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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Eve Goldberg Canadian Folk Music (149* d) RE: Canadian Folk Music 31 Mar 09


Thanks for that interesting perspective on Canadian folk music. It fills in some gaps in my understanding, that's for sure.

And it makes me think of another difference that I've noticed between Canada and the US regarding folk culture and folk music. In the US, there was a small but influential group of musicologists and folklorists in the early part of the 20th century who championed folk music as a part of the US's national heritage, and who succeeded in getting major funding for several institutions that are still with us today. I'm thinking of Alan Lomax, Charles Seeger, and probably others that I'm forgetting right now.

Today, Americans have the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress, the National Folk Festival (which moves around the country every two years), the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the National Heritage Fellowships, and departments at the Smithsonian Institution that produce programming related to folk music and folk culture in the US.

On a bigger level, I believe that the idea of a folk heritage that is worth preserving became an important part of American cultural mythology. The fact that PBS regularly produces and/or broadcasts music documentaries like Ken Burns' "Jazz" or Martin Scorcese's documentary on the blues, or the "American Roots Music" series illustrates the way that Americans now see all of those kinds of music as part of their cultural heritage and their contribution to the world.

Although there are institutions in Canada like the Museum of Civilization, collections at the National Library and so on, I don't sense the same kind of mythology about Canadian traditional folk music.

On the other hand, I think over the last thirty or forty years, a modern mythology of the Canadian songwriter has been emerging, that celebrates musicians like Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, etc. I believe that mythology is still really in its infancy, so we'll have to see how it develops and where it goes, but to me it feels very tiny and modern compared to the American folk music thing.

Am I making any sense?

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