Some of the material in is restricted to members of the community. By logging in, you may be able to gain additional access to certain collections or items. If you have questions about access or logging in, please use the form on the Contact Page.
This dissertation explores a Bakhtinian approach to genre and musical-social interaction, and the ways in which they serve the invention of various categories of identity, as evident in the milling frolic. The milling frolic is a social musical gathering where people celebrate their cultural heritage through the singing of a body of Scottish Gaelic songs, while reenacting a labor tradition. The genres consist of an ever-growing and ever-changing repertoire of songs that ebb and flow in a continuum of music that perpetually reinvents and rediscovers concepts of tradition. In music, genres provide a tangible connection among people and place through communication and interpretation. The cultural traditions, real and invented, emerge and are made evident through dialogic performance. Bakhtin observed that people communicate through genres—contextually defined and articulated expressions that negotiate perception and interaction. I further this notion in that, beyond a simple taxonomic classification of varying styles of music, genres constitute the communicative framework through which all musical-social distinction is made relevant. If language is one type of communicative social interaction, then Bakhtin's literary genre model can be applied to other social interactions in the same theoretical sense; specifically with music and other performative social situations, genre is a pragmatic link that brings together text and context, form and function, performer and audience—genre networks—in varying hierarchical dimensions of both communication through music and speech utterances about musical experience and reception. Essentially, genre makes all communication possible in the social dimension. In understanding the various ways in which Gaelic song genres are important for Cape Bretoners, a more fundamental understanding of Cape Breton Gaelic identity can be achieved. I use genre theory to articulate the social distinctions regarding the traditional music of Cape Breton as performed at the milling frolic, and within these hierarchies articulate the way in which genres allow people to identify with themselves, their environment, and each other. Such a framework will provide a fitting metaphor for the negotiation of Gaelic and Celtic identity in Cape Breton, through varying dimensions. Indeed, genre theory and social anthropology can be applied to many popular interdisciplinary concepts in the field of ethnomusicology, such as invented tradition, imagined communities, and the link between changing contexts and changing ideas about textual meaning.