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Back to the garden: territory and exchange in western Canadian folk music festivals Open Access


Other title
Gilles Deleuze
folk music festivals
western Canada
folk music
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
MacDonald, Michael B.
Supervisor and department
Gramit, David (Music)
Spinetti, Federico (Music)
Qureshi, Regula Burckhardt (Music)
Examining committee member and department
Ingraham, Mary (Music)
Turino, Thomas (Music)
Shields, Rob (Sociology)
Department of Music

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Since the end of the American Folk Revival, in the late 1960s, folk festivals have undergone a dramatic change. Concurrently, folk music was transformed through capital from its origins as national folkloric music to a successful popular music genre. As professional folk music emerged during the late 1950s and 1960s many young people began to get involved. This involvement, often in the promotion of community oriented folk music events, set the stage for the development of independent community folk music clubs and festivals. These two trends (folk music as cultural commodity and folk music as community expression) flowed through one another sweeping away nationalist folk music and leaving an open space. During the 1970s, political and social changes were occurring across North America. The emergence of what Michael Foucault called biopolitics began to change how young people related to the idea of folk music and to the general field of political action. At the same time, organized leftwing political groups, many of which developed out of early 20th century political movements, broke down or splintered into many smaller groups. Some disenchanted political activists turned towards cultural programming as an outlet for their political desire. Along side this, American draft dodgers and Canadian back-to-the-landers moved, from the south and the east, into the Canadian west. Out of this diverse social energy developed urban and rural folk music festivals. Until now folk music festivals in western Canada have not been systematically surveyed nor has their operation been theorized as a mode of creative production. This work develops a historically grounded approach to folk music as a means of social production and challenges the idea that folk music is only a music genre. I conclude, using a theoretical approach developed by Deleuze and Guattari, that contemporary folk music festivals make use of social capital to establish a folk music assemblage. This assemblage provides an alternative, non-centralized, and increasingly global alternative for the flow of music capital. Folk music is no longer a style of music but a mode of doing business in music that is socially oriented and politically and economically potent.
License granted by Michael B. MacDonald ( on 2010-07-20T20:21:29Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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