• Music as Narrative in American College Football

    John Michael McCluskey (see profile)
    American Musicological Society, Ethnomusicology, Music and Sound
    Music, Sports, United States, Area studies, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, Narration (Rhetoric)
    Item Type:
    University of Kentucky
    football, cultural criticism, Sport, American studies, Narrative
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    American college football features an enormous amount of music woven into the fabric of the event, with selections accompanying approximately two-thirds of a game’s plays. Musical selections are controlled by a number of forces, including audio and video technicians, university marketing departments, financial sponsors, and wind bands. These blend together in a complex design that offers audible and visual stimulation to the audience during the game’s pauses. The music chosen for performance in these moments frequently communicates meaning beyond entertainment value. Selections reinforce the game’s emotional drive, cue celebrations, direct specific audience actions, and prompt behaviors that can directly impact the game. Beyond this, music is performed to buttress the successes of the home team, and to downplay its failures. As this process develops over the course of the game, the musical selections construct a sonic narrative that comments on the game’s action, enhancing or suppressing audience members’ emotional reactions to the events on-field, and informing their understanding of the game’s developments. By preparing for and responding to in-game situations, music creates a coherent narrative out of football’s unpredictable events. This project demonstrates the use of musical narrative in American college football via close consideration of case studies of games representing five of the most prominent college athletic conferences, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 10, the Big 12, the Pac 12, and the Southeastern Conference. These sources include interviews with college football’s musical agents, including sound operators, band directors, and producers, as well as documentation of the games’ on-field developments and the music that accompanies them. Finally, this project utilizes of musical narrative as a new means of critically considering the power lines of race and gender in college football culture.
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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