Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Giveaway: Canuck Rock.

Last week I told you about a new book that I really enjoyed and learned a great deal from: Ryan Edwardson's Canuck Rock: A History of Canadian Popular Music. Now I've got a few copies of the book to give away! Details and a Q & A below, plus download songs by some of Ryan's favourite Canadian artists.

The book deals with rock 'n' roll, folk, and other popular (read: commercially successful) forms of music in Canada from the 1950s to the present day. Although fairly broad in scope, the book is mostly interested in exploring the development of a domestic Canadian music industry and ruminating on the relationship between national identity and popular music. The first few chapters make clear that though there was lots of popular music being performed in this country, musicians were rarely able to make a career out of doing so unless they moved, recorded, and signed a record deal elsewhere, usually the United States. The Canadian content rules for radio implemented in the early 1970s allowed for the creation of a domestic music industry. In its heyday, MuchMusic played an important role, too. The last 20 years have seen serious challenges to Cancon, and— ironically—the success of that legislation has meant that it no longer functions as it once did: to support new and emerging Canadian artists, labels, and recording studios. The book ends by discussing the impact of the internet and how much the domestic industry is embedded in the international music marketplace. See my original review for more.

I went to the book launch at Soundscapes last Tuesday, where there was a fascinating discussion about the history and current state of the music industry in this country between Edwardson, Canadian music heavy-hitter Bernie Finkelstein, and music journalist and historian Nicholas Jennings. There were some good questions from audience members afterward, which inspired me to ask a few of my own questions of Ryan the next day:

Jen: In your remarks at the book launch, you said that there was very little writing on the history of Canadian music outside Nicholas Jennings’s Before the Gold Rush and some magazine articles. What is it like researching and writing about the history of popular music?

Ryan: Well, in the case of Canada, for better or worse it meant working largely with a blank slate, and as such I let the research material guide me through it rather than coming in strongly with a set idea of how things should be written. I had encountered a bunch of anecdotal accounts, and some journalistic decrees of essentialism in describing music in Canada, and just knew that there had to be something more substantial. So, I gathered up as much material from whatever sources I could—print, archival, interview, etc.—and let that inform me and in turn provide the foundation for the book. Consequently, the book approaches the topic from a number of angles, including the experiences of musicians, broadcasters, Canadian content legislation, and fans themselves. One can't simply talk about "musicians in Canada" when it comes to understanding the evolution of "Canadian music."

Jen: One of your main arguments is that the Canadian content rules for radio allowed for—and forced the—creation of a domestic music industry. Well now we've certainly got one, even if it’s highly integrated into the international marketplace. Is Cancon still relevant today?

Ryan: That of course is the big question that continues to divide the industry. It’s all the more complicated by the proliferation of the Internet and MP3 technologies that offer alternatives to traditional broadcasters. Yet these technologies have not made Cancon obsolete; if anything, they play off of each other. Rather, it is the abundance of internationally-acclaimed, multinationally-backed acts of Canadian citizenship being used to fill the Cancon quota (and whose music is bound to be aired anyways) that have complicated the situation. The original idea behind Cancon is still sound—providing opportunities for citizens of a country to access their publicly owned airwaves—but the challenges being faced by emerging artists, composers, recording studios, etc. have evolved and significant barriers still exist.

Jen: Your book is written in a way that makes it accessible to a broad audience. Was this a deliberate choice? Why?

Ryan: Most definitely. After all, if your goal is to share ideas with people, what’s the use of jargon-filled writing that can only be read by a select few? This is especially true when it does not have to be written as such, and all the more so when it comes to popular music, a topic with a massive audience outside of the academic world.

Jen: The book jacket says you’re a music fan. Do you follow current artists? Who are your favourites these days?

Ryan: Hmmm. Although the likes of Joel Plaskett and the Weakerthans ride high on my playlist, among the lesser known (and more recent) acts that deserve much more attention, I think, are Old Man Luedecke, NQ Arbuckle, and Elliott Brood. There’s definitely some amazing talent out there, and so much of it is available to be seen at smaller venues where you can actually hear the music coming from the instruments rather than just what the P.A. system has to offer.

Want to know more? (I hope you do!) To win a copy of the book, email me your name and mailing address. Put "Canuck Rock" in the subject line of your message, and get your entry to me by Sunday, 4 Oct, at 11:59pm. I'll let you know on Monday if you're a winner, and you should get your book soon thereafter! If you don't win a copy you can pick one up at bookstores and places like Soundscapes ($21.99) or order it online.

And now for some music from Ryan's favourites (we have similar taste in music, seems like) . . . .

Download: Joel Plaskett, "Safe In Your Arms" (Three, 2009).
Download: The Weakerthans, "Sun In An Empty Room" (Reunion Tour, 2007).
Download: Old Man Luedecke, "Proof of Love" (Proof of Love, 2008).
Download: NQ Arbuckle, "I Liked You Right From The Start" (X O K, 2008).
Download: Elliott Brood, "Write It All Down for You" (Mountain Meadows, 2008).

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