Bluegrass in and around Toronto: urban scenes, regional imaginaries, and divergent trajectories

Finch, Mark (2016) Bluegrass in and around Toronto: urban scenes, regional imaginaries, and divergent trajectories. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Cultural scenes exist within a matrix of other cultural, economic, political, and geographic forces. They come to fruition through the lived trajectories, imagined constructs, and cultural practices/work of scene participants. Focusing on the bluegrass scene in Toronto, Ontario ca. 1955-1985, this thesis highlights the complexity of these intersections by tracing the contours of a growing music scene within a rapidly developing city. Appearing on the surface as a cohesive socio-cultural formation, interview and archival data reveals heterogeneity and fragmentation in Toronto’s bluegrass scene as participants contributed to adjacent scenes, exchanged conflicting values, and variously moved in and around the changing city. Indeed, the scene was marked by encounter between various social and demographic groups and included different fields of activity. Moreover, it was imbued with shifting conceptualizations of Toronto, often in relation to other regional imaginaries. Throughout this thesis I switch between several theoretical approaches/terms, with each lens illuminating different facets of the scene. Community enables an analysis of grassroots activity directed towards building knowledge around bluegrass while groupings reveals lines of fragmentation. Network draws attention to participant relationships and sites of encounter, highlighting the work of key scene-builders. As the scene grows, art world provides a more holistic view focused on the development of a robust professional infrastructure for bluegrass in the Toronto area and beyond. Meanwhile, assemblage theory blurs boundaries, presenting parallel scenes and divergent movements that intersected with, but also operated separate from the bluegrass scene. Situated within urban ethnomusicological research and drawing on microhistorical methods, this exploratory approach illustrates how individuals make sense of their city and their urban lives through cultural activity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 12549
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 269-278).
Keywords: Bluegrass, Urban scenes, Networks, Urban development, Regionalisms
Department(s): Music, School of
Date: January 2016
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Bluegrass music--Ontario--Toronto; City and town life--Ontario--Toronto; Place attachment--Ontario--Toronto; Toronto (Ont.)--History--20th century.

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