La chanson country-western, 1942-1957

Authors: Lefrançois, Catherine
Advisor: Lacasse, SergeSavoie, Chantal
Abstract: This dissertation examines the relations between country-western music produced in Quebec between 1942 and 1957 and the concept of popular modernity. Drawing together musical and historical analysis, it explores the cultural significance of country-western at the beginning of the genre. The history of country-western music in Quebec began in 1942 when Roland Lebrun recorded his first songs. Paul Brunelle, Marcel Martel and Willie Lamothe soon followed with their own recordings in this style. These amateur singer-songwriters started out with the Compo Company and RCA Victor, the only two record companies who survived in Montreal during the Great Depression. With Rusticana, the first independent label to produce country-western music in 1958, the genre began its structuration and authenticity became a determinant value in country-western music. Continuity is a key concept to understand what Richard Peterson (1997) has called “fabricated authenticity”, which is indeed exemplified in the invented tradition that country-western created, from the 1960s onwards, on the basis of some of the conditions that characterized the first country-western. The discourse on authenticity, however, masks some of the more modern characteristics of the genre at the time of its birth. The country-western singing voice is one example, as artists use a variety of paralinguistic effects like nasalization and second mode of phonation (falsetto) in a way that can be seen as a stylized version of speech. Presenting the same expressive functions, these variations of timbre are coordinated with song lyrics, with musical and technological features, and with phonetic sounds to create symbolic representations of different emotions or èthos. These aesthetics based on everyday speech could be seen as a form of popular modernity: music for the people made by the people, but also for commercial success. Furthermore, country-western music used technology to create intimacy and spatialization effects. Its “américanité” was also marked and renewed when, in 1956 and 1957, country-western singers produced what can be considered some of the first rock'n'roll records in Quebec. These very modern features moderate the usual thesis about country-western’s traditionalism and conservatism.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2011
Open Access Date: 18 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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