Sounds of Home: Exploring Local Music Collections and Collecting in Canada

Local music reflects artistic and social developments, informs local histories, and often represents the diverse voices of our communities. Through the creation of documentary evidence in the form of sound recordings, printed ephemera, and other forms of material culture, local music acts as a representation of the ideas and cultural norms of the communities in which it is created and provides us with glimpses into culture at specific moments in history. For collectors, local music is meaningful because it often holds significance within several different communities, including evidence of historical events, development of musical practices, documentation technologies, and cultural artefacts. The significance of local music provides evidence of “the importance of locality, and local structures of feeling, in revealing the significance of musical life - and the connectedness of music to other aspects of local history, heritage and culture” (Bennett, 2015, p. 24). The idea of the “connectedness of music” makes it a unique and rich source of information.

This project explores the connection between music and place as it relates to the practices of local music collectors and collecting in memory institutions (e.g., libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centres). We define music as “local” when it demonstrates a connection–through a person, organization, or topic–to a delimited geographic region. This work also builds on the idea that local music itself contributes to a broader understanding of music in Canada and by extension the Canadian identity. Public-facing organizations have an important role to play in the preservation of and access to local music. As such, this research focuses on understanding how collectors in memory institutions choose to define, find, share, and preserve local music for future generations. By studying those who collect local music in memory institutions, our research presents contributes to the knowledge of how local music is defined in practice. In a world where a major issue is how the local relates to the national, the transnational, and the global, enhanced access to a diverse variety of local music collections will be of great value across a wide range of cultural, media, and historical studies. 

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.