The National Music Centre (NMC)’s collection of instruments and music memorabilia is extensive, but collecting and preserving isn’t only about physical objects. Good histories are constructed from multiple sources – including oral ones. The ATB Oral Histories Project records the stories of Alberta’s music innovators, and these interviews are just as much a part of NMC’s collection as guitars and pianos. In honour of the Calgary Stampede, explore some highlight clips from NMC’s oral history collection, with a focus on country music and Alberta.
The ATB Oral Histories Project collects, preserves, and shares Alberta’s music history by engaging, interviewing, and recording the voices of the people whose lives have been touched by music in Alberta. The interviews are conducted at Studio Bell and treated as collection artifacts in their own right.
Joyce Smith on passing music on to the next generation
Joyce Smith is one of Canada’s earliest female country stars, who began playing music at nine in her small town. In this clip, she talks about the importance of handing down a country music legacy to the next generation – much in the same spirit of NMC’s work to preserve Canada’s music history.
Rae Spoon on being from Alberta, country music, and identity
In this clip, musician, author and producer Rae Spoon talks about why they started playing music and reconnecting to their roots in Alberta. Being queer on the prairies can be difficult, but Rae is clear: they wanted to play country music, and they did.
Northern Cree on song, dance and tradition
Northern Cree is a powwow and Round Dance drumming and singing group based in Maskwacis, with most of its members from Saddle Lake Cree Nation. Steve Wood reminds the audience of the thousands of years before colonization and the creation of ‘Alberta’, and performs a song at Studio Bell.
Paul Brandt on making music and family support
From a pediatric nurse to the most awarded male country artist in Canada, in this clip Paul Brandt shows that being a country music star is also about family support. From his sisters listening to his first songs to his dad driving the Paul Brandt tour bus, making and playing music is never done completely solo.
As evidenced by just a sampling of NMC’s oral history archive, Canada’s music history and its preservation need to be comprehensive and include first-person stories and anecdotes from the artists themselves. It’s about how music got here, and where it’s going, and those stories are best told by the people who are a part of them. So the next time you go see a concert – maybe this year at Stampede – remember that listening is just as much an archival practice as writing or collecting. Someone might just want to interview you one day!