And people everywhere in the world will relate to that Lyman MacInnis Managing Director Balmur Management Ltd Appropriately enough my 64257rst encounter with country music was while driving with my father Navigating highways and back roads en route ID: 33897 Download Pdf
Embed / Share - Country music and cultural industry mediating structures in transnational media ow Bram Dov Abramson Ritas music is a music of hope its a music of overcoming problems and its a music of joy
structures in transnational media ßowRitaÕs music is a music of hope, itÕs a music of overcoming problems, and itÕs amusic of joy. And people everywhere in the world will relate to that.Media, Culture & Society Proud To Be CanadianMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) ÞÔÕthis picture is of little theoretical interest to a community of musicians andcultural producers who recognise a working oppression which affects them andwhich they discuss, in contexts related to music-industry issues, in terms of theirCanadian nationality. (1991: 324)Music, then, can be said to function as a mediationof nationhood. It is notthe simple effect of some transcendent national identity, any more thannationhood is an effect of music Ð though this last may be a temptinganalysis of the country at hand since, as Andrew Murphie notes:Many wonder what the planetary means any more Ð if being the formed citizenof any State, with a capital S, or even a more regular state such as a particularsexuality, no matter how enlightened, is desirable or even possible. Such spacesand states seem increasingly determined by rapidly shifting social and techno-logical milieus which are out of our control. ... Popular music may turn out toCountry music and cultural industry their communal experience of work. ... Folk songs Ð Òreal, raw, rank andrealrealMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) genresCountry music and cultural industry didnÕtMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) Ô[t]he history of Canadian country music ... generally parallelsCountry music and cultural industry Wish Upon a (ShootinÕ) StarinterpersonalMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) (get yourself headed in the right direction), youÕre likely to pull up besidean Ontario license plate as you stop for a light along Broadway, just like Idid. ... You know, it Country music and cultural industry sis from cultural production to [include] networks of distribution and pointsof consumptionÕ which Ôwould arguably foster a more active relationshipbetween creators and users of cultural productsÕ (Raboy et al., 1994: 52Ð3).Here, the governmental space of the country is Þgured as a space ofrelative autonomy for cultural producers by including among its range ofinterventions the discursive formations in which value and taste formationsÐ what kind of musics constitute country music, or what kind of musicconstitutes good music Ð are produced in popular music, even as thecultural practices which inhabit this space are understood to be profoundlyimbricated in the transnational, both affectively and meaningfully.Such interventions are meaningful only because country was alwaysdeÞned withinindustrial and withintransnational spaces, not outside them.When country music shifted Ð as it did in the 1930s with singing cowboyÞlms, as it did in the 1940s when a recording strike allowed the smalllabels putting out country music to demonstrate its proÞtability, and so onÐ shifts were taking place within the industrial composition of the musicindustry, and indeed within the larger relationships between the enter-tainment industries. Altering the parameters of the genres through whichpopular music gets heard has never been possible without engaging with itat this transnational level.Radio daysThe second conjuncture I want to look at in country musicÕs history aspopular music genre is the moment of its splitting in two sub-genres, ÔnewcountryÕ and Ôtraditional countryÕ, both of which have been engaged in astruggle over the deÞnition of country music ever since. This moment wasrooted in the 1959 founding of the Country Music Association (CMA) asan industry lobby group to promote country music as good, wholesome,familyentertainment. The lobby groupÕs mission was therefore to re-articulate country Ð which had up to then been tied up in values of rurality,tradition, authenticity, and so on Ð with notions of modernity and henceurbanity: where, in other words, the major markets lay. As Richard A.Peterson (1978) recounts, the CMA was extremely effective in reposition-ing country within the music industry. Its mission was precisely one ofreconnecting country music to other signiÞeds, of reinvesting it with newmeaning in the minds not only of consumers but also, and moreimmediately, with other players within the industry, and especially radiostations. From an advertising agencyÕs pitch on behalf of the CMA:264Media, Culture & Society 24(2) Country music and cultural industry as transnationalgenreexpectsMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) What is new country music saying that we like so much?weirdheÕsBroadcasteroadcastercasting new country music on AM would be like seeing MuchMusic inblack and whiteÕ (Davis, 1993: 12). These are the traces of a struggle torework country music as an urbane genre without giving up its identity ascountry, an articulation which draws much from folk and roots music.Listen, for example, to the editor of British magazine Folk Roots... a more intelligentthat comes straight from the heartÓÕ (Redhead and Street, 1989: 179). NewÕ (Redhead and Street, 1989: 179). NewmajorsÕ goalÕ, to Ôproduce a universal space of musical production andconsumption, which includes local, regional and national musical practices,and that does not disrupt and is linked to the ßow of copyrights, licensesand capitals that the majors control. In bumper sticker logo: act globally,think locallyÕ (1995: 86). Country music is a genre whose encoding isplayed out in the institutions of transnational industry, far away from theconcerns of local cultural producers, and yet it is country music whichserves as the generic structure for local cultural production Ð institutionally,267Abramson, Country music and cultural industry ÞÞproduct. What gets exported most often are master tapes which require thedevelopment of a whole production and distribution infrastructure within thehost country. This process plays some role in building the local economy. But,more importantly, in order to operate cost effectively, the local productionfacilities are also utilized for the production of local musics. There is, thus, aninteraction between US pop and local musics which isnÕt found in theexportation of other mass cultural forms. (328)Such an interaction, in other words, depends on the way the industrialstructures which accompany transnational music ßows articulate localmusics. In the complex woven networks of country music in Canada Ð andtheir various and varied institutions, including radio stations, recordcompanies, awards shows, industry associations, television, etc. Ð theCanadian music that is circulated and rearticulated derives from variousmusical styles, which run the gamut between the tensions of the trans-national and the local, but in which those approaching the sound oftransnational Ôcountry musicÕ have long been privileged. This can beunderstood only by recognizing the intricate alliance of industrial andgovernmental institutions which, as the music and entertainment industries,actively reproduce musical culture as cultural industry Ð and, hence, as partof the transnational ßows of both capital and music.Thus, for example, country music radio, whose Canadian presence on theFM band is regulated by the CRTC. The CRTCÕs 1975 Radio Policy setthe tone for CanadaÕs music industry by dividing FM popular music radiointo four distinct formats borrowed from US market research specialists:softer music, rock, country music, and other kinds of popular music (folk-oriented, jazz-oriented, etc.). The rationale behind the policy was to Ôallowfor the expansion of audiences as well as for the rationalization of a rapidlygrowing corporate radio industry. Format could also provide and ensure amusical diversity that would answer the needs of the diversiÞed socialcommunities in CanadaÕ (Grenier, 1990: 222). As Grenier points out,though, such a rationale ignores radioÕs role in the construction of taste andmapping of taste onto similarly-constructed social groups; rather, itassumes already-existing musical taste groups which map directly ontosocial communities, and constructs diversity as the opportunity for eachsocial/taste group to listen to the kind of music it likes. The FM radio268Media, Culture & Society 24(2) Billboarddhas observed), or Country Music Television, the joint Canadian-Americanstation formerly known as the New Country Network. Awards ceremoniesheld by the Canadian Country Music Association and RPM, among others;magazines like the Country Music NewsCountry music and cultural industry now enjoying its effects. ... Aside from aboriginal cultures, CanadastructureMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) Õ(n.d.) Ð others are able to situate themselves in a Canadian country music inwhich, as a Maclean-Hunter-published magazine entitled CanadaÕs HotNew Country Starssßdirectly by the same [Celtic] music Ð and they didnÕt have to go overseas tolearn about their roots. Musicians like The Rankin Family, Rita MacNeil, RonHynes, Ashley MacIsaac, Kim Stockwood, The Barra MacNeils and The IrishDescendants have always been aware of them. TheyÕre also quick to acknowl-edge that their music has found a place under the banner of New Country.TheyÕre not the only ones. A variety of artists throughout our nation have foundhow inclusive New Country has become. For instance, Inuit singer/songwriterSusan Aglukark, country/rock group Blue Rodeo and singer/songwriter LennieGallant are hardly peas in a pod musically, but theyÕre all Þnding readyacceptance in a form that has expanded far beyond the rigid boundaries oftraditional country music. (1995: 2)Here country music expands to include analogue musics already implantedwithin the population, wherein the interplay of transnational (traditionalcountry/new country) and local (country music/folk and roots music) logicsof contestation over the space of country music. At the same time, recallthat the success of such performers inside these interlocking spaces isrelated not only to a shared sensibility, but also to the speciÞcally Anglo-Celtic sounds of these musics. One would, for example, be surprised to seeexponents of musical forms grounded in non-Anglo-Celtic folk and rootsmusics such as the Montreal Jubilation Choir, Punjabi By Nature, or theFlying Bulgar Klezmer Band nominated for an RPM Big Country Awardor featured on the New Country Network. Problematizations at this levelmight be approached by thinking through the structures of race andethnicity and the constructions of whiteness that obtain across the distinc-tions between (new) country music and world beat in non-AmericanAnglo-Celtic settler societies like Canada or Australia (cf. Stasiulus andYuval-Davis, 1995). Not everyone can go country.Opened up by the tension that East Coast folk musics (and others)introduce into Canadian country musicÕs integration into the transnational,episodes like the broadcast of Rita MacNeilÕs infomercial on Canadiantelevision bear witness to how this space outside of the hegemony of271Abramson, Country music and cultural industry MacleanÕsÔAs Canadian as ...Õ. ÔAs Canadian as Possible ... Under the Circum-country music ... generally parallels that of country music in the United1.MacNeilÕs 1994 CBC Christmas special, ÔOnce Upon a ChristmasÕ (aired 11ReferencesMaritime Music Greats: Fifty Years of Hits andHeartbreakCultural StudiesCanadaÕs Hot New Country StarsMedia, Culture & Society 24(2) MontrealPublic Notice 1984Ð84, FM Radio in Canada: A Policy To Ensure A Varied andComprehensive Radio ServiceCountry Music NewsBroadcasterVisible FictionsPopular Music Ð StyleThe Cultural Studies ReaderFrith, S. (1982) ÔÒThe Magic That Can Set You FreeÓ: the Ideology of Folk andPopular Music 1: Folk or Popular?Canadian University Music ReviewCultural StudiesCultural StudiesPopular MusicWe Gotta Get Out of This Place: Popular Conservatismand Postmodern CultureToronto LifeThe Production of SpaceLehr, J.C. (1985) ÔAs Canadian as Possible ... Under the Circumstances: RegionalBorder/linesCountry Music, U.S.A.QueenÕsWings of DesirePerfect BeatScreenCountry music and cultural industry Social ResearchWeb, March 1996, http://www.polygram.com/polygram/mercury_nashville/artists/twain_shania/Shania.html-180;.Canadian Journal of CommunicationPopular MusicJournal of Country MusicRosenberg, N.V. (1974) ÔÒFolkÓ and ÒCountryÓ Music in the Canadian Maritimes:Journal of Country MusicCultural Studies: Developments, Theory and ResearchArticulations of Gender, Race, Ethnicity and ClassBram Dov Abramsonand at Universit«e Montr«Address:ess:274Media, Culture & Society 24(2)
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