Raising the bar: the reciprocal roles and deviant distinctions of music and alcohol in Acadiana

MacLeod, Marion Christine (2013) Raising the bar: the reciprocal roles and deviant distinctions of music and alcohol in Acadiana. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The role of alcohol in musical settings is regularly relegated to that of incidental bystander, but its pervasive presence as object, symbol or subject matter in Acadian and Cajun performance contexts highlights its constructive capacity in the formation of Acadian and Cajun musical worlds. Individual and collective attitudes towards alcohol consumption implicate a wide number of cultural domains which, in this work, include religious display, linguistic development, respect for social conventions, and the historically-situated construction of identities. This research uses alcohol as an interpretive lens for ethnomusicological understanding and, in so doing, questions the binaries of marginal and mainstream, normal and deviant, sacred and profane, traditional and contemporary, sober and inebriated. Attitudes towards alcohol are informed by, and reflected in, all of these cultural conflicts, highlighting how agitated such categorizations can be in lived culture. Throughout the dissertation, I combine the historical examples of Harry Choates and Cy à Mateur with ethnographic examinations of culturally-distinct performative habits, attitudes toward Catholicism, and compositional qualities. Compiling often incongruous combinations of discursive descriptions and enacted displays, my research suggests that opposition actually confirms interdependence. -- Central to this study is an assertion that levels of cultural competence in Cajun Louisiana and Acadian Nova Scotia are uneven and that the repercussions of this unevenness are musically and behaviourally demonstrated. Rather than challenging binaries outright, I highlight a Cajun and Acadian comfort with ironic, indirect communication to prove that there is more interpretive space than binaries alone allow. The capacity for each participant to engage with a musical moment and/or with another participant depends on each participant's availability, and availability is determined by factors that range from the highly personal to the meta-social. The presented musical occasions provide interpretive room for multiple simultaneous communities of meaning-makers and performers' intentions are sent, received, and responded to in widely divergent ways. Music, alcohol, and indirection-particularly in combination demonstrate the affective potential of social criticism to alter musical meaning, but more than this they outline points of cultural intersection. Certainly, alcohol-affected musical environments are an expression of culture insofar as their patterns are learned, culturally affected, and can operate according to autonomous sets of relations. But ultimately this research proves that alcohol’s musical influence is simultaneously governed by highly individualized preferences, motivations and effects. Drinking is essentially a social act, but the fact that the act is performed in a recognized social context does not demand that all participants have an equal relationship towards it or a single view as to its capacities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10953
Item ID: 10953
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 311-331).
Department(s): Music, School of
Date: 2013
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Musicians, Cajun--Alcohol use; Musicians, Cajun--Attitudes; Acadians--Nova Scotia--Alcohol use; Drinking behavior; Deviant behavior.

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