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Ursula A. Kelly (CA)

Music of Our Burnished Axes, The: Songs and stories of the wood workers of Newfoundland and Labrador

Music of Our Burnished Axes, The: Songs and stories of the wood workers of Newfoundland and Labrador

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While well-known songs such as “The Badger Drive” and “Tickle Cove Pond” provide glimpses into the hard labour and rich culture of woods work in early twentieth-century Newfoundland and Labrador, little has been written about the lives of woods workers and the extent of their enduring cultural legacies. Songs, stories, recitations, poems, and instrumental tunes flourished in the woods camps. Many of them were created locally and reflect the people and experiences of woods work. Passed down by oral tradition in bunkhouses and at work sites, in family kitchens and at community concerts, these songs and stories address a gap in our understanding of this occupational culture and its history. This book is the first comprehensive collection of musical compositions, recitations, poems, and narratives written by, for, and about twentieth-century woods workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. It analyzes their significance—as both grassroots social history texts and creative and musical contributions—and creates a portrait of a culture shaped by the harvesting of timber. Inside you will find: a history of lumbering and logging; an exploration of the place of song and story in woods work and culture; musical transcriptions of 76 locally composed songs and tunes, with analysis of this musical tradition; complete song lyrics with contextual discussion; more than 70 archival photos; and a glossary of occupational words.

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Memorial Univ. Press


Ursula A. Kelly is a John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. Her research is interdisciplinary and within the areas of cultural studies and critical education.

Ursula A. Kelly is a professor in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University. She is the author of several books and essays. Most recently, she wrote and produced Mentioned in Song (MMaP), the first recording of the original songs and recitations of early woods workers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Meghan C. Forsyth is an ethnomusicologist specializing in instrumental music and dance traditions of the Acadian diaspora. She is project coordinator of the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place (MMaP) and director of the Bruneau Centre for Excellence in Choral Music at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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