Dan R. MacDonald: Individual creativity in the Cape Breton fiddle tradition

McGann, Joseph Clifford (2003) Dan R. MacDonald: Individual creativity in the Cape Breton fiddle tradition. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

This thesis is an examination of the life of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia born composer Dan Rory MacDonald (1911-1976). The focus is on his life story, using it as a jumping off point for examining the evolution of the Cape Breton tradition over the last one hundred years. The introduction sets the stage for this examination by outlining the motivational factors behind my interest in Dan R. MacDonald and also outlines my efforts to uncover source material for this thesis. -- Chapter one examines the evolution of folklore collecting within the Cape Breton idiom, focusing on the historical lack of attention paid to instrumental traditions. Chapter two defines the Cape Breton fiddling tradition within which Dan R. was active, first by probing the roots of the tradition in Scotland then following its evolution within a New World context. -- The main body of the thesis, chapters three through seven, consists of detailed examinations of each distinct period of Dan R's life. This material chronicles his formative years as a fiddler and follows him as he makes his initial compositional contributions to the idiom. After four and a half years in Scotland during World War II, subsequent to his return to Cape Breton in the 1960s, the setting shifts to Dan R's time in The Boston States and Ontario. Finally, I chronicle his rise to a position of note within the tradition following his return to Cape Breton after years employed as an Ontario autoworker. Two constants run through each distinct period in Dan R's life, his passion for his native Island's traditional fiddle music and his obsession for composing within that tradition. -- Chapter 8 shifts focus from a detailed overview of Dan R's life to concentrate on understanding his passion for composing. I also place Dan R's compositional output into the context of his life via a descriptive and analytic examination detailing how he re- combined the building blocks of tradition into new compositions. The thesis concludes by discussing Dan R.'s role within the wider umbrella of the traveling musician and attempts to identify the reasons for the popularity of his compositions beyond the fact that they are simply good tunes. -- Appendices A and B play an important role in further establishing Dan R's significance to the tradition. Appendix A is a thirty-nine page tune listing of all known Dan R. MacDonald compositions at the time of submission. In the notes associated with each composition I have attempted to provide the extra-musical association for the title Dan R. gave his composition. -- Appendix B is the first extensive discography compiled of recordings upon which a Dan R. composition has been recorded. The discography is meant to give the reader further insight into just how integral Dan R. MacDonald's compositions have become within the Cape Breton tradition and also establish the distances his tunes have traveled since his 1976 death.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/1227
Item ID: 1227
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 196-215.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: March 2003
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island
Library of Congress Subject Heading: MacDonald, Dan R. (Dan Rory), 1911-1976; Fiddlers--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island; Fiddling

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