Lynn Whidden, ethnomusicologist

After a decade studying music, mostly ethnomusicology, at university I have taught and thought about Native music in Canada. I have always suspected that much more than we realize, our songs and music are products of our environment. My work with the music of Native Americans has confirmed this idea.

But it's only now that I have both the time and the courage to develop this thesis. I have begun by distinguishing song from music. At least for now, I define a song as an active oral expression, tending to be local. It is carried in one's head, available for singing when needed and usually sung without amplification. Music, until a better word is found, I define as a sound expression often stored and transmitted in print or by technological means and received passively by its auditors. Its origins and existence need not be local, and it requires only listening. Its essence is often obscured by a complex of sociocultural factors and extrabody sounds. It's packaged sound, just like packaged food, and there is lots of it, some would say too much.

These then are the main sonic genres in this study. They are the subject of my thesis that human song initially derives from, and fits into its niche in the aural environment. For now, I identify at least three habitats for song and music: the first is the outdoors; the second, built environments; and the third, the electronic environment. For habitat one we have considerable circumstantial and biological evidence. Colleague Paul Shore has developed an exciting history to show how the great western classics have their roots in Romanesque, Gothic (especially The Lady Chapels) architecture. As for habitat three, we are living it now and open to any reflections from our readers. No doubt that the electronic environment has transformed music.

A few of my publications in print:

2014      Songs of Our Fathers part 2: Zouaves, le verre à la main, et une jolie brune.  From Pierre-Esprit Radisson to Louis Riel: Voyageurs and Métis Colloquium.  Winnipeg: college universitaire de Saint-Boniface. September.

2011      BUNTEP, Both Teaching and Learning. Canadian Polar Commission Journal. April.

2009      History of a Hymn. Papers of the Rupert’s Land Colloquium, Rocky Mountain House.

2008      From Muskoday to Awacanee Pesheekey: A Sonic History of Gabriel Dumont’s Time (1837 to 1906). Proceedings for Gabriel Dumont: Métis History and Identity. College universitaire de Saint-Boniface, Winnipeg  Also was chair of Session X, Establishing Pro/Creative Links.

2007      Kodaly’s Legacy in the Service of Dakota Song.  Alla Breve. Kodaly Society of Canada. Vol. 31 number 2, June, 2007.

2007      Book with CD, Essential Song: Three Decades of Northern Cree Music, published  by Wilfred Laurier University Press.  (This book shows the fundamental place of song in subarctic hunting life in the provinces of Manitoba and Québec.  52 audio recordings of songs included.)

A few of my publications in sound:

2016         Aboriginal Music for School: Out Your Best Voice Forward. Brandon University Aboriginal Education class, September.

2016         14th Montreal Baroque Festival. Lynn Whidden sheds light on the songs of the Metis, a little-known gem of Canadian musical culture. Chapelle Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Montreal.     

2016          A Sonic History of Gabriel Dumont's Lifetime 1836 to 1907. A Wild Studio: excursions in art, sound, performance & interpretation, Riding Mountain National Park, May.

2015         Cree Hunting Songs as Cultural Archaeology. 47th Algonquian Conference.Winnipeg, Manitoba, October.

1. Four Music Videos: The Tuning Fire (Dene); Aullaarumannarmat (Inuit); Do You Hear That? (Dakota) and the Dancing Ducks (Ojibwe).

2. A history in sound of Gabriel Dumont's life on the northern plains from 1837 to 1906. This multilayered sound piece traces natural and social changes as the context for song change.

3. Three Generations of Inuit Music from Arviat, Nunavut. (1975)