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

  • Author / Creator
    MacDonald, Michael B.
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.