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Joni Mitchell receives honorary doctorate   Print


CBC News
October 28, 2004

MONTREAL - In accepting her honorary degree from McGill University on Wednesday evening, Joni Mitchell channeled the spirit of Bugs Bunny to break the ice at the solemn occasion.

Now that she had a doctorate of music, everyone would have to greet her with "Eh, what's up, doc?" she joked, imitating the voice of the cartoon character.

The 60-year-old Canadian music legend continued her brief speech to the music graduates of the Montreal school by urging them to "think about balance in art" and not to ignore music's emotional side in favour of its intellectual content.

"The music I like is a balance of opposites," said Mitchell, who broke into the music scene in the 1960s as a folk singer-songwriter, but who eventually experimented with a variety of genres, including jazz, rock, big-band and world beat.

"The music that I loved was very far away from what I was making," Mitchell said of her beginnings.

"I had a black sense of feel. When I finally did get a band to play my music, it was a jazz band. Then I went into a minority camp, and eventually I lost my airplay. After working with [jazz legend Charles] Mingus, I never got played on the radio, but that was a necessary part of my education."

The presentation of the honorary degree, which McGill says is the first such award she's been given in Canada, at the school's fall convocation followed a day-long academic symposium in her honour.

At the conference, the Alberta-born Mitchell explained her eclectic musical tastes through words evocative of her most recent career as a visual artist.

"I tend to like pictorial kind of compositions where it's more than notes; there's a communication that's taking place," Mitchell told the group of academics, music journalists and historians gathered to discuss her work and legacy.

"In Beethoven, I hear horses galloping and carriages rolling and a lot of things. Of course [Claude] Debussy is very painterly. There's all kinds of pictures coming off of that," said Mitchell, who has retired from singing and spends her time painting at her California home.

 

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