david gramit on the musical ‘dynamics’ of an old settler town


David Gramit, ‘What Does a City Sound Like? The Musical Dynamics of a Colonial Settler City’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review 11, 02 (2014).

A study of public musical life in Edmonton, Alberta from the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria through the beginning of World War I provides a case study in the development of new urban musical cultures during the settlement of western North America. The contrast between the Jubilee celebration and Alberta’s inauguration as a province in 1905 reveals growing ambition to demonstrate a capacity for the serious music that could be viewed as a marker of civic achievement, and the absence in 1905 of First Nations dancers and drummers, who had taken part in the 1897 event, provides a reminder of the displacement of indigenous peoples that accompanied the immigration booms that characterized settler colonialism. Popular music too developed with the city; as an alternative to non-literate, rural practices like fiddling, it could represent another form of urban sophistication, but also provided an opportunity to import high culture’s dismissal of the popular, yet another signifier of urban cultural practice.

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