomusicologist Lynn Whidden features Métis folk song lyrics and a brief discussion about traditional musical instruments and dance. From the “Canandian Folk Music Bulletin.”
Charlie Panigoniak: Eskimo Music in Transition
An article about traditional Eskimo drum dance songs by ethnomusicologist Lynn Whidden. A summary in French is included at the end of the article. From the “Canadian Journal for Traditional Music.”
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways
Listen to audio clips at this website about Canadian Folkways albums. This site features a mixture of field and studio recordings, representing Aboriginal and immigrant, vocal and instrumental, and traditional and contemporary folk music. From the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta.
Canadian Society for Traditional Music
Features a substantial online catalogue of Canadian folk and traditional music recordings and full text articles from the quarterly magazine "Canadian Folk Music."