History on their Shoulders: Music and Nation-Building in Iceland
CANNADY, KIMBERLY D.
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Music making in Iceland has historically been considered a minor form of expressive culture. Compared with the academic and popular attention given to the nation's Viking-age settlement, epic medieval literature, and well-preserved language, music making in Iceland has been significantly understudied. One of the driving questions of this dissertation explores this striking imbalance and asks why local forms of music making in Iceland have been relatively neglected in both academic accounts and popular discourse. In answering this question I explore three related issues: post-colonialism, nationalism, and senses of history. In summary, this dissertation puts music making at the center of a series of case studies to show how Icelanders use music to assert who they are and how they aspire to be seen as a nation. This dissertation blends ethnographic writing and historical narrative, with both approaches grounded in the fieldwork I conducted in the Nordic region between 2008 and 2012. Iceland is the focus of this dissertation, while the larger North Atlantic and Nordic regions are also discussed. My aim with this multi-sited approach is to bring contemporary Iceland into a larger regional context. In the course of this research I conducted interviews and observations with musicians, music educators, government policy makers, record label owners and producers, local scholars, tourism industry workers, concert goers, as well as friends and acquaintances. Where appropriate, and when invited, I took on the position of participant-observer and joined in as a music maker throughout my fieldwork. Chapter One introduces the reader to key points in Iceland's historical development, and positions this study alongside three main issues, including national identity, post-colonialism, and senses of history. Following this, I provide a series of case studies that examine diverse forms of music making as documented during my fieldwork in the Nordic region. Together this material provides a critical engagement with historical and contemporary forms of music making in Iceland while also demonstrating the importance of past and present cultural entanglements across the North Atlantic.
- Music