Part One. Contexts -- Part Two. People and relationships -- Part Three. Places and spaces -- Part Four. Performance -- Part Five. A coda and conclusions.
This thesis is an ethnography of Australian country music. It explores the experiences of individuals active within Australian country music. It acknowledges that country music is a musical project, but takes as its object of study the cultural experience it offers artists, industry personnel and fans. It explores the practices of those involved with Australian country music, the everyday, on-the-ground activities associated with making music, such as performing, promotion, touring, recording, and how these are connected to, shaped by and shape attitudes, beliefs, discourses and stories that circulate within the community. This thesis steps away from a focus on the recorded sound of country music, instead finding that discourses relating to people, relationships, place, space and performance shape the experience and practices of country music culture.
The conceptual framework of this thesis is drawn from Pierre Bourdieu’s work on “fields” as a way of understanding Australian country music as a discrete, relatively autonomous social microcosm. A series of distinctions shape the cultural logic of the field and it is through these distinctions that participants determine what is valued as authentic and legitimate. It is through these distinctions that artists work to position themselves and gain legitimacy. Throughout this thesis I will explore four interrelated distinctions: “country” versus “city”, “tradition” versus “new”, “independent” versus “commercial” and “real” versus “fake”. Each of these sets of distinctions relates to aspects of performance and practice and is tied to different discourses that circulate within the field. These distinctions provide meaning and value within the field and are used to inscribe authenticity to certain expressions of country music over others.