Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Briefly explain these four unusual terms:

  • Navvy (not ‘navy’): they are people or workers that work under the railway in poor working conditions
  • Muskeg:  A muskeg is a swamp formed by an accumulation of moss or leaves.
  • St. Lawrence: St. Lawrence is a North American river that flows into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and North Atlantic
  • Gaspe: It is a city of eastern Quebec, Canada.


1. Describe why and when Lightfoot composed this song?

Lightfoot composed this song in 1967 to describe “the efforts and sorrows of the nameless and forgotten navies whose manual labour actually built the railway.” (Wikipedia)


2. Explain what this song celebrates?

This song celebrates the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway.


3. Describe the form (structure) of the song.

The form of the music is very catchy because the music and lyrics are very simple and repetitive , it can be very easy for the listeners to remember and in a very traditional fashion.  In the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, it starts out fast and strong, then it becomes slower and then it gradually becomes loud again.

4. The use of acoustic instruments is typical to Lightfoot’s songs. Describe the instrumentation. Explain why you think he has chosen this combination.

In Canadian Railroad Trilogy, acoustic instruments such as 12 string, the lead acoustic guitar, fender bass and the harmonica are used to create different effects. In my opinion, the reason why he chose this combination is that these instruments are a part of traditional of Canadian culture and since his song is about his experience in Canada, this combination of instruments would make sense.


5. Identify the region(s) of Canada that this song celebrates.

This song celebrates creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway.


6. Analyse what makes this a successful example of a Canadian folk song.

This song is a successful example of Canadian folk song because it reflects on the lives of many Canadian people (railway workers) . Another reason why the song is famous perhaps is because the combination of Gordon Lightfoot’s voice and the background music sounds very pleasing.


7. Explain why Canadians could have a personal connection with this song.

Canadians could have a personal connection with this song because talks about the life of a railway worker and some of the Canadians grew up with this piece of music


8. Do you think people living in the west would have a stronger personal connection than the people living in the east? Argue your point.

No, since the railway was originally built between eastern Canada, people there would have a better connection since it was the place that this grand accomplishment first took place. This means that people from eastern Canada will actually see the whole development of the railway which is something to be proud of.

“Lukey” by Great Big Sea

1. Briefly define these unusual terms:
Cuddy: a small boat
Fore: arranged at or toward the front, as contrasted with something else.
Chinked: to fill up
Grub: a dull person
Sheet: (it’s a sailing term) as on sail or boat

2. Do you think “A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!” is supposed to mean anything or is it a nonsense phrase?  Argue your point.

This phrase means that “Ah ha, my boys sing a riddle a day”. It was created to make the song more lively and catchy so the audience would sing with them.

Use the links below to gather more information about the song:

This song is about a man who comes from Lunenburg named Lukey. He has a beautifully painted green boat and there is a very fine room in the front of the boat. After returning home, Lukey discovered that his wife was dead and but  he acts unconcerned and says he’ll get another in the spring of the year. The song tells the audience the story of Lukey when he is out at sea. The song also expresses that Lukey is really proud of his boat. This song is really catchy as it has a repeating verse throughout the song. The singer repeats the phrase “A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day” at the end of each verse. The song has the same melody throughout the whole song that makes the audience easier to remember the song.

6. The instrumentation in this piece is quite common in Eastern Canadian folk songs.  Identify each instrument in the live video performance.

Instruments like the harp, , violin, drum,  guitar, piano accordion, flute, tin whistle are used in this song .

7. Identify which region of Canada this song celebrates?

This song comes from the east coast of Canada and that is where this song celebrates.

8. Analyse why this might be a good example of a Canadian folk song.

Folk songs usually talk about the life of people, this piece of music reflects on the life of sailors in Newfoundland during the time when this song was made.

9. Do you think Canadians would have a personal connection with this song?  Argue.

I think that Canadians would have a personal connection with this song because it is originated from Canada and may people were sailors at the time the song was made. Therefore, they can related to the song.

10. Do you think people living in the east would have a stronger personal connection than people living in the west?  Argue.

I think that people living in the east would have a stronger personal connection than people living in the west as this song comes from the east coasted and people who live there grew up with the song.

Inuit Throat Singing

What is an Inuit

The people of the Canadian Arctic are known as the Inuit. They used to be called Eskimos, which originated from a Native American word for ‘eater of raw meat’. Presently the Arctican are authoritatively known as the Inuit, which means ‘the people’, or Inuk.

b) What is Throat Singing?

Inuit throat singing is a form of musical performance found among the Inuit. A mixture of husky chanting and low growling, throat singing is a competition in which the first person to laugh, stop, or run out of breath loses. 

c) What aspects of Throat Singing do you find interesting or important?

I found the way throat singing is vocalise interesting and surprising. I found low growling sounds really comfortable to listen. I always think that the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising! It is really important to keep this tradition because this guttural style of singing or chanting, is one of the world’s oldest forms of music.

d) Can you think of any other musical events that are framed as competitions?

Rap battles, a cappella, etc Singing contests are everywhere to be seen. 

4. How does the practice and performance of throat singing differ from Western music performance? Are there any ways in which they are similar? (Consider what the word ‘performance’ means in different cultural contexts…….)

Unlike Western music performance, the throat singing uses throat, not mouth to sing (or make noises) that they are mostly rhythmic patterns when the Western music performances have melodies and actually telling us words. The one thing that they have in common is that both style are telling the audience the own unique story behind the song, culture, and history as they sing.


The two of them used their throat to make a melody. One of them sing in a higher pitch and the other in a lower which created melody.


The intuit have harmonies through making sounds rhythmically


those people seem to compete each other but as they sing it together, it sounds like a piece of music.


the inuit throat singing is based on rhythm that 2 people continue making a particular rhythm


both people has same tempo that they sing in same tempo and it sounds like a piece of music.


there isn’t dynamics in the inuit throat singing that from the beginning to the end, the volume is the same and they just continue making sound with the same tone


the form and structure of inuit throat singing is similar to structure of bass, especially ydrums, that they just repeat same rhythm with some melodies


:Instead of using instruments, people make sound of instrument like a cappella but inuit throat singing is about


Timbre is describing the sound of music that the timbre of inuit throat singing is sometimes sound like an instrument, sometimes animal, and mostly they don’t sound like a person singing

Introduction to Folk Music

What does folk music attempt to express?

Folk music is an art that people tried to express their feelings, interests and thoughts. Folk music also attempt to express “the character of ethnic and social groups and sometimes a nation”. It is the music of the people. A folk song can “express political or religious beliefs, tell a story or describe history, or just provide amusement”. Bohlman (1988) had talked about folk music’s ability to “express the most profound of human values”.

How were folk songs traditionally learned?

Folk songs are learnt by listening to others playing it and then copy them instead of reading the notes. They were passed down by generations to generations and from people to people. It is said that say it is a tradition that folk song is “orally transmitted” or “handed down orally”, meaning that the music is not written down but taught by speaking.

In what ways did folk music evolve?

Folk music changes over time by accident or by purposeful alternation. The words or melodies often changes. Sometimes tunes are shortened or lengthened, pitches and rhythms are altered, and portions of one song may be combined with part of another. Words of a song may also change over time due to the reality that everyone has a different voice and have different speaking tones or intonation. 

What would cause folk songs to evolve over a period of time?

Since the people are taught by listening to the song, they don’t know how to read music nor write music. Also everyone has a different voice and different intonation. In the past, the person who taught those folk song might not be able to recognise or sing out the song every time with the exact same rhythm and melody. The one who is listening might learn from a new style or creating their own, therefore it is not reliable. 

List the various classifications of folk songs. Explain each type and give examples of what those 

songs would be about. 

 The ballad

-tells a story often about real events

-one of the main types of folk song

-in strophic form

-melody is repeated for each of several verses

-may have a refrain that is repeated several times. 

deal with a particular activity, occupation, or set of circumstances

includes work songs, prison songs, war songs, and the like

spiritual songs, songs for children, songs about life’s stages, and many songs are just for celebration, dance, and enjoyment.

So……….what IS folk music?

Folk music is a type of music that originates in traditional culture and it is written in such a style. It reflects the lifestyle and thoughts of people in the past. It is taught by the other generations to the younger one by singing it to them and then the younger one repeat them. 

Find a You Tube link of what you believe is a great example of folk music.  It can represent any culture, but you must know which culture is comes from.  You need to support your choice.  You will play a portion of this video during next class and explain your choice.  

Blowin’ in the Wind” is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962. Although it has been described as a protest song, it poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war and freedom. The refrain “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” has been described as “impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind”