Skip to main content

Topics in Canadian History: Music and Social Change in Canada

A black and white photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a crowd singing and playing guitar
John Lennon and Yoko Ono recording "Give Peace a Chance" during their 1969 bed-in at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel (photo by Roy Kerwood – Creative Commons 2.5).

From trade union songs to punk tirades; from avant-garde jazz to resonant forms of klezmer and reggae; from folk rock and hip-hop anthems to the affirmative sounds of Idle No More; music continues to play a crucial role in amplifying and energizing debates about citizenship, democracy, human rights, social and racial justice, multiculturalism, and reconciliation. Music and Social Change in Canada examines music making as a social practice – attending to the interplay between artists and audiences, genres and scenes, culture and politics – from the 1940s to the present. Structured around discussions of key concepts and a series of compelling case studies, the course draws attention to the range of musical forms of expression embraced by Canada’s diverse constituencies and communities to bring about change. It invites students to listen with a critical ear to the sonic histories of social movements and encourages reflections on the uses of music in dealing with (and thinking about) some of today’s long-standing socio-economic, cultural, political, and environmental issues.   

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.