Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: the Stats

Happy New Year!

Here are the 2013 statistics for Musicology Now, formally launched in August 2013.

as of 12:00 noon PST, December 31, 2013

Pageviews: 30,215
Daily hits: roughly 250


Audience by country:

United States
19071
China
2900     (给来自于中国的读者:我们竭诚欢迎你们的到访。)
United Kingdom
1018
France
830
Canada
594
Germany
462
Malaysia
259
Taiwan
241
Russia
160
Ukraine
134

Top 10 reads:

     Robert Fink, Aug 25, 2013
1107








     Carol Hess, Nov 15, 2013
519








     Bonnie Gordon, Sep 28, 2013
482








     Ryan Minor, Oct 22, 2013
419








     Marian Wilson Kimber, Nov 27, 2013
413








     Byron Adams, Nov 23, 2013
370








     Paul Banks, Nov 22, 2013
346








     Robert D. Pearson, Nov 3, 2013
335








     Andrew Dell'Antonio, Oct 7, 2013
329








     David B. Levy, Oct 16, 2013
325

 Musicology Now invites submissions, now, for 2014. See "Directions to Contributors."

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Perséphone

Perséphone was a mélodrame (with speakers, vocal soloists, chorus, dance troupe, and orchestra) premiered at the Paris Opéra on 30 April 1934 by Ida Rubinstein's ballet company. The libretto was by André Gide, with music by Stravinsky. Perséphone was directed by the celebrated Jacques Copeau (18701949), founder of the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, with choreography by Kurt Jooss (1901–79). (Also on the program was the premiere of Ibert's ballet Diane de Poitiers.)

Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone by Tamara Levitz (Oxford UP, 2012) explores this collaboration through what she calls a “microhistorical analysis of the premiere”: how the collaborators “used the myth of Persephone to perform and articulate their most deeply held beliefs about four topics significant to modernism: religion, sexuality, death, and historical memory in art.” Her website offers a comprehensive introduction to the book.

Here Levitz writes, in part:
I tried to capture Stravinsky's intimate and private life as a composer by going back to countless original archival sources, and by observing Stravinsky from close range in one, controlled, situation (the premiere of Perséphone). Rather than document his life historically, ... I wanted to capture how he felt about love, sexuality, gender politics, music, religion, death, and hope, by exploring in very minute detail his approach to setting the myth of Persephone. By concentrating on a day-to-day description of Stravinsky's life in 1934, I hoped to escape some of the clichés that have plagued the literature on this composer to the present day.

André Gide fascinates for different reasons. He was an immensely courageous writer, who single-handedly transformed the discourse on pédérastie and homosexuality in his time. Gide resisted the symbolic reduction of human life and simple solutions to moral problems with all his might; he believed that human beings were complex creatures whose motivations and intentions could not be summarized in simple terms. I wanted in my book to describe in detail Gide's battle to have homosexuality accepted in his time, because I think the story can teach us a lot about similar battles taking place today.
Tamara Levitz
Levitz is Professor of Musicology at UCLA.

Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone won the American Musicological Society's 2013 Otto Kinkeldey Award, given annually “to a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year.” It is the longest running of the society's awards, having been presented since 1967.

The citation notes how Levitz's work “departs from the conventions of music historiography by addressing in depth a single work of the early twentieth century, unsuccessful in its own time and thereafter consigned to the historical margins. Created by an international and unhappy collaboration of artists, each of them determinedly but differently modern, it inspires the book’s compelling, provocative, and nuanced reflections on the histories of twentieth-century music, literature, dance, psychology, religion, and sexuality. The author considers the work’s conflicting modernisms, its music and text, staging and audience, and the dynamics of personality and process, from a breathtaking array of theoretical perspectives, supported by rigorous examination of the material traces of creative activity. More than a model of microhistorical method, the book is a pathway to moving encounters not just with the historical protagonists, Igor Stravinsky and André Gide, but more broadly with images of the modern self, engaged in its struggle for realization and cultural validation.”

Otto Kinkeldey
The Kinkeldey Award is funded by the estate of Otto Kinkeldey (1878–1966), founding member of the Society, President from 1935–36 and from 1941–42, and Honorary President until his death in 1966. Kinkeldey occupied the first chair in musicology in the United States, at Cornell University,  between 1923 and 1946, where he was also Cornell University Librarian. He held the BA from City College of New York (1898), MA from New York University (1900) and Ph.D. from the Royal Academic Institute for Church Music in Berlin (1909). In 1910 he was appointed Royal Prussian Professor at the University of Breslau, then served in the United States Army at the beginning of World War I and was named head of the Music Division at the New York Public Library (1915–23).



Friday, December 27, 2013

Festschriften 2013

by Michael Accinno

Friends, pupils, and colleagues honored, during 2013, three distinguished American musicologists with Festschriften saluting lifetime achievement.

pic name
Jane Bernstein
pic name
Ellen Rosand
pic name
Thomas Kelly

Music in Print and Beyond (University of Rochester Press), edited by Craig Monson and Roberta Marvin, honors Jane Bernstein. It includes a baker's dozen essays on topics ranging from Hildegard of Bingen to Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, IRCAM and Abbey Road. Publisher's webpage HERE.

Bernstein, a former president of the American Musicological Society, is Austin Fletcher Professor of Music at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Her books include Printing in Renaissance Venice: The Scotto Press (1539–1572) (Oxford UP, 1998), Print Culture and Music in Sixteenth-Century Venice (Oxford UP, 2002), and Women's Voices across Musical Worlds (Northeastern UP, 2004), as well as numerous editions of sixteenth-century music.


Words, Image, and Song (University of Rochester Press), a two-volume set edited by Rebecca Cypess, Beth Glixon, and Nathan Link, honors Ellen Rosand. Publisher's webpage HERE.

The first volume, Essays on Early Modern Italy, explores the numerous connections between music, poetry, and the visual arts in the early Modern period (separate webpage HERE).

The second volume, Essays on Musical Voices, considers the notion of  “musical voice” in repertoires ranging from the Baroque cantata to the nineteenth-century autograph albums of Charlotte de Rothschild (separate webpage HERE). Some 30 contributions, altogether.

Rosand, Professor of Music at Yale University, is also a former president of the American Musicological Society. A noted authority on Italian opera from Monteverdi to Handel, her books include Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (University of California Press, 1991) and Monteverdi's Last Operas: a Venetian Trilogy (UC Press, 2007).







City, Chant, and the Topography of Early Music (Harvard University Department of Music: Harvard Publications in Music, book 23), edited by Michael Scott Cuthbert, Sean Gallagher, and Christoph Wolff, honors Thomas Forrest Kelly. The collection examines the ways plainchant and other musical genres are shaped by their connection to culture, geography, and politics. Publisher's website HERE.

Kelly is Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music, emeritus, at Harvard University. His work has focused on plainchant but also includes the celebrated First Nights book (Yale UP, 2000) and popular undergraduate course. (More video: Harvard's Great Teachers: Thomas Kelley.)

Fun Festschrift fact: musicology makes an “unusual” appearance in the Wikipedia article on "Festschrift" (We swear we had nothing to do with this.) Happy New Year!

Michael Accinno is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the University of California, Davis, and assistant editor of Musicology Now.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dear Abbé

ABBÉ'S HOLIDAY

It's that time of year again... Sugar Plum Fairies... Messiah... holiday concerts (with and without celebrity readings of The Night Before Christmas—by the way, there's an app for that) and, yes, holiday lists:
Meanwhile Abbé means to while away those long winter nights here at the Madonna del Rosario by hunkering down with:

Reads
  • Donald Greig [sic]: Time Will Tell (Thames River Press, 2012), in which Ockeghem is prominently featured. Scholarly notes: the university in Tallahassee, through which the book's main character regularly accesses the Internet for research, should be The Florida State University. Our colleagues at the University of Florida are down the road in Gainesville. And Columbus, OH, is in the same time zone as JFK airport.
  • Donna Leon, The Jewels of Paradise (Grove Press, 2013), which features, not Commissario Brunetti, but rather Caterina Pellegrini, Venetian musicologist of 18th-century opera returning home from Manchester. Castrati, etc.
  • Longtime resident of Venice, Leon is herself an Italian opera enthusiast and patron, and, I have heard, a fan of Alan Curtis. (The first Brunetti mystery was Death at La Fenice, 1992). [Euro-residents: don't miss the tv series; tourists: take the Brunetti walks, etc.]
  • Peter Lovesey, The Tooth Tattoo (Soho Crime, 2013). In Peter Diamond Investigation 13, the suspects are members of a string quartet. Review in Washington Post.
  • Margo Miller, Murdering Tosca: An Opera “Shocker” (PublishAmerica, 2008). Why have the singers died in the order and manner of their stage characters?
  • Arthur Wenk, Quarter-Note Tales #4: An Axel Crotchet Trilogy (iUniverse, 2013). Crochet, bearded musicologist-at-large, stumbles into murderous intrigue amid church politics and academic amphigory, where tempers run so high because the stakes are so low. “Cat's Paw,“The Carcassonne Codex,” and “If Thine Eye Offend Thee.
Special thanks to American musicologists Vivian Ramalingam, Douglass Seaton, Alexaner Silbiger, Pamela Starr—and AMS executive director Bob Judd, who, to no one's surprise, keeps a list of musicology fiction).
Fun fact: E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime (Random House, 1975) is on President Obama's holiday list.

Movies
  • Sound City (Variance Films, 2013). Critically acclaimed documentary on Sound City Studios in Van Nuys.
  • Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (Sony, 2009). A sometimes believable and always intriguing evocation of the way it was from The Rite of Spring in 1913 through Chanel No. 5 in 1919. Steamy.
  • Mary Poppins: 50th-Anniversary Edition (Disney, 2013).That about says it all. Not steamy.
  • The Wizard of Oz: 75th-Anniversary Collector's Edition (Warner, 2013). Maybe. And maybe the lunchbox.
Listening
  • Family Dog at the Great Highway: San Francisco, CA 4/18/70. Exclusively at dead.net. Lost Grateful Dead show resurfaces; check out the coverage at Rolling Stone.
  • Vladimir Horowitz: Live at Carnegie Hall boxed set (Sony, 2013). 42 discs, $100-ish. But do I still have a CD player?


... Now, it's your turn. Share your own holiday ideas for music lovers in the comments box below.

Season's Greetings!

                                                                                                    --ABBÉ



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just For The Love of It

Amateurs, Professionals, and the British Early Music Movement

by Nick Wilson

Many aspects of the British early music movement (“Early Music”) continue to intrigue. One thinks of the authenticity debate; the relationship between high culture and commerce; the incubating role of the BBC; or even what I refer to as “re-enchanting art”—the capacity we have of discovering “old” music through performance, as if for the first time. One fascinating aspect that all too often gets overlooked is the role of the amateur. By the 1960s the territory of classical music performance had become deeply divided. The increasing dominance of the music “profession” had effectively severed ties with everyday music-making, tradition, and ritual. A gulf had opened up between performing classical music “just for the love of it” and the serious “business” of classical music concert performance. It would not be overstating things to suggest that such a gulf remains to this day. 

Though characterized as an ideological movement borne out of a scholarly obsession with recreating the past, Early Music also appealed to amateur musicians, not least because it offered an exciting “new” world of sound. There was also the alluring possibility of getting up-close and personal with the fascinating instruments that produced these sounds. In the infant years of the early music revival, “early” really meant early. A whole array of bizarre medieval and Renaissance instruments—cornetts, crumhorns, dulcians, nakers, rebecs, regals, sackbuts, and many other “buzzers and whiners” dating at least as far back as the fourteenth century—was suddenly let loose on an otherwise conventional audience, conjuring up altogether “other” times. The sound of a familiar Bach concerto played at Baroque pitch on period instruments prior to many of the “original” instruments being mastered, was shockingly new. This aural landscape was genuinely exciting for many musicians who had come to feel classical music performance had lost its way. The performances and subsequent recordings of medieval, Renaissance, and early Baroque music by the likes of Michael Morrow’s Musica Reservata and David Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London (founded “to present authentic and uninhibited performances”) in the 1960s, were crucial in catalyzing interest in historical performance. But more than this, amateur musicians quickly found themselves being able to join in, as copies of old instruments became widely available. Before long, enthusiasts could construct affordable historical instruments from DIY kits, encouraging an even closer allegiance with this form of music-making. Such “early adopters” of early music were central to its subsequent success—forming its audience and fan-base.



It would be wrong, however, to imply that amateur musicians began their love affair with early music only in the 1960s. In the first decades of the 20th century, an appetite for performing “old” music was already being satiated in a variety of informal gatherings across Britain. The most famous of these performances were undoubtedly the ones held by the Dolmetsches. It is striking that even today, Arnold Dolmetsch's pioneering work as a performer, instrument-maker, and scholar is labeled as “amateurish.” As one early music performer puts it, Dolmetsch was met with “the patronising indifference of the majority of the music profession.” He was surrounded largely by amateur musicians and instrument-makers at his Haslemere workshop, and what he was doing was regarded by many as unnecessarily specialized for its time, and too cut off from the professional music mainstream.

There is no doubt that the 20th-century early music revival owes much of its initial success to its ability to embrace the amateur musician. Arguably, this is just one particular facet of Early Music’s distinctive capacity to “join up” rather than to separate. Early musicians have been required to overcome many things, including unbridgeable barriers to past traditions and performance practices, and a fallible knowledge of composers’ intentions; They have also had to rely on working with instrument-makers, scholars, musicologists, and record company executives. However, in playing their part, amateurs unwittingly collaborated in Early Music’s professionalization and even its inevitable closure and narrowing in terms of repertoire covered. It is striking how little instrumental music from the Middle Ages, for example, now finds its way both to the concert hall and across the airwaves. 

The word “amateur” remains strongly divisive. While etymology reminds us that its meaning is derived from having a love of something (amator : “lover”), there is an enduring connotation of enthusiasm matched by lack of technical proficiency. Amateurs are often contrasted with professionals not just because the latter group earn money from their work, but because they are skilled and have reached a level that the former can only dream of. The unfolding story of Early Music admonishes us against readily jumping to any such simplistic conclusions.


Nick Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Cultural & Creative Industries at Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London, and a professional early music performer. The Art of Re-Enchantment: Making Early Music in the Modern Age is published by Oxford University Press (November, 2013).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Honors

Each year, the American Musicological Society names as Honorary Members longstanding members who have made outstanding contributions to further our objectives and the field of musical scholarship. This year there are five:

Karol Berger, Osgood Hooker Professor in Fine Arts, Department of Music, Stanford University. Berger's publications span the music of the Renaissance to philosophical issues of art in our world today. Musica Ficta (Cambridge UP, 2004) received the Otto Kinkeldey Award, and Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow (UC Press, 2008), the Marjorie Weston Emerson Award of the Mozart Society of America. Berger also won the 2011 Glarean-Preis of the Schweizerische Musikforschende Gesellschaft, for lifetime achievement.
Sarah Fuller, Professor of Music, Stony Brook University. Fuller's significant body of scholarly writings includes studies of Aquitanian polyphony of the twelfth century, the music of Guillaume de Machaut, and medieval and Renaissance music theory. Her research encompasses such disparate issues as Hucbald's modal practices, the definition of musical space in Machaut, aural perception in the late Middle Ages, and the possibility of gendered semitones in the 14th century. Among her many honors, she was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Alejandro Planchart, Professor of Music, emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara. Planchart's remarkable publications on tropes and on the music of the Renaissance, especially on the life and music of Guillaume Du Fay, have inspired a generation of scholars. Among his previous honors and prizes have been a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Howard M. Brown Award (Early Music America), and the Arion Prize (Cambridge Society for Early Music).

Craig Wright, Professor of Music, Yale University. Wright's significant body of scholarly writings range from archival studies of Notre Dame in Paris and music at the 14-century court of Burgundy to a study of the symbolism of the maze in architecture, theology. and music, to a widely used introductory text, Listening to Music. Among his honors are both the Alfred Einstein Award and the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society, and the Dent Medal from the Royal Musical Association.
Neal Zaslaw, Herbert Gussman Professor of Music, Cornell University. Zaslaw's numerous and influential books and articles on performance practice, and on Mozart and his music, have shaped the way a generation of scholars and music lovers understand this foundational figure, in this country and around the world. His Mozart scholarship now continues with his appointment as principal editor of the revised Köchel catalogue.

Corresponding Members are those who at the time of their election are citizens of countries other than Canada or the United States and who have made particularly notable contributions to furthering the stated object of the American Musicological Society. There is one new Corresponding Member:

Agostino Ziino. This honor recognizes Ziino's research and publications in the field of medieval and Renaissance Italian and French music, perhaps especially regarding the Lauda, but also his discovery of the Turin manuscript T.III.2 at the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria along with other musical manuscripts. His  scholarship also includes important work on the 18th-century festa teatrale in Naples, as well as on such 19th-century figures as Luigi Romanelli and Richard Wagner. He is a past winner of the A. Feltrinelli Award from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and former president of the Italian Musicological Society.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear Abbé

Professional musicologists offer answers and advice. Free.


DEAR ABBÉ:

Why is the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées not in the Champs-Élysées?  

                                                IGOR, MAURICE, and the GANG

DEAR IMG:

Not my period. It does appear that this question is of a century's duration. Within my possé of followers, as it happens, there's a young whippersnapper who specializes in just this question. Siehe nachfolgend. 

                                                                              ABBÉ

Whither the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées?

by Cesar Leal


Gabriel Astruc
Inaugurated on April 30, 1913, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is an icon of Parisian modernist architecture as well as a significant landmark in the history of music. It was the life-long project of Gabriel Astruc (1864–1938), a Parisian impresario, journalist, playwright, agent, promoter, theater manager, music editor, and publisher.

Astruc was an early partisan of Diaghilev and created the first Saison Russe in Paris in 1909. Additionally, he organized numerous music festivals and artistic events at such Parisian theaters as the Châtelet and Opéra, with artists and ensembles including Strauss, Toscanini, Caruso, Satie, Nijinsky, and the entire troupe of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company.

Beginning in 1905, the musical events he presented became known as the Grande Saison de Paris, a cultural phenomenon that remained at the center of Parisian cultural life for almost a decade. Yearly, in May and June, it featured the world’s most sought-after performers. Astruc aspired to centralize the Grande Saison into a unique space, and this became the concept behind his idea for a new palais philharmonique.

Astruc envisaged a space that facilitated dialogue among audiences, different artistic disciplines, and musical genres. Early blueprints of the project indicate that the theater was to have included three halls: Grande Salle, Salle Moyenne, and Petite Salle. The Grande Salle, mainly devoted to orchestral music, opera, and ballet, had the capacity to host an audience of 2,500 people. The Salle Moyenne, for chamber music (up to 50 musicians) and virtuosi, could seat up to 1,200 people. Finally, the Petite Salle was designed so that about 800 people could enjoy small-scale recitals and artistic expositions.

Rendering of a palais philharmonique in the Champs-Élysées.

Location was everything. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées represented the cosmopolitanism and sophistication commonly associated with the Parisian élite, a community Astruc knew well. A wealthy group of patrons from Paris and elsewhere, including Rothschild, Camondo, Vanderbilt, Pierpont Morgan, and Countess Greffulhe, offered financial support for his ambitious initiative. Such celebrity composers as Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Debussy, Fauré, and Massenet enthusiastically supported Astruc’s initiative. And on August 4, 1906, the Paris city council approved the plan to build a palais philharmonique in the Champs-Élysées—on city property.

But in fact the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is located in the Avenue Montaigne, near its intersection with the Avenue George V, significantly closer to the Seine than to the Champs-Élysées: a half-mile walk, or, better, a 600-foot stroll from the Alma-Marceau metro station, near the Pont de l’Alma.

For shortly after council approval, several groups manifested their opposition to the new hall. Some opposed Astruc’s intention to centralize all the events of the Grande Saison. Traditional Parisian venues, such as the Opéra, Opéra-Comique, and Salle Pleyel, which often hosted his events, perceived the projected Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as a financial threat.

The strongest, and ultimately most effective, campaign against Astruc and his theater originated from the same city council that had already given permission to build. In 1909, André Hallays, an advocate of French patrimony associated with La Libre Parole (a Parisian newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and political content), proposed that the terrain in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées “be officially restricted, and the site formerly occupied by a circus from now on [1909] be neither rented nor sold.”

Hallays’s proposal gained immediate support from some members of the city council. In 1909, despite Astruc’s strenuous efforts to convince them otherwise, the council revoked the license previously awarded. “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away!” said Astruc in a column published by the Figaro shortly after he heard the news. He added, “The Council promised me the rights to the Champs-Élysées property. The Council has withdrawn its promise.” 

Planned (A) and actual (B) locations of the theater.
Legal actions and contingency plans inevitably followed. The search for a new site did not take long. By early 1910, the Société du Théâtre des Champs-Élysées had purchased the property in the Avenue Montaigne, in the same arrondissement. Astruc retained most of his existing investors and supporters, but purchasing the land instead of leasing it required cultivation of new patrons and bigger gifts. This was the sort of thing at which Astruc particularly excelled.


The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées today.
Construction began in mid-1911. As it neared completion in early 1913, the theater hosted guided tours for art and architecture schools leading up to the inaugural concert on April 2, 1913.

As with many other artistic institutions on the eve of war, ticket sales and private support could not provide the revenue to keep the theater running. The closing of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on November 17, 1913, came, ironically, on the heels of the great opening season, with Schmitt’s Tragedy of Salomé, Debussy’s Jeux, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. That, in the end, proved the peak of Astruc’s career.

Today, the theater reflects Astruc’s original concept only in part. The halls have been separated and common spaces divided. You can still experience the magnificent art deco style, but that is only a glimpse of the artistic dialogue that characterized this space a hundred years ago.

Cesar Leal is conductor of the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra at the University of the South; he will shortly hold the Ph.D. degree in musicology from the University of Kentucky for his dissertation on Gabriel Astruc. His chapter “Gabriel Astruc, Wagner and the Wagnerianism of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées” appears in a forthcoming volume commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fiddling in the “Last Best West”

by David Gramit

We don’t know much about the fiddler preserved in this turn-of-the-century photo from the Provincial Archives of Alberta (nor about the woman who peers evocatively from the shadows of the doorway of what we presume was his cabin). We know enough, though, to think that the notes that accompany the donation, describing it as an “Indian playing violin outside log cabin [1900],” are a revealing oversimplification. Both the act of fiddling and the man’s woven sash, visible at his waist and between his legs, reveal that he was very likely not a member of the Cree bands that inhabited the area of Edmonton in 1885, when George Ray, who collected this picture, took up his office as the first Registrar of Canada’s Northwest Territories (which then included present-day Saskatchewan and Alberta). Rather, he is Métis, part of a nation descended from the union of First Nations women with mostly French and Scottish fur traders, a nation whose culture includes a distinctive and still active fiddling tradition.

(For a brief sketch of music—including that of the Métis—in the Canadian west earlier in the century, see Daniel Laxer’s article on the soundscape of painter Paul Kane’s journey across Canada in the mid-1800s. Kane’s painting of Fort Edmonton is the iconic image of the fur-trading outpost that preceded the city.)

Why does this mislabeling matter? Because the myth of an empty land, inhabited by only a few wandering tribes of savage Indians, became foundational to the settlement of Canada’s “last best west,” just as it was across North America—so when Alberta became a province in 1905, in the midst of one of the continent’s last great settler booms, a souvenir booklet could tell of the “almost untouched unlimited resources of undeveloped wealth . . . of all those regions to which Edmonton is the gateway.” “Untouched” and “undeveloped” implied unlimited potential for profit, “and no one need hesitate to make his investments accordingly.” Like countless other variants of Wild West mythology, the booklet obscured an inconvenient truth: this was a land whose original inhabitants maintained a centuries-long tradition of trade and cultural interaction, a pattern of commerce in which Europeans were longtime participants but relative latecomers. Simplifications like the misrecognition of our unidentified Métis fiddler are both results of and contributors to that mythology.

But when at least one other Métis fiddler represented himself, the resulting image was very different. The Edmonton city archives preserve this studio portrait of the prominent early Edmontonian Laurent Garneau and his wife Eleanor, taken around 1898. Born in Michigan around 1840 to a French Canadian fur trader and an Ojibway mother, Garneau was well known as a fiddler in the Edmonton area, where he had settled in 1874. Having fought with Métis leader Louis Riel in the Red River uprising of 1869 and then worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, Garneau was intimately familiar with the political and social dividing lines of the west. Indeed, he had been arrested in 1885 at the time of the Northwest Rebellion, apparently because of his earlier association with Riel, and that same association thwarted his attempt to enter territorial politics in 1892. But Garneau still managed to become a respected figure in early Edmonton, achieving considerable wealth in a variety of business enterprises, and his portrait is structured to project propriety, achievement, and comfort in a settler’s world rather than his Métis heritage—even if he still valued his fiddle highly enough to place it on the table beside him. In short, this is not an image collected to record the customs of the locals, but a portrait of a couple who intend to be recognized as participants in a developing new society (one that within a few short years would be eager enough to distance itself from rural musical practices that a 1904 concert and dance ad for Edmonton’s Apollo Orchestra bluntly specifies: “no square dances”).

If admittedly remote Edmonton were a unique case, then these two images would be little more than curiosities of local history. But the city’s frantic growth (from just over a hundred when Garneau arrived, to 2,626 when he moved on in 1901, to more than 70,000 by 1914) was a late and relatively modest example of a development repeated across the west (and Australasia too) throughout the long nineteenth century, as James Belich has brilliantly documented in his Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo World, 1783–1939. These fiddlers and their tunes were local, to be sure, but the processes of displacement, explosive settlement, and cross-cultural negotiation to which they attest have their counterparts throughout the enormous settler-colonial world.
Provincial Archives of Alberta photo PAA A8125 and City of Edmonton Archives photo EA-58-3 appear with permission of the archives. The 1904 concert ad was located by Jamie Meyers-Riczu.

David Gramit is Professor of Music at the University of Alberta. He is author of Cultivating Music: The Aspirations, Interests, and Limits of German Musical Culture, 1770–1848 (University of California Press, 2002) and editor of Beyond “The Art of Finger Dexterity”: Reassessing Carl Czerny (University of Rochester Press, 2008). His research on music in early Edmonton is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.