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Widening the margins of public policy

The Policy Speakers Series featured Marlene Brant Castellano on her experiences advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Marlene Brant Castellano shares her experience advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada with the Queen's community.
Marlene Brant Castellano is the co-chair of the Queen’s Aboriginal Council and a well-respected scholar who provided leadership in the emergence of Indigenous Studies as an academic discipline. (Photo: University Communications)

The latest Policy Speakers Series lecture focused on an important conversation for Canada: How do servants of the public good listen to and account for the marginalized in society?

Marlene Brant Castellano, Professor Emerita and former Chair of Indigenous Studies at Trent University, delivered a lecture that highlighted her experience with the long history of institutional suppression of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and the role that universities can play in bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of public policy.

“How do we reach out across an apparent cultural divide? How do we learn to trust those who would wish to be allies?” asks Dr. Castellano at the beginning of her lecture. “The visceral responses to threat is fight or flight, but there is also a third possibility: strategic engagement.”

Dr. Castellano is the co-chair of the Queen’s Aboriginal Council and a well-respected scholar who provided leadership in the emergence of Indigenous Studies as an academic discipline. As Co-Director of Research with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) from 1992 to 1996, she laid the groundwork for ethical research of Indigenous people. The overarching mandate of RCAP was to investigate the relationship of Indigenous peoples, the Canadian government, and Canadian society as a whole, and to propose specific solutions to problems faced by Indigenous communities.

“The principals of a renewed relationship, articulated in the final volume of RCAP, were very deliberately framed to connect with values espoused by Aboriginal peoples, and by Canadians: mutual recognition, mutual respect, sharing, and mutual responsibility,” says Dr. Castellano. “The RCAP body of work was a beautiful example of carefully researched, thoughtfully argued, values-sensitive advocacy for acknowledging the presence and dignity of Aboriginal peoples in the Canadian federation.”

But for nearly 20 years, the RCAP report was largely inaccessible due to poor archival practices, expensive digital copy charges, and a lack of interest by the then Minister of Indian Affairs to share the report findings. Recently, the enormous information legacy that RCAP had sought to preserve came back to public view with a new life by Library and Archives Canada, following the release of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. It is now considered the first resource to build on to create a policy framework to recognize and implement Indigenous rights.

Dr. Castellano and Emma Esselink, the Masters of Public Administration student host for the event, delve deeper into the topic with a Q&A after the lecture.
Dr. Castellano and Emma Esselink, the Master of Public Administration student host for the event, delve deeper into the topic with a Q&A after the lecture. (Photo: University Communications)

“For the past 50 years, my work has been advocacy – giving voice on issues in forums where Indigenous peoples have no audible voice,” says Dr. Castellano. “My great reward is having strangers approach me with thanks for what I’ve written and spoken about, saying that they knew it, but couldn’t speak on it as I did. Having knowledge is a sacred gift. Sharing it is a sacred responsibility. When truth is uncovered and given breath, carried by your wind spirit, it touches and transforms peoples’ agency – the capacity to make things happen in their own lives and environment.”

The winter lecture series continues until the end of March. The next lecture is ‘Considering Canada’s Renewed Relationship With Indigenous Peoples Through the Rights-based Lens of Inuit Self-determination’ on Tuesday, March 6, presented by Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as part of the 2018 Tom Courchene Distinguished Speaker Series.

For more information about the rest of the winter term lineup, see the Policy Speakers Series website.

Nobel Prize winner to speak on Einstein, black holes, and gravitational waves

Queen’s public lecture series hosts Nobel laureate to discuss the complex mysteries of the universe.

Illustration of a black hole (Credit: NSF LIGO Sonoma State University)
Illustration of a black hole (Credit: NSF LIGO Sonoma State University)

On Monday, March 5, the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC) and the Queen’s Department of Physics will host Barry Barish, co-winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics, for a talk entitled Einstein, Black Holes, and Gravitational Waves. It will mark the first instalment of the new George & Maureen Ewan Public Lecture Series – a program designed to bring world-class speakers to Queen's to discuss their research with students, faculty, and the broader Kingston community.

Dr. Barish, professor emeritus of physics at the California Institute of Technology, was recognized by the Nobel Committee for his decisive contributions to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and the observation of gravitational waves – disturbances in the fabric of space-time first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916.

“We’re very excited to host Dr. Barish as the inaugural guest speaker of the George & Maureen Ewan Public Lecture Series,” says Tony Noble, Scientific Director, CPARC. “It will be wonderful to have another Nobel laureate in physics speaking on campus as it further compliments all of the incredible work in astro- and particle physics taking place at Queen's and with our research partners across the country.”

Queen’s Professor Emeritus Art McDonald was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015 for the discovery that neutrinos – subatomic particles so tiny they are even difficult to detect – have mass.

Dr. Barish will be sharing the story of how gravitational waves were first theorized and about how a team decided to put the theory to the test by building the LIGO detector. He will also discuss the major academic strides that have been made since observing them, and what the future may hold for this area of study – and, more importantly, what it all means for our understanding of the universe.

“It took decades of study and literally thousands of scientists working together before gravitational waves were observed and became more than just a grand idea,” says Nathalie Ouellette, Education and Outreach Officer, CPARC. “Dr. Barish has been a crucial part of this historic effort and his contributions have helped turn the study of gravitational waves into one of the most cutting-edge fields in the physics world. His talk will be a really unique opportunity for the people of Kingston to hear from one of the field's leading minds.”

The George & Maureen Ewan Public Lecture Series is made possible by a donation of $100,000 by Queen's Professor Emeritus George Ewan and his wife, Maureen. Dr. Ewan, along with an international team of colleagues, founded the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), a subterranean neutrino observation facility located in a Sudbury, Ontario nickel mine. This facility enabled Dr. McDonald's Nobel-winning neutrino research, a years-long experiment conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ewan and other leading scientists.

With his work recognized at the highest level, the 90-year-old Dr. Ewan now pushes ahead with the goal of influencing the next generation of scientists at Queen’s.

“It is vital that we scientists make our work accessible to the general public,” said Dr. Ewan when the lecture series was first announced. “My dream is to have them come to Queen’s to give lectures on the state of their experiments and especially about their results, and to do it in a way that people without PhDs can understand.”

Attendees on March 5 will have a chance to ask questions of Dr. Barish following his lecture. Doors at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts will open at 6:30 p.m. and the talk will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are free and attendees are encouraged to register in advance.

Branching out into Indigenous research

Alyssa Aiello (ArtsSci’18) participated in the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship program
Alyssa Aiello (Artsci’18) took the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship program as an opportunity to research in a new subject area and expand her geography education.

Alyssa Aiello (Artsci’18) wanted to find a research-based summer job during her second year of her Bachelor of Arts in Geography through the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s. She learned about the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship (USSRF) through one of her professors.

“At first I never thought it was something I could do until my third or fourth year,” says. Ms. Aiello. “Dr. Castleden introduced me to the program, and she had faith in me, so I had faith in myself – so I applied!”

Heather Castleden (Geography and Planning, Public Health Sciences) is the director of the Health, Environment and Communities Research Lab (HEC Lab), a research group co-located between Queen’s University and Dalhousie University. The HEC Lab researches social, environmental, and health equity issues using community-based participatory research. The Lab’s focus on Indigenous issues was of interest to Ms. Aiello, and seemed to be a perfect fit for her independent research project.

“The USSRF program is a great opportunity for intellectually keen undergraduate students; it builds their research skills with hands-on practice in an environment of mentorship, it allows them to earn a line of their academic CV in the category of scholarships - which will help them stand out in future scholarship competitions when they enter grad school, and it allows them to do paid work in an environment that aligns with their academic interests,” says Dr. Castleden. “The USSRF program is also a great opportunity for faculty. We get to bring bright and enthusiastic undergraduate trainees into our labs to help us with our research endeavours.”

Ms. Aiello worked in the HEC Lab, and created a research project focused on the ways Indigenous leaders were portrayed in national news media on renewable energy in 2016.

“I wanted to see how Indigenous leaders were being portrayed in the media to understand the conversation happening in the general public, and how that influences further development and policy,” says Ms. Aiello. “I chose to study news coverage in 2016 because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report was released in 2015. I wanted to use that as a benchmark to see how they were portrayed post-report.”

Ms. Aiello analyzed four national news organizations: CBC, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), The National Post, and the Globe and Mail. She created a comparative media content analysis of their coverage of Indigenous leaders discussing renewable energy projects, policies, and budgets. She found that across all news sources, Canadian national news media portrayed Indigenous leadership in three primary roles; as protestors, partners, and participants. The Indigenous news source also portrayed Indigenous leaders as demonstrating stewardship, action-oriented involvement, and community-based in nature.

“This research can be a starting point for the HEC Lab. We brainstormed that it could go on to be a ten-year study, to see how the conversation around Indigenous voices in renewable energy is shaped, and how that could impact decisions over time," says Ms. Aiello.

In the fall after her fellowship, Ms. Aiello attended the Canadian Association of Geographers – Ontario Division (CAGONT) Conference in Kingston and presented her findings as a poster. She won the CAGONT Best Student Poster Award and enjoyed the opportunity to meet peers in her field, and present her findings to her local community.

“Being able to branch out into a new subject, research my own project, and get paid was very beneficial. Having the opportunity to conduct research in my undergrad, without the risk of grade-based consequences, made the process a lot less stressful,” says Ms. Aiello.

To learn more about the USSRF, visit the Queen’s University Research Services website. The application deadline for the 2018 summer program is March 9, 2018.

Unprecedented grant awarded to Queen’s Art Conservation

Prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funding for Queen’s Master of Art Conservation program increases focus on Indigenous material culture.

The internationally-recognized Master of Art Conservation program at Queen’s has received a grant of $632,000 over five years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop conservation research and online courses with a focus on Indigenous material culture.

Specifically, the new funding will help initiate and implement comprehensive change to the program’s curriculum and research activities and will help advance the university’s goals of diversity, equity, anti-racism and inclusion. 

Art Conservation student Paige Van Tassel  at work on a piece of art
Conservation student Paige Van Tassel is mechanically surface cleaning a 19th century Iroquois beaded frame. Photo by Marissa Monette

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to a heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Importantly, this is the first time the United States-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has funded a Canadian art conservation project.

“We are very grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support for this project,” says Rosaleen Hill, Director of the Art Conservation Program. “We are excited to have this opportunity to engage with the broader community, nationally and internationally, in curriculum diversification. This project will have a significant and lasting impact through the development of online courses and the creation of an international network of colleagues focused on diversity."

Founded in 1974 as Canada’s only graduate program in art conservation, the Queen’s program has established key priorities, including an increased focus on Indigenous material culture and ethics. As graduates from this program go on to care for objects and artworks in public and private collections, this project will have a fundamental influence on how these objects are preserved and accessed in future.

The new five-year project also focuses on developing strengths in research and curriculum on both Indigenous material cultures and modern media and is designed to increase course accessibility through the use of web-based learning.

The proposed activities of the project include:

  • Symposiums to engage the Canadian and international conservation communities, and the broader field of cultural heritage, in an open discussion related to the challenges involved in the development of new curriculum
  • Hosting visiting scholars to build local, national and international networks which include Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers, to support curriculum diversification focusing on Indigenous material and modern media
  • Web-based courses to maximize access to new curriculum content
  • Increasing diversity in the conservation profession through engagement with under-represented groups, coordination with heritage institutions with Indigenous youth programs to provide a pathway to graduate studies in art conservation

“One of our institutional research strengths, the Art Conservation program is internationally recognized for excellence in scholarship and for the development of graduates who go on to work in the world’s leading museums, archives and galleries,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). "This support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will allow the program to better diversify and support a more inclusive and global approach to preservation, such as exploring new and innovative ways to recognize and incorporate traditional knowledge.”

For more information on the Queen’s program, visit the website.

  • Art conservation professor and students work to restore baskets.
    Amandina Anastassiades, Assistant Professor, Artifact Conservation, works with students restoring a selection of unique woven baskets.
  • Alison Murray, Associate Professor, Conservation Science, discusses techniques with a student of the Master's of Art Conservation program at Queen's.
  • A student of the Master's of Art Conservation program
    A student of the Master's of Art Conservation program works on restoring a painting. The program has received a grant of $632,000 over five years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • An art conservation student works with an old photograph.
    Students of the Master's of Art Conservation program work with a range of media, including artistic objects, paintings, and photographs.

Residency a homecoming for soprano

Susan Gouthro returns to Kingston and Queen's as artist-in-residence at the Dan School of Drama and Music, will perform at The Isabel on March 9.

Susan Gouthro returns to Kingston and Queen's as Artist-in-Residence at Dan School of Drama and Music, will perform at The Isabel on March 9.
Soprano Susan Gouthro (Artsci'99) will be artist-in-residence at the Dan School of Drama and Music from March 5 to 10 and will perform at The Isabel on March 9. (Supplied Photo)

When Canadian soprano Susan Gouthro arrives at the Dan School of Drama and Music as the artist-in-residence from March 5 to 10, it will also be a homecoming for the Queen’s University alumna.

After graduating in 1999 with a Bachelor of Music, Ms. Gouthro then completed her formal training with a Master’s of Music from Western University. Her training then led her to Europe and she took up a permanent soloist position with the Kiel Opera House from 2002-2014, performing roles including Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Rosalinde in Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.

During her Queen’s residency, Ms. Gouthro will visit several classes, lead a vocal master class and will be available for consultation with students or faculty. The residency will culminate with a public recital with Queen’s alumna and pianist Allison Gagnon, at the Isabel Bader Centre on Friday, March 9 at 7:30 pm. The program includes works by Poulenc, Wolf, Burge, Harbison and Yeston.

She is certain that returning to Queen’s, and her hometown Kingston, will be special.

“I haven’t had much contact at all with the university since I left. I had been toying with the idea of doing a concert in Kingston or at Queen’s for years but it just hadn’t come to fruition since I was always working in Germany,” she says. “I’ve never really sung professionally in my own country, let alone hometown.  Therefore, despite singing professionally for 15 years, many of my friends and family have not had the opportunity to see me perform live. So, doing this concert at Queen’s enables me not only to perform for the university and music community, but also for some dear friends and family members.” 

Dr. Gagnon has led an outstanding career both as a pianist and an educator. She currently directs the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and appears in recital with both instrumental and vocal colleagues. Before joining the UNCSA faculty in 1998, she taught at Queen’s and was staff pianist at McGill University.

Recently, Gouthro moved to Harrisonburg, Va., where she is pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Voice Performance, Pedagogy and Literature at James Madison University.

However, Queen’s will always be a special place for her, thanks to the friendships she developed as well as finding her love of music even though she started off in English studies.

“My time as a student at Queen’s is very full of fond memories,” she says. “I remember vividly switching into the School of Music and just being amazed at how I was learning something new each day that I had never heard of before.  You see I fell into music and did not have a background of musical training. Starting at 21 is late indeed – but it worked. I was fascinated with the idea of performing and so drawn to it.  I am so grateful to have found the opportunity to have that nurtured at Queen’s.” 

Concert information and tickets are available at The Isabel website. Further information about the performers is available online.

Gouthro’s residency is supported by the George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund and the Faculty of Arts and Science Visiting Scholar program.

Karilee Whiteway: 1960-2018

Karilee Whiteway

Karilee Whiteway, a research administrator for the School of Computing, died Feb. 5. She was 58.

Ms. Whiteway had a lasting, positive impact on her friends and colleagues at Queen’s and will be greatly missed.

During her time at Queen’s she was honored with the Special Recognition for Staff Award and the inaugural Queen’s School of Computing Distinguished Service Award.

A brief obituary is available online.

Gaining real-world, international experience

  • Student team for International Planning Project course (SURP 827)
    Led by Ajay Agarwal (School of Urban and Regional Planning), this year’s group of students traveling to India as part of International Planning Project Course (SURP 827), was the largest yet at 12.
  • Villagers taking collaborate with International Planning Project course (SURP 827)
    Women from one of the villages in the greenbelt surrounding Auroville draw pictures in an effort to overcome the language barrier with the student planners.
  • Student team for  International Planning Project course (SURP 827)
    Ajay Agarwal (School of Urban and Regional Planning), front, second from left, led a team of 12 students as they took on a planning project for the city of Auroville, India.
  • Villagers taking collaborate with International Planning Project course (SURP 827)
    Students meet with officials from Auroville. The team was tasked with creating a growth management framework for the greenbelt surrounding the intentionally-planned community.

The School of Urban and Regional Planning’s International Planning Project course (SURP 827) is a learning experience like no other.

Each year, Ajay Agarwal has taken a group of planning students from Queen’s to the Indian city of Auroville, where, in a period of just two weeks, they are tasked with creating a project report of professional quality that can be used by the community.

For the students who take part in the course, it is an opportunity to be part of a consulting team while gaining real-world and international experience at the same time.

It is also an exercise in resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness, all vital tools for future planners, Dr. Agarwal points out.

This year the team was tasked with creating a growth management framework for the greenbelt surrounding the intentionally-planned community. There are a number of villages within the protected area and their population growth and development has placed increasing pressures on the greenbelt.

“The concern is that if that development is left unchecked the very purpose of the greenbelt will be lost,” Dr. Agarwal says. “So the people of Auroville wanted us to suggest ways to ensure that any development that takes place inside the greenbelt is in harmony – and harmony being the key word – with Auroville’s vision for the future.”

Starting the course in September, the student team has three months to conduct research, collect information and make initial contacts before heading to India in early December.

Once the 12-member team was assembled in Auroville, Dr. Agarwal quickly put them to work. Several students only had time to take a shower before taking part in the initial presentation.

It was a tough schedule for sure but a realistic one when it comes to consulting and planning for an international client. Time, as the students learned, is at a premium.

The first week was mostly dedicated to conducting interviews with stakeholders and gathering information, points out Meghan Robidoux, who acted as the project manager for the team. With data gathered from 19 interviews and two focus groups, they quickly learned that much of the earlier research was not really applicable. Nothing can substitute for direct engagement and interaction, they found out. Thankfully they were prepared for such an outcome.

“At the end of our first week we sat down and kind of redefined the scope of our project based on all the information we collected and the feedback from that initial presentation,” she says. “So much changes once you get there. We knew that from the beginning that would be the case. Ajay prepared us very well. We knew that was going to happen and that was okay.”

The team also quickly learned that working in India is very different from Canada. The culture is very different and communicating can be difficult. Internet connectivity is spotty and they initially had no working cellphones.

Yet they were able to find solutions – resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness.

“We went old school,” Dr. Agarwal says. “We had a giant poster on the wall with a timetable and Post-Its with everybody’s name on it. So everybody, including me, was supposed to keep checking the schedule throughout the day. It kept changing every hour.”

The team quickly determined that working together was the only way to succeed.

“This was a large group, so that was a challenge at times, trying to make sure that we were using everyone to the best of their ability and taking advantage of so many people’s assets and skill sets,” Ms. Robidoux says. “In so many ways it was great because we had such a talented team. I feel strongly that every member really contributed in important ways to the project. So managing the team wasn’t a problem in that sense, it was more of making sure that everyone had the opportunity to share their opinion and group meetings took a long time.”

As a member of that team Jennifer Smyth found the international course to be the experience she was looking for and she is certain that it will help her now and in the future.

“One of the major planning lessons that I’ve taken away from this is learning in a foreign context. I know for some team members it was a challenge to go to this place where they have beliefs that we couldn’t necessarily understand or agree with. But as a planner acknowledging those beliefs was so important,” she says. “Just planning for a project with so many unknowns was a huge learning experience, maintaining an objective stance among so many varying perspectives and finding balance. I think this experience really helped us learn how

Now in its sixth year, Dr. Agarwal has seen the course grow in popularity and become one of SURP’s key learning experiences. Both Ms. Smyth and Ms. Robidoux were drawn to Queen’s specifically because of the international opportunity offered through SURP 827. With 12 participants, this year’s group was the largest to travel to India.

For his work in creating and continuing the course Dr. Agarwal received the 2016 International Education Innovation Award, which recognizes excellence in the internationalization of curriculum in programs or courses. It is one of the six Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards.

For more information about the course or to obtain a copy of the full project report, contact Dr. Agarwal.

A crusader for mental health

Queen’s University professor Dorothy Cotton has been awarded the Order of Ontario for her work with law enforcement and mental health agencies.

Queen’s University adjunct professor and mental health advocate Dorothy Cotton has been awarded the Order of Ontario, the highest citizen honour in the province. For more than 30 years, Dr. Cotton has been working with police organizations to help them change the way they respond to people with mental health challenges.

“This is more than just recognition of my work,” says Dr. Cotton, who works within the federal correctional system and has taught at Queen’s since 1986. “I’m symbolic of the huge amount of work that has been undertaken between police and mental health agencies. I didn’t invent the field but my approach brought people together.”

Dorothy Cotton (Psychology) has earned the Order of Ontario.

Dr. Cotton has worked as a clinical and correctional psychologist whose primary interest is in police psychology. She provides a variety of services to police organizations including pre-employment and fitness for duty assessments, program development, and research consultation. Dr. Cotton is also well known for her work in the area of police interactions with people with mental illnesses and received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work in this area.

Dr. Cotton says one of her proudest accomplishments is developing the TEMPO model (Training and Education about Mental Illness for Police Organizations). It provides a blueprint for Canadian law enforcement officers to help them interact with people with mental health challenges in the field.

She also talks about her work in early 2000 that brought together law enforcement and mental health professionals into one room. “We convinced the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to get involved and we hosted our first conference that featured half police officers and half mental health workers. It resulted in new programs and strategies for working with people with mental health challenges.”

The official Order of Ontario ceremony is set for February 27 and Dr. Cotton admits the whole process has been a bit overwhelming. “The whole experience has been very hard to get my head around. I’m just a normal person. Receiving this honour is very exciting.”

The Order of Ontario recognizes individuals whose exceptional achievement in their field have left a lasting legacy in the province, in Canada and beyond. Order members come from all walks of life, represent diverse professions, and have played an important role in shaping our province. Members of the Order are a collective of Ontario’s finest citizens whose contributions have shaped – and continue to shape – the province’s history and place in Canada.

For more information visit the website.

Music of champions: How CBC and NBC Olympic themes shape our differences

This column was originally written for and published by The Conversation Canada, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors. Visit theconversation.com/ca.

File 20180210 51694 13h2n03.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, (AP Photo/David J. Phillip,Pool)
 

What role does music play at the Olympics?

Audiences are usually aware of the moods music can evoke during emotionally heightened moments, like national anthems at medal ceremonies. Yet we rarely consider the Olympic theme music used by major media networks as something that helps to frame sports coverage.

It’s the theme music that fills our ears before and after commercials and quietly accompanies their intimate athlete profiles. That theme music can actually have an impact on the way we view sports.

I compared the music of NBC and CBC — the official Olympic networks in the United States and Canada — to explore what might be revealed in the differences of the cultures of sounds between the two countries.

NBC’s Olympic theme is arguably the most memorable in sport. To understand why it is so unforgettable, we first must consider the musical catalogue of its composer, John Williams. Williams has been credited for writing “the soundtrack of our lives.”

Since the 1970s he has written the movie soundtracks for generations of Western movie goers — giving many of us music to accompany our lives. These movies include hits like Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, E. T., Indiana Jones, Home Alone and Harry Potter. Williams not only captured the American film score sound, he defined it.

When we listen to the Olympic Theme we must consider this music alongside his previous scores — all those movie scores that that have trained our ears to respond to particular musical gestures as moods and emotions.

Musical gestures can be gendered

So what are these musical gestures and how are we trained to respond? There are numerous means by which we can analyze these gestures and their associations. By examining the scores and noticing how all aspects of the music — the themes, orchestration, stylistic decisions, etc. — consistently align with particular characters and events, certain patterns begin to emerge.

Let’s consider how musical codes can be gendered. Musicologist Phillip Tagg has analyzed how, musically speaking, masculinity and femininity have been represented since the 1970s.

Female leads are often depicted by flowing melodies dominated by strings and woodwind instruments. For example, have a listen to Williams’ score for the Lois Lane’s theme from Superman:


Male characters, meanwhile, tend to be more consistently associated with music that is more up tempo, with more staccato articulation and shorter note lengths. The melodies for male heroes tend to have more leaps, and the instrumentation is dominated by brass and percussion. This description, not coincidentally, applies to the music for Superman himself:


Because these musical codes for “femininity” and “masculinity” are continuously repeated within popular culture, including across Williams’ scores, we have been trained to hear them as “soft” and loving" (female) or “strong” and “determined” (male). Gender becomes musically audible.

Olympic themes through the years

Williams wrote the NBC theme for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games. The work lasts almost four minutes, and contains several sections.

It opens with Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”(0:00 to 0:46); at 0:46, Williams moves into his first fanfare in the trumpets — a striving, strenuous, leaping idea which we hear three times before they finally reach their melodic goal on the fourth attempt — the highest note they play in the entire work.

A snare drum then leads us into the “Olympic Theme” (at 1:06), marked by a flowing melodic idea with smooth articulations in the strings and horns. This section is more closely aligned with Williams’ lead female characters from his previous scores. At 1:52, we move into a more syncopated, livelier melody, eventually leading us back at 2:55 to the louder, “active” fanfare, after which the theme and the fanfare are heard together.


Williams’ Olympic music is a dramatic soundtrack that offers both soft, legato string melodies and active brass fanfares that have then been used by the network to shape tele-visual moments (like female or male athlete profiles) according to the emotional affect they sought to create.

The NBC Olympic mini-soundtrack as a brand is largely unchanging: While NBC “mines” the soundtrack to produce shorter excerpts appropriate for their coverage, the piece otherwise is not altered.

CBC’s attempts to adapt

How does this short soundtrack compare with the music used for CBC’s Olympic and Paralympic Games coverage? The CBC Olympic Theme, written by Marc Cholette, has been used since 1988; it is infused with trumpets and percussion which signify strength.

Unlike Williams’ music, however, there is only one theme; it is “active,” the dynamics are consistent throughout, and there is no dramatic change of orchestral colour between families of instruments. While the music builds to the theme’s highest pitch at the end (thus symbolizing achievement), never do the instruments push to their limits through extreme range or technical demands, never going beyond their comfort zones to what is just beyond reach.


Given Williams’ ubiquitous soundscapes within which most Westerners have been musically “earwashed,” it is perhaps understandable why listeners might hear the CBC theme as less dramatic.

But what really distinguishes the CBC theme from Williams’ music is what happens to it every two years: The CBC adapts it to incorporate the musical styles of the country.

Melding disparate musical sounds into one new work is part of the CBC’s mandate. In the early 2000s, the network was under pressure to make their programming more multicultural and so they shifted their focus to incorporate more “fusion programming.” This involved bringing together musicians from different cultures, styles and languages to see whether they might be able to find new ways to collaborate.

While the CBC’s intentions may have been good, the results have been mixed. According to ethnomusicologist Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw, the musical output has not served to reflect creative and multicultural “meetings” between different musical traditions. Instead it more often represents — musically — cultural minorities being assimilated into mainstream, white, Anglo codes that serve to reinforce the status quo.

A contemporary version of “multicultural fusion” is evident in the CBC’s music for the upcoming 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The updated theme, written by composer Tim Weston and staff at creative audio agency Grayson Matthews, opens with a voice accompanied by synthesized strings; at 0:09, the composers add a janggu (a Korean drum) and a gayageum (a 12-string zither-like instrument). The janggu and gayageum are perhaps the traditional Korean instruments most familiar to Westerners.

At about 0:22, listen for how the Korean instruments are “assimilated” into a Western framework of meter, chord progressions and catchy syncopation.

Finally, the piece closes with a modified version of the CBC Olympic Theme:


The NBC and CBC Olympic themes are markedly different. The American network uses a soundtrack that is both unchanging and grounded in codes developed within movie soundtracks over the last half century.

The CBC theme, meanwhile, is less dramatic but celebrates itself as a fusion of musical traditions. Unlike American audiences, Canadians travel sonically beyond their borders. While an admirable project, on closer analysis, this music — like many of the CBC’s previous fusion experiments like Fuse, a national radio program that aired between 2005 and 2008 — seems to appropriate sound to “add spice” to Western sonorities. Case in point: They even describe the theme as “Korean flavoured” on the website.

By choosing traditional Korean instruments, they limit the representation of South Korea as a society that is traditional and dated, and perhaps less modern than Canada.

Over the next two weeks, I invite you not only to watch the Olympic coverage but listen to it and consider how music — a seemingly benign medium — does its ideological work.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Learning Indigenous languages

Practice your “Boozhoo” (how the Anishinaabe say “greetings”) and “Miigwetch” (“thank you”) and learn about Indigenous cultures in a new Queen’s program.

Mishiikenh (Vernon Altiman) leads an Anishinaabemowin class. (University Communications)
Mishiikenh (Vernon Altiman) leads an Anishinaabemowin class. (University Communications)

A new certificate program will provide students with an introduction to three Indigenous languages, while also deepening their knowledge of Indigenous cultures.

Launching this fall, a new Certificate of Indigenous Languages and Culture will provide an introduction to Mohawk, Inuktitut, and the Anishinaabe language – known as Anishinaabemowin, meaning ‘language of the people’.

The certificate brings together existing Indigenous language courses at Queen’s plus new Anishinaabemowin training into a program which can be completed through full-time studies in one year, or part-time over two years. The existing language training tends to attract both Indigenous students seeking to learn more about their history, and non-Indigenous students hoping to better understand Indigenous culture.

“Offering this type of program helps us respond to both the needs of our community and the broader responsibilities we have as an institution,” says Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “This certificate will assist in revitalizing Indigenous languages and fostering greater understanding of Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing.”

Professors in this program include Mishiikenh (Vernon Altiman), an Elder-in-Residence and Cultural Counsellor at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, who teaches Anishinaabemowin; Thanyehténhas (Nathan Brinklow), Lecturer and part-time Chaplain at Queen’s, who teaches the Mohawk language; and Noel McDermott (PhD'15), an Assistant Professor who teaches Inuktitut.

In addition to helping students recognize the three languages and grasp them at a beginner level, the certificate will also include exposure to Indigenous ceremonies, traditions, and contemporary issues. For instance, weather permitting, each Anishinaabemowin class begins with a smudging ceremony held outside Kingston Hall. 

Students introduce themselves in Anishinaabemowin to start each class. (University Communications)
Students introduce themselves in Anishinaabemowin to start each class. (University Communications)

The creation of this certificate program supports the recommendations of both the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report and Queen’s own TRC task force report, both of which call for the creation of “credentialed Indigenous language programs” at post-secondary institutions.

In the future, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures is working with Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna Language and Culture Centre (TTO) to launch a Mohawk language certificate within the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. The two-year program would intensively focus on language instruction and would aim to help revitalize the language among the Indigenous community as well as their understanding of the rich Mohawk culture.

“I am very excited by the recent unanimous Senate approval of this new certificate program, and by the prospect of the collaborative certificate in Mohawk Language and Culture,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill). “I am very happy to see the university taking up the Call to Action and the recommendation in our very own Extending the Rafters report through the further development of Indigenous language offerings. Further, ensuring these programs are credentialed by the university ensures student eligibility for financial assistance and makes these important programs more accessible.”

Applications for this certificate program will open in May. It is expected to attract approximately 10 to 15 students annually. 

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