A New Mental World
Records and radio built an industry around imagination. Media technologies created an auditory world where sound, language, and music expanded listeners’ mental worlds. The Cajun imaginary represents in this study the varied ways in which individuals understood their connection to a larger imagined community—America—through the soundscape generated by mass communication. This chapter examines those communication networks directing the flow of cultural exchange between Cajuns and mainstream mass media between 1946 and 1955. As this auditory sphere enveloped Cajun life, an emergent Cajun musical subgenre sprouted: Cajun honky tonk—small but amplified string bands featuring an accordion. The Opera, O.T., Khoury, and Folk Star labels are also discussed here in relation to the most famous and influential Cajun artists to emerge during the post-World War II era—fiddler Harry Choates and accordionist Iry LeJeune. The premise of this study is derived from conclusions of the landmark treatise The Psychology of Radio compiled in 1935 by Hadley Catril and Gordon Allport, who suggest that an individual’s engagement with mass culture within this universal network of sound could stimulate a “new mental world” for the listener.
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