In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Canada

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies and Archives
  • Journals
  • Musical Instrument Making
  • Sound Recording
  • Cultural Politics
  • Soundscape Studies

Music Canada
Mary I. Ingraham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 January 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0168


The earliest documented musical encounters between indigenous peoples of what is now known as Canada and early European explorers date from the early 1500s. Permanent settlements were not established until the early 17th century, first by the French and then ceded to the British in 1783 following the Treaty of Paris. Settlements known as Upper and Lower Canada remained under British rule until they were joined as the Province of Canada in 1841 and, with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1867, formed the federal Dominion of Canada. Other provinces and territories joined in the years following confederation, and Canada now includes ten provinces and three territories, each possessing unique indigenous and settlement histories that are often reflected in musical scholarship. Music in Canada has developed within a unique social and political environment and been influenced by many cultures including those of indigenous peoples, English, French, and numerous other immigrant communities. This diversity is reflected in distinct communities of cultural practice in Canada as well as in often-complex expressions of intercultural encounters. The majority of historical scholarship on music in Canada has focused on English and French traditions, documenting early settlement practices coincident with the evolution of the nation. In recent years, increasing interest by and in communities of indigenous and immigrant cultures has resulted in an explosion of critical scholarship in music of all genres and styles across disciplinary and methodological interests, all of which now contributes to a diverse and vibrant body of work reflecting Canada’s multicultural society. Music in Canada thus is not defined by any one group or culture but by the integration of many voices into the musical landscape. By considering music in Canada (rather than referring to a national music or Canadian music) scholars are empowered to address the breadth of activities of creators, performers, producers, and audiences who contribute to music in Canada. The purpose of this bibliography is to encourage such a broad reading of culture in Canada and to contextualize and develop critical understanding of its complexity. While not comprehensive, entries chosen attempt to provide an overview of the practices and issues around music in Canada, nationally and regionally, and across a broad spectrum of indigenous and immigrant cultures and repertoires that include art, folk and traditional, indigenous, and popular genres and styles. It is anticipated that many of the authors and works cited will direct readers to additional resources.

General Overviews

Doing justice to Canada’s multicultural society and across multiple genres and styles of music is not possible in a single volume. Apart from encyclopedia entries, early national perspectives on music in Canada generally limited their consideration of music-making across the country by their exclusion of voices outside the European art music tradition. More recent scholarship, however, is contributing directed and diverse studies to the conversation of music in Canada. The works cited here include histories of specific art forms as well as others that introduce additional perspectives and histories for studying music in Canada; in addition to the entry on Canada (Morey, et al. 2001) in Grove Music Online noted in this section, encyclopedia resources that offer comprehensive overviews in specific areas appear in Reference Works. Kallmann 1987 remains a central text in music in Canada for its description of musical society and events from Jacques Cartier’s arrival in the New World in the 1500s up to the First World War. Ford 1982 and McGee 1985 enhance and respond to Kallmann’s work, extending the historical discussion into the middle of the 20th century and providing new perspectives on the role of composers and musicians in society, although also largely concentrating on art, folk, and traditional music (see Diamond 1995, cited under History and Criticism: Art Music, for a comparison of these texts). Gallat-Morin and Pinson 2003 focuses more specifically on providing comprehensive histories of music in New France from early settlement up to the arrival of the British in the 1760s and thus fills a void in coverage from other, largely English histories. Whereas Vance 2009 is largely concerned with culture and society in Canada as a whole, this text contextualizes music and music-making (and offers several specific examples) more generally. Keillor 2006 offers the most comprehensive overview of music in Canada to date as it includes music from indigenous, folk, popular, and art music communities. A focused narrative on popular music in Canada is found in Edwardson 2009. Diamond and Witmer 1994 includes chapters pointing to the unique multi- and interdisciplinary requirements of studying music and music-making in Canada in general.

  • Diamond, Beverley, and Robert Witmer, eds. Canadian Music: Issues of Hegemony and Identity. Toronto: Canadian Scholars, 1994.

    Includes twenty-nine chapters that discuss various approaches to the study of music in Canada from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. Chapters are organized from general to specific and include issues surrounding institutions, nationalism, ethnocultural communities, and individuals. Incisive introductory essays link these broad sections and include suggestions for further reading.

  • Edwardson, Ryan. Canuck Rock: A History of Canadian Popular Music. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

    A chronological study of popular music and the music industry in Canada from the emergence of rock and roll in Canada in the 1950s. Sources of research include general newspapers and magazines, trade journals, and government documents that have impacted the cultural industry as well as other forms of media. Discusses relationships between musicians and media.

  • Ford, Clifford. Canada’s Music: An Historical Survey. Agincourt, ON: GLC, 1982.

    Following Kallmann 1987 (originally published 1969), adopts a sociological approach, placing music and musicians within a social framework to consider more broadly the role of music education, economics, cultural politics, and media. Organized chronologically, enabling the author to consider the development and relationships of these roles to music and musicians in Canada.

  • Gallat-Morin, Élisabeth, and Jean-Pierre Pinson. La vie musicale en nouvelle-France. Sillery, QC: Les Éditions du Septentrion, 2003.

    An insightful look at French culture, 1500 to 1760. Archival, journal, and community documents were sourced for this extensive text. Descriptions of institutions, individuals, and practices are included and materials are organized thematically within two sections: religious music and music in society. Indigenous peoples in religious contexts and folk music included.

  • Kallmann, Helmut. A History of Music in Canada, 1534–1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

    Originally printed in 1969, Kallmann provides a narrative history of music and music-making in Canada since early European contact. Kallmann identifies aspects of the cultural heritage of early European settlers and describes their music-making activities. Includes some references to folk and traditional music of French and English settlers.

  • Keillor, Elaine. Music in Canada: Capturing Landscape and Diversity. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.

    Keillor embraces music, music-making and musicians of many genres and styles, including First Peoples and settler experiences and cultures, and considers their relationships in society and in performance. Music is categorized as either “refined” or “popular.” Brief vignettes of selected musical experiences and musicians in particular locales appear throughout.

  • McGee, Timothy J. The Music of Canada. New York: Norton, 1985.

    A general history of English and French music in Canada since the arrival of the British. Contextualizes art, folk and traditional, and jazz music and musicians in Canada within the contemporary social and political landscape, reproduces twelve musical scores written by Canadian composers, and includes an appendix of readings, recordings, and films for classroom use.

  • Morey, Carl, Gordon E. Smith, Elaine Keillor, et al. “Canada.” In Grove Music Online. 2001.

    Now hosted by Oxford Music Online, Grove Music Online is an important resource for research on music of all genres. The subject entry on Canada provides a thorough overview of art, traditional and popular music in Canada. Includes extensive reference lists and cross-referencing. Available online by subscription. Updated and revised in July 2014.

  • Vance, Jonathan. A History of Canadian Culture. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    Incorporates a range of cultural activities from indigenous and settler-immigrant cultures into a chronological narrative describing the social and political history of culture from early European contact to the present day. Reveals the impact of settlement on indigenous cultures and the influence of societies and politics on creative production.

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