I am pleased to welcome another guest blogger, Stian Vestby of Hedmark University College, whose work certainly reaches into the global part of the CPM mission. — G. Reish
Having worked at MTSU and the Center for Popular Music as an exchange scholar for nearly two months this spring, it is with great delight and appreciation that I write this guest entry for the CPM Director’s Blog. In my ongoing PhD project, I investigate the stylistic diversity and audience reception of country music in the context of a Norwegian music festival named Norsk Countrytreff (NCT). As the different musics represented at this rural festival share a deep connection to the American South, it made sense for me to study country, bluegrass, rockabilly, honky-tonk, etc. in Tennessee during the course of my doctoral research. The exchange agreement between MTSU and my Norwegian institution, Hedmark University College (HUC), provided a formal framework for my stay; the deep insights and helpful efforts of my faculty sponsor, MTSU historian Dr. Kristine McCusker, and the entire staff at the CPM have contributed greatly to my understanding of country’s many musical forms.
In this essay I briefly describe some historical and contemporary aspects of the Norwegian country scene. In doing so, I hope to shed light on global country music culture, and specifically how this music is articulated and rendered meaningful by a few selected artists and cultural agents.
In the decades following World War II, American country and Western music quickly became popular in Norway. Stars such as Buck Owens, Bobby Bare, and Loretta Lynn performed live concerts and sold many records across the country. Norwegian solo artists and bands appeared in rural areas creating their own localized forms of Norwegian country and dance band music. Some musicians also formed creative country music collectives in major cities such as Oslo and Bergen. Yet despite the continued, widespread popularity of certain artists, Norwegian country music and fans have had to bear with long-lasting cultural stigmatization similar to what equivalent music communities have faced in the United States. Some of these overlapping stigmata relate to country music’s alleged poor aesthetic and ideological values—including its (at times) conservative orientation and moralistic content—and to its ill treatment and negligence in various media.
As anti-country sentiments have not disappeared entirely, increased omnivorous taste across age groups, genders, and social classes may have contributed to the growing appreciation of country music in Norway in recent years. And if this is the case, the many young emerging talents on the contemporary Norwegian country scene are likely part of that development. Today, new generations of fans and listeners [Read more…]