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Music 1253

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Title: Music 1253


1
Music 1253
  • Music and the Politics of Cultural Representation
    in Nova Scotia

2
Tourism Marketing
  • The province of Nova Scotia is routinely marketed
    through tourism promotions and popular culture
    advertisements as a sort of living Scottish
    antique.
  • Bagpipers meet arriving tourists at border
    crossings and airports, greeters wear vests made
    from the Nova Scotia tartan (signifying that Nova
    Scotians are all part of one ancient clan), and
    all receive a welcome in Gaelic Ciad Mile Failte
    (One Hundred Thousand Welcomes).
  • Tourism literature encourages visitors to attend
    one of the local ceilidhs, which are often
    professionally staged concerts rather than the
    informal gatherings the word implies.

3
New Scotland?
  • The ascribed Scottishness is curious, considering
    that the population of Nova Scotia comprises a
    diverse range of ethnicities and heritages.
  • As Ian McKay points out in his important essay
    Tartanism Triumphant The Construction of
    Scottishness in Nova Scotia, 1933-1954, Nova
    Scotia was not even the most Scottish province in
    Canada when it began to be branded as a true New
    Scotland
  • In 1921, only 28 of population was of Scottish
    origin
  • PEI and Ontario had higher percentages of
    Scottish citizens than NS

4
Tartanism
  • Premier Angus L. Macdonald began rebranding Nova
    Scotia as Scottish in the 1930s
  • Under Macdonalds premierships, Nova Scotia
    gained its official tartan, Gaelic motto, the
    Cabot Trail, Highlands National Park (featuring a
    replica of a shieling from the island of Skye),
    the Keltic Lodge Resort in Ingonish, and a Gaelic
    College in St. Ann, Cape Breton.
  • Macdonalds Tartanism stemmed from a
    romanticized view of his own Scottish heritage,
    shrewd political strategy, and a strong belief in
    the economic promise of ethno-tourism.

5
Macdonalds Strategy
  • Though a third-generation maritimer, Macdonald
    often spoke publicly and in personal letters
    about his proud Scottish lineage.
  • This lineage was not portrayed as a connection to
    a living, evolving, twentieth-century culture,
    but as a link to an idyllic society from the
    past.
  • Macdonald was a skilled politician and this
    portrayal of himself as a descendant of a great
    clan from the old country enhanced his populist
    appeal.
  • However, Macdonald also saw the benefits of
    representing Nova Scotia to the world as a Folk
    society with ancient Celtic roots.
  • Macdonald and his followers basically invented
    symbols, fabricated events, and outfitted the
    representatives of the tourism industry to appeal
    to American travelers who wanted to experience
    Scotland without crossing the Atlantic.

6
Hugh Trevor-Roper
  • The links to a Scottish identity are even more
    tenuous considering that the representative
    tokens of Scottish Tartanism kilts, bagpipes,
    tartans have no real foundation in ancient
    Highland Scottish culture, as is usually claimed.
  • Hugh Trevor-Roper explains how the Highland
    tradition of Scotland stems from the
    mid-eighteenth century, and is not an ancient
    tradition passed down through the mighty Scottish
    clans.
  • In fact, Trevor-Roper argues that Highland
    culture owes much of its cultural identity to
    Ireland.

7
Scottish Tokens
  • Tartans, kilts, and clans do not extend from an
    ancient past but are essentially modern
    inventions that simplify and stereotype Scottish
    culture for contemporary society.
  • Nova Scotia Tartanism appropriated these
    superficial Highland Scottish tokens in the
    mid-twentieth century in a carefully crafted
    re-branding that still persists to a large extent
    today.

8
Helen Creighton
  • Folklorist Helen Creighton recorded, transcribed,
    and documented music that she believed to be at
    the heart of Nova Scotias true Folk society
  • Songs and Ballads collected had their origins in
    the collection of Francis James Childs English
    and Scottish Popular Ballads.
  • More about this later (next week), but the
    Creighton collection reinforced the idea that
    Nova Scotian society was antimodern,
    predominantly rural, and backward

9
Why were these stereotyoes accepted?
  • Money!
  • Marketing of Nova Scotia as a haven of the past,
    unfettered by modern society - appealing to
    travellers.
  • Folk and Scottish cultures provide tourists with
    a sense of the exotic but without having to
    travel far
  • Convenience of a (mostly) similar language as
    well as modern conveniences (restaurants, golf
    courses, hotels).

10
Television
  • Television and radio broadcasting, as well as
    recording technology, provided powerful new modes
    of tourism promotion and utilized the provinces
    rich musical heritage as another element in the
    marketing package.
  • Don Messers Jubilee was broadcast nationally
    from Halifax, and featured down home country
    music and dancing.
  • Don Messer was a fiddler, though his style was
    more American old time than Scottish.
  • Singalong Jubilee, which ran nationally from
    1961 to 1974, capitalized on the American folk
    music revival.

11
Singalong Jubilee
  • The show helped launch the careers of singers
    Catherine McKinnon, Gene MacLellan and Anne
    Murray, and was therefore an important vehicle
    for the development of a music industry in
    Atlantic Canada.
  • The show was originally intended as a television
    vehicle for American folk singer Pete Seeger
    however Seegers involvement was cut short when
    his passport was revoked by the United States
    House Committee on Un-American Activities.
  • While the American folk revival had direct ties
    to the communist movement, Singalong Jubilee
    reinforced the Folk culture stereotype advocated
    by Creighton.
  • Many of the songs from the Creighton collection
    were regularly performed, and there was a
    preference for songs of the simple Maritime life.
  • The house band played banjo, guitar, upright
    bass, and even a washtub bass. As the popular
    show evolved over its lifetime, new songs were
    incorporated into the repertoire.
  • However, a number of these added further to the
    maritime Folk stereotype, such as Jim Bennetts
    Black Rum and Blueberry Pie.

12
Black Rum and Blueberry Pie
  • Were living in the age of space as everybody
    knows.
  • Most everyone is in the race as this here country
    grows.
  • But, down among the lobster pots youll find a
    funny crew.
  • Us Maritimers dont do things like other people
    do.
  • We just like fishin, fightin, getting tightn
    starin at the sky.
  • Chewin, spittin and just sittin watchin
    things go by.
  • Climbing rocks and drivin ox and learnin how to
    lie.
  • Drinkin black rum eatin blueberry pie.

13
Upper Clements Park
  • A family theme park was constructed by the
    Progressive Conservative government under Premier
    John Buchanan in the mid 1980s. Upper Clements
    Park was strategically located in the Annapolis
    Valley riding of the then Minister of Tourism,
    Greg Kerr.
  • Among the many attractions, the park featured a
    replica shanty fishing village, a pirate island,
    and a prospector cabin.
  • Craftspeople worked on site at weaving, spinning,
    soap-making and other folk crafts.
  • The live entertainment featured Victorian era
    clowns and bicyclers, a singing fisherman, a
    storytelling pirate, a Victorian school marm and,
    most perplexingly, a group of characters who
    lived in an old train shed and spoke with
    southern U.S. accents!
  • A live band of musicians performed material
    largely derived from the Helen Creighton
    collection.

14
Sounds of Nova Scotia
  • In the 1990s, the provincial government began
    marketing Nova Scotian music through a series of
    recordings titled Sounds of Nova Scotia.
  • These recordings were simply compilations of
    tracks from previously recorded albums by local
    artists.
  • The songs were largely folk-influenced adult
    contemporary tracks meant to appeal to a
    middle-aged tourist audience.
  • Antimodernism and the fun, simple life were
    overriding themes with tracks such as The
    Bluenose, Small Town Wind, Sound the
    Pibroch, Song for the Mira, Jigging Medley,
    and Good Times.

15
Good Times
  • Good Times is the first track on the Sounds of
    Nova Scotia, Volume 1 recording, and is performed
    by John Allan Cameron, who is often referred to
    as the godfather of Celtic music in Cape
    Breton.
  • Each verse of the song begins with You ask me
    what I like about the Maritimes? and then
    proceeds to rhyme off a seemingly endless list of
    maritime stereotypes.
  • Each verse culminates with a chorus that is meant
    to summarize East Coast life
  • Good Times
  • Its a big feed of lobster
  • Its a cold Alpine in my hand
  • Its a quarter to one and the funs just begun
  • Singing Song for the Mira with this good time
    band.

16
Cape Breton Island
  • The first two Sounds of Nova Scotia recordings in
    the series featured twenty-three tracks, nineteen
    of which were by Cape Breton artists.
  • If music was going to be used as a marketing
    vehicle for tourism promotion, then Cape Breton
    with its perceived Scottish identity would be a
    focus.
  • Tartanism and the Folk concept combined to create
    an attractive cultural package in Nova Scotia
    that served the political appetite to establish
    and expand an industry based on ethno-tourism.
  • Cape Breton Island became the logical hunting
    ground for cultural wealth, as the traditional
    fiddle music served both the Tartanist and Folk
    ideals.

17
Cape Breton Summertime Revue
  • The Cape Breton Summertime Revue encapsulates
    all of the most blatant Cape Breton stereotypes.
    This annual production was first staged in Sydney
    in 1986 in an attempt to capitalize on the summer
    tourist season.
  • A smaller version of the show known as The Rise
    and Follies of Cape Breton had been operating
    since 1977.
  • The production featured a combination of
    traditional Cape Breton fiddle music, and
    original songs that conformed mainly to a
    contemporary folk or country style.
  • The musical performances alternated with various
    comedic sketches that highlighted the
    stereotypical backwardness of Cape Breton
    Islanders.
  • Video Link

18
Revue continued
  • The Cape Breton Summertime Revue attained its
    height of popularity at the very time that
    Canadian East Coast music was receiving national
    attention.
  • The show actually toured Canada several times,
    presenting an entertaining parody of the Maritime
    lifestyle to audiences across Canada.
  • This had positive economic spinoffs for the
    tourism industry.
  • However, the national marketing of a stereotype
    only serves to further undermine Cape Breton in
    its attempt to rise from economic depression.

19
Cape Breton Fiddling
  • Throughout the 1990s and into the twenty-first
    century, Cape Breton fiddle music has been
    promoted through tourism literature as a pure
    legacy of Nova Scotias Scottish ancestry.
  • In 1997, the official tourist guide for the
    province of Nova Scotia, dubbed the Doers and
    Dreamers Guide, featured a picture of Cape
    Breton fiddle master Buddy MacMaster on its front
    cover.
  • The annual tourism theme for that season was
    Celebrate Our Music.
  • Rather than extolling the stylistic plurality of
    the provinces musical culture, which includes a
    thriving alternative rock scene, an urban hip-hop
    community, a professional orchestra, a fine
    chamber music program, a country music legacy,
    and active Acadian and Mikmaq musical
    communities, the tourism industry focused
    predominantly on the Celtic music of Cape
    Breton as the main marketing vehicle.

20
Travel Literature
  • Newspaper and travel literature play a
    significant role in furthering this Scottish Folk
    stereotype.
  • In Travels in the Celtic World by Rannie Gillis,
    Cape Breton Island is literally and pictorially
    linked to Ireland and Scotland. Descriptions and
    pictures of Kisimul Castle and Loch Morar are
    juxtaposed against those of Highlands National
    Park and the Mabou Ceilidh.
  • The book actually begins with the authors tale
    of a Cape Breton dance where fiddler Natalie
    MacMaster performed. The account features this
    astonishing description of her
  • But Natalie MacMaster is not only one of the
    fastest rising stars in the new firmament of
    Celtic music. Nor is she just an attractive blond
    who happens to play the fiddle. Along with her
    musical peers, she is the descendant of a long
    line of Celtic musicians who can trace their
    ancestry back to a time before the Roman Empire.
    To a time before Caesar.

21
Gaelic Report
  • Nova Scotia Museums curatorial report in 2002 on
    Gaelic in Nova Scotia by Michael Kennedy
  • This report is an extensive overview of the
    history and state of Gaelic culture and the
    Gaelic language in Nova Scotia. It was sponsored
    by the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and
    Culture under Rodney MacDonald (also a fiddler)
  • Michael Kennedys Gaelic Report is intended as a
    warning of the pending extinction of the Gaelic
    language from its previous bastion on Cape Breton
    Island.

22
Gaelic Language
  • Michael Kennedys Gaelic Report is intended as a
    warning of the pending extinction of the Gaelic
    language from its previous bastion on Cape Breton
    Island.
  • It is curious, then, that the language is
    perennially tied to a mythical ancient Celtic
    culture and not promoted as a potentially vibrant
    and evolving modern language.
  • This echoes Angus L. Macdonalds own conception
    of Gaelic.
  • The Gaelic College was established by Macdonald
    in Cape Breton, not as a laboratory for a living
    mode of communication, but as an archive of a
    fossilized language that should be preserved as a
    museum exhibit.
  • The result has been a language petrified from
    lack of use.

23
Gaelic Fiddling
  • The issue of Gaelic is complex but most fiddlers
    generally agree that the sound of a correctly
    performed Cape Breton fiddle tune resonates with
    the sound of the spoken Gaelic language.
  • This relationship does not involve the specific
    timbral or tonal properties of the spoken
    language but rather relates the rhythms of the
    language to the fiddle tunes and playing
    techniques.
  • Efforts to associate Cape Breton fiddling with
    the Gaelic language as spoken in pre-emigration
    Highland Scotland also echo other attempts by
    fiddlers and tourism vendors to ascribe a pure
    Scottish lineage to the music.

24
The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler
  • The perception of a threat to the local tradition
    from outside influences has persisted as a
    powerful identity myth on Cape Breton Island
    since the early 1970s.
  • In 1971, Ron MacInnis directed a CBC documentary
    titled The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler.
  • The main thesis of the film was the threat of
    extinction facing the fiddle tradition because of
    the dying off of the older generation of fiddlers
    and a lack of interest from younger musicians.
  • The mainstream pop-culture influences of radio,
    television, and Hollywood cinema were viewed as a
    powerful source of cultural competition,
    distracting young Cape Bretoners from their true
    cultural roots.
  • Video Link 1
  • Video Link 2

25
MacInnis perspective
  • As with many documentaries, The Vanishing Cape
    Breton Fiddler takes a particular stand without
    any pretense to objectivity.
  • The script, interviews, and images were carefully
    chosen to suggest a Folk culture from a bygone
    era with a unique musical tradition on the edge
    of extinction.
  • Director Ron MacInnis casts himself in a primary
    role in the film as an outsider entering this
    strange world.
  • In contrast to the rural countryfolk he
    interviews, MacInnis is presented as the model of
    contemporary urban life, sporting a trendy 1970s
    hair style with complementary mutton chop
    sideburns, and driving around the beautiful
    countryside in a convertible.

26
Glendale Festival
  • Formation of the Cape Breton Fiddlers
    Association and the staging of the first Glendale
    Festival in 1979 did not result because Cape
    Breton fiddlers believed in the premise of the
    film.
  • Their true agenda was to demonstrate the strength
    and longevity of the tradition, which they
    believed was under no threat of extinction.
  • Indeed, the very fact that 130 fiddlers played
    to over 10,000 fans at one concert in rural Cape
    Breton is a testament to the fact that fiddling
    was thriving as a tradition in the 1970s.

27
East Coast Music prior to 1990s
  • The Atlantic region of Canada has produced a
    number of national and international popular
    music success stories.
  • Hank Snow and Wilf Carter were each born in Nova
    Scotia and achieved international recognition as
    depression-era country music singers.
  • Snow was also renowned as a country songwriter,
    having penned the country music standards Im
    Movin On, and Ive Been Everywhere.
  • Carol Baker, Stompin Tom Connors, Joan Kennedy,
    Ron Hynes, and Gene MacClellan were also
    successful Canadian country artists.
  • Rita MacNeil achieved national stardom as a
    singer/songwriter who combined elements of easy
    listening, country, folk, and pop music.
  • Anne Murray became an international star in the
    1970s, with many hit songs and gold records in
    the United States and Europe as well as in
    Canada.
  • In addition to country music, Matt Minglewood and
    Dutch Mason were widely respected blues artists
    from Nova Scotia, while the Nova Scotia band
    April Wine produced a number of hit rock singles
    in Canada in the 1970s, as did the PEI band
    Haywire during the 1980s.
  • Halifax-native Sarah MacLachlan became a pop
    superstar during the 1990s.

28
No Music Industry
  • Prior to the 1990s, however, there was very
    little in the way of music industry
    infrastructure in Atlantic Canada.
  • Nearly all of the above-mentioned acts had to
    leave the East Coast to pursue recording
    contracts in central Canada or the United States.
  • There were no major record labels with satellite
    offices in Eastern Canada, and few of the
    independent labels had any distribution or
    development arrangements with any of the majors.
  • Celtic music was very popular locally and was a
    useful vehicle for the tourism industry, but most
    of the Celtic artists prior to the 1990s were not
    widely known throughout North America, though
    many were able to tour throughout parts of Europe.

29
John Allen Cameron
  • Perhaps the one exception to this was John Allan
    Cameron, the so-called Canadian godfather of
    Celtic Music.
  • While Cameron never received any wide airplay on
    mainstream radio, he was popular throughout
    Canada from the 1970s until his death in 2007
  • He is seen by many as a trailblazer, bringing
    East Coast Celtic music to national (and to some
    degree international) attention.

30
Halifax Rock Scene
  • The East Coast music scene began to attract an
    unprecedented amount of attention from the
    mainstream music industry during the early 1990s.
  • In Halifax, indie rock bands such as Sloan, jale,
    Thrush Hermit, Hardship Post, and Erics Trip
    formed the core of a local grunge rock scene
    that paralleled a similar hub of underground
    music activity emerging out of Seattle,
    Washington.
  • Sloan received a major recording contract with
    DGC Records (David Geffen Company) in 1992 after
    self-producing an independent recording titled
    Smeared in a friends living room.
  • After their success with Geffen, Sloan went on to
    form the independent label Murderecords as a way
    of developing other local rock bands.
  • The American label SubPop eventually poached many
    of these bands from Murderecords. In fact, most
    of the industry attention directed towards these
    indie rock bands was from record labels in the
    United States.

31
Rock not good for tourists
  • The Canadian music industry paid relatively
    little attention to this activity compared to the
    emerging Celtic music scene despite the fact that
    Sloan went on to receive critical acclaim and
    impressive record sales.
  • This confirms the importance of regional identity
    in Canadian popular music marketing.
  • Sloan and other indie rock bands defied the
    regional Atlantic stereotypes there were no
    songs about the sea, no songs about the past, and
    no fiddles.
  • Sloan played to a young, cosmopolitan, and urban
    market that was difficult to translate into
    commercial tourism revenues
  • The kids who bought Sloan albums generally
    didnt vacation in Atlantic Canada.

32
Rankin Family
  • The Rankin Family from Mabou, Cape Breton, also
    signed a contract with a major record label in
    1992.
  • Various incarnations of this band had been
    performing at weddings and dances in Cape Breton
    throughout the 1970s but by the late 1980s, five
    of the twelve siblings in the family had formed
    the core of the band.
  • Their music combined aspects of folk, pop, and
    country music in addition to traditional Gaelic
    songs and sets of fiddle tunes.
  • Successful performances as part of the Cape
    Breton Summertime Revue and Mabou Jig tourist
    productions in Cape Breton led to an independent
    eponymous recording in 1989 with a follow-up
    independent record in 1991 titled Fare Thee Well
    Love.
  • These recordings were phenomenally successful for
    an independent band playing traditional Cape
    Breton music. By 1992, they claimed to have sold
    nearly seventy-thousand independent records.

33
Record Contract for Rankins
  • This success prompted the Canadian office of
    EMI/Capitol Records to sign the Rankin Family to
    a Canadian recording contract
  • Additional agreement to nationally distribute the
    independent recordings.
  • The title track to the Fare Thee Well Love
    recording was also released to radio as a single
    in combination with a music video that received a
    coveted regular rotation spot on the Canadian
    music video network MuchMusic.

34
Deterritorialization for Radio and Much Music
  • The single and video to Fare Thee Well Love are
    examples deterritorialization.
  • The title and subject matter of the song suggests
    a bygone era, and the melody conforms to that of
    a typical folk ballad or Gaelic song.
  • However, the recording provides a contemporary
    easy listening arrangement for the song that
    easily transcends any regional style.
  • There are no fiddles in the recording, and the
    piano provides surface melodic accompaniment
    along with an oboe, while the bulk of the sound
    is characterized by a thick synthesizer patch and
    a highly processed drum kit.
  • The video is neutral with respect to location and
    era except for the colour scheme, which is brown
    and white, suggesting an old photograph.
  • None of the band members play instruments in the
    video and only appear as singers. Video Clip

35
Reterritorialization of Image
  • While the hit single contained no regional
    references, the band parlayed this success into
    future successful recordings and performance
    tours by promoting their traditional Maritime
    roots.
  • They appeared on MuchMusic and performed live at
    the 1994 Juno awards, each time performing a song
    in Gaelic.
  • Their live concerts continued to feature sets of
    fiddle tunes with step dancing, while they
    continued to record traditional Cape Breton music
    along with maritime folk standards.
  • Their first major label release North Country was
    preceded by a release of the single Rise Again,
    a Cape Breton anthem about overcoming hardship.
    Video Clip
  • Once again though, the instrumentation on Rise
    Again featured the synthesizer, piano, oboe
    combination that was so successful on Fare Thee
    Well Love, and avoided any sonic reference to
    Cape Breton music.
  • The band identity therefore had clear roots in
    traditional Maritime culture, but their music was
    skillfully packaged to better fit standard radio
    formats.

36
More Signings
  • Following the success of the Rankin Family with
    EMI, the other major record labels began scouring
    the East Coast for other potential success
    stories.
  • Record industry lore began to spread regarding
    the untapped wealth of musical talent in Eastern
    Canada.
  • Over the next few years, each of the major record
    labels operating in Canada signed East Coast
    acts
  • The Barra MacNeils (Polygram)
  • Lennie Gallant (Sony)
  • Great Big Sea (Warner)
  • Ashley MacIsaac (Universal/AM)
  • Natalie MacMaster (Warner)

37
Delocalized Regionalism - Great Big Sea
  • The Newfoundland band Great Big Sea first gained
    attention for their energetic live show
    consisting of Irish and Newfoundland folk songs
    as well as derivative original music.
  • Initially a mainstay of the Atlantic university
    pub scene, the band benefited from the Canadian
    recording industrys brief interest in East Coast
    music during the 1990s.
  • The marketing campaign made every effort to
    juxtapose the musicians with their Atlantic,
    neo-Celtic roots.
  • Television interviews and music videos were shot
    next to the Atlantic Ocean, and the first major
    label release Up displayed pictures of an
    accordion, a fiddle, and an old broken bridge on
    the CD cover, which was lined on its right side
    with a picture of the sea.
  • The album largely contained a mix of traditional
    and original songs.
  • However, the albums first single was a Celtic
    cover version of the song Run Runaway by the
    British glam-rock band Slade. Video Clip
  • The follow-up album Play featured a similar
    treatment of the popular R.E.M. song Its the
    End of the World As We Know It.
  • The popularity of the original versions of these
    songs allowed the music to become
    deterritorialized as part of an international pop
    repertoire.

38
Delocalized Regionalism - Others
  • Other East Coast acts applied the same strategy
    of reterritorialization of style and image, and
    deterritorialization of musical content.
  • The Cape Breton band The Barra MacNeils released
    John Sebastians Darling Be Home Soon as their
    first single on their first major label release
    Closer to Paradise
  • The Newfoundland band The Irish Descendants
    released Donovans Catch the Wind on their
    breakthrough release Gypsies and Lovers.

39
Delocalized Regionalism
  • The combination of deterritorialized sound and
    reterritorialized image was the perfect national
    (and international) marketing strategy
  • Music could be played on standard radio but image
    still reinforced exotic, rural, backward,
    Scottish roots
  • This strategy was not aimed at increasing the
    appeal of this music for a potential American
    audience.
  • None of these cover recordings received
    widespread distribution or radio play in the
    United States.
  • Rather, the decision to record recognizable pop
    standards was aimed at a national Canadian
    market.
  • The artists increased their national
    marketability by releasing deterritorialized pop
    hits.
  • Yet the stylistic aspects of the original
    versions of these songs were transformed to fit a
    reterritorialized ideal of Atlantic Canadian
    culture.
  • In the process, the lyrical content and the
    semiotic associations of the original releases
    were nullified, and the songs were refashioned as
    East Coast Celtic songs, with their implications
    of a rural seaside setting, party atmosphere, and
    quaint, simple lifestyle.

40
Local Labels
  • Local independent labels also signed agreements
    with major labels for marketing and distribution,
    as well as some artist development.
  • Groundswell Records, which managed a small
    catalogue of East Coast acts including Rawlins
    Cross and Laura Smith, signed a distribution
    arrangement with Warner Music Canada.
  • Halifax-based distribution company Atlantica
    Music signed a national distribution deal with
    EMI
  • New EMI-sponsored record label called Latitude
    Records to find and develop local artists.
  • This represented a high point in the development
    of the East Coast music industry, and there was
    great anticipation over who would be the first
    artist to sign with Latitude.

41
Damhnait Doyle
  • As if to further add to the perception of a vast
    wealth of unspoiled East Coast talent, Latitude
    Records first signed a junior employee of
    Atlantica Records named Damhnait Doyle
  • She was purportedly overheard singing in the
    mailroom.
  • Doyle was to be developed as an alternative pop
    singer, but her clearly regional name and
    fairytale rise from obscurity provided just
    enough of a regional identity to appeal to the
    new market for East Coast music.
  • By 1997 however, Atlantica, along with Latitude,
    had folded, owing thousands of dollars in sales
    revenues to local artists.
  • The Latitude artists, including Damhnait Doyle,
    were briefly picked up by EMI Canada before
    eventually becoming independents again.

42
The New Economy?
  • The development of a music industry in Atlantic
    Canada beginning in the 1990s was perceived by
    many as a potentially lucrative economic sector
  • Particularly in Cape Breton and Newfoundland
    where the coal, steel, and fishing industries had
    recently collapsed.
  • Local musicians hoped for record deals and
    high-profile performances, while tourism vendors
    eagerly anticipated waves of new tourists who
    would come in search of the music.
  • Government agencies fuelled this speculation by
    providing funding for industry initiatives. In
    Nova Scotia, much of this was directed to Cape
    Breton.

43
Another Boom Bust
  • The expected economic boom never materialized.
  • In fact, the East Coast recording industry
    replicated a twentieth-century pattern of
    industrial boom and bust that characterized the
    ship building, coal, steel, and fishing
    industries.
  • Each of these industries relied heavily on
    government subsidy and corporate investment from
    outside of Atlantic Canada that dried up once
    profits proved scarce.
  • The music industry followed suit, and there are
    warning signs that Nova Scotias offshore oil
    industry may suffer the same consequence.

44
Fiddling still thriving
  • Along with the hopes for a wave of economic
    prosperity arising from the music industry, came
    a fear that commercialization of Cape Breton
    music would result in the dilution or eradication
    of its traditional roots.
  • This also never materialized. In fact, the
    opposite occurred a renewed interest in Cape
    Breton fiddling with more youth than ever picking
    up the fiddle bow.
  • In fact, Cape Breton fiddle music became part of
    a global Celtic revival where Celtic musics in
    various forms attained an unprecedented degree of
    international popularity.

45
Celtic Renaissance
  • The deliberate focus on Celtic music in Atlantic
    Canada was understandable considering how easy it
    was to align this musical genre with tourism
    marketing initiatives.
  • In addition, the 1990s witnessed worldwide a rise
    in popularity of various musics collectively
    termed Celtic.
  • Riverdance, Titanic soundtrack, Braveheart
    Soundtrack, Afro Celt Sound System, Celtic Tides
    CD etc.

46
Ashley vs. Natalie - Cape Breton Fiddle Stars
  • On the surface these two Cape Breton fiddlers
    share a number of commonalities.
  • Both were born in the early 1970s (MacMaster in
    1972 and MacIsaac in 1975)
  • Both from small towns in Inverness County on Cape
    Breton Island (MacMaster from Troy, and MacIsaac
    from Creignish).
  • Both began playing the fiddle at a very young age
    and signed recording and distribution deals with
    major Canadian record labels in the 1990s.
  • Both fiddlers incorporate popular music styles
    into their fiddling performances, but also retain
    certain traditional elements in their shows,
    including fiddling while step dancing.
  • Despite these similarities, the two fiddlers
    maintain vastly different public personae, and
    have embarked on completely divergent career
    paths.

47
Ashley Discovered
  • Ashley MacIsaac first came to national attention
    in the mid 1990s, following a remarkable series
    of events.
  • In 1992, he was contacted by the American theatre
    director Joanne Akalaitis after she and her
    husband, composer Philip Glass, had seen MacIsaac
    perform at a Cape Breton square dance.
  • Akalaitis and Glass were collaborating on a new
    production of Georg Buchners Woyzeck and wanted
    MacIsaac to perform as part of the play.
  • A few years after his performance in Woyzeck,
    MacIsaac visited New York again, and he contacted
    Philip Glass while he was there.
  • Glass invited MacIsaac (and his fiddle) to a
    dinner party for a surprise guest who turned out
    to be the American pop star Paul Simon.
  • Simon was so impressed with MacIsaacs fiddle
    playing that he invited MacIsaac to play on a
    recording that Simon was producing for his wife,
    singer Edie Brickell.
  • When news of this reached back to Atlantic
    Canada, a media frenzy resulted.

48
Freakish Genius
  • Ashley MacIsaacs good fortune fueled the notion
    of an untapped wealth of musical talent on Cape
    Breton Island.
  • This was a true Cinderella story a young, raw,
    musician was discovered in his remote natural
    habitat by a world-famous and well-connected New
    York City composer who then graciously invited
    the fiddler into the inner sanctum of the musical
    elite.
  • The story proved hard to resist for the local
    press.
  • Adding to this powerful rags to riches narrative
    trope was the fact that MacIsaac was and is
    rather unique for a Cape Breton fiddler.
  • His young age of eighteen was not in itself
    unusual for a fiddler, but his prodigious talent,
    commanding presence, and individual sound was
    remarkable for such a young musician.
  • His fiddling technique is also quite
    idiosyncratic in that MacIsaac plays left-handed
    but with a right-handed fiddle. In other words,
    his fiddle is conventionally strung for a
    right-handed bowing arm, but MacIsaac plays with
    the fiddle on his right shoulder and bows with
    the left hand, and therefore essentially learns
    all of his fiddle tunes backwards.
  • This unusual playing technique reinforced
    MacIsaacs persona as a rough, unrefined, and
    perhaps even freakish genius, an image which
    directly contrasted that of Natalie MacMaster.

49
Natalie MacMaster
  • Natalie MacMasters talent was well known on Cape
    Breton from the time she began excelling at her
    fiddle studies.
  • She was used frequently by the Nova Scotia
    Tourism industry as part of its Celtic marketing
    strategy in the 1990s.
  • Her picture was featured frequently in the
    provincial tourist guides, and she was a frequent
    performer in government-sponsored campaigns.
  • Two of these, the Coast of Difference and Sea
    Sell productions were touring musical variety
    shows that placed MacMasters fiddling front and
    centre.
  • MacMasters obvious beauty, refined demeanor, and
    wholesome image combined to create the perfect
    marketing character for Nova Scotia tourism.
  • She provided pure, traditional, family
    entertainment which, despite her potential sex
    appeal, deliberately lacked any overt sexuality.
  • Her persona symbolized conservative family values
    and resulted in appearances in effective
    television advertising campaigns for Tim Hortons
    Donuts, Farmers Dairy milk, and General Motors
    Pontiac automobiles.

50
Ashley MacIsaacs Image
  • Initially, perfect persona for the record
    industry
  • Anything but wholesome and traditional.
  • He did often perform in a kilt, but augmented
    this traditional dress with t-shirts and toques
    more typical of the 1990s grunge rock scene.
  • Music industry could rally behind a grungy, rock
    fiddler
  • First major label release Hi! How Are You Today a
    major success with Sleepy Maggie becoming an
    international hit single
  • Features traditional fiddle tune with dance
    groove

51
Pop Fiddling
  • Ashley MacIsaacs career eventually turned sour
  • Many critics claim that he took the music to
    unwanted places
  • However, Natalie MacMaster was and is just as
    inventive with her combination of fiddling and
    other styles such as flamenco, bluegrass, rock,
    etc.
  • Deterritorialization of sound welcomed
  • Deterritorialization of image not!

52
MacIsaacs Sexuality
  • Unlike Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaacs
    public persona would ultimately be tied to his
    sexuality. The record labels knew how they could
    market a grungy rock fiddler, but a promiscuous
    gay fiddler was another problem entirely.
  • He had been officially outed in Frank magazine
    in 1995, but MacIsaacs sexuality became a media
    obsession following a controversial interview
    with Patricia Hluchy that was published in
    Macleans magazine in 1996
  • The article titled Ashleys Indiscretion was a
    singular piece of sensationalist journalism that
    castigated MacIsaac for his outspokenness
    regarding his sexual practices, while at the same
    time dwelling on MacIsaacs public comments.
  • Backlash against MacIsaac had more to do with the
    disjunction between his open sexuality and the
    generic public conception of a Cape Breton
    fiddler.
  • The excitement over MacIsaacs music was built
    not only on its novelty but on the idea that he
    was taking the tradition in new musical
    directions.
  • His homosexuality, however, destroyed the
    manufactured masculine, Folk, Scottish identity
    normally associated with a male Cape Breton
    fiddler.

53
Natalies wholesome image
  • MacMasters career could be described as a slower
    and more steady ascent, devoid of any
    sensationalized media scrutiny. In fact, she is
    adored by the mainstream press.
  • Where Ashley MacIsaac presented a dangerous,
    threatening countercultural public persona,
    Natalie MacMaster offered a safe, conservative,
    and sexually neutral image.
  • In addition, despite the slick musical
    arrangements and professional marketing campaigns
    used to sell her music, there is far less
    deterritorialization associated with Natalie
    MacMasters pop-culture product.
  • Her music and image remain firmly tied to Cape
    Breton, and her public identity relies on this
    perceived authenticity, combining rural roots and
    traditional values.

54
Recipe for a fiddlers success
  • Deterritorialization of sound results in wider
    access to music industry marketing, national
    radio playlists, and acceptance into pop culture
  • Reterritorialization of image reinforces the
    traditional, roots of the music
  • Music industry requires this combination to be
    able to sell the music
  • Atlantic Canada not represented as modern, urban,
    industrial, educated
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