Remembering and performing the ideal campus : the sound cultures of interwar American universities




Schafer, Kimberly Ann

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In this dissertation, I examine extracurricular music of American universities between the two World Wars and consider it as an indicator of the idealization of collegiate life. Interwar discourse at American universities demonstrated the two contrasting ideals of the older collegiate model and the more recent university model. The collegiate model was associated with ideals related to character building, a sense of community, and a common curriculum, whereas the university model was associated with social utility, research, and liberal culture. Proponents of the collegiate model idealized an older collegiate life in America. One version of this idealized collegiate life captured the popular imagination of Americans in the late nineteenth century – the vision of students developing their social skills in the extracurriculum at the expense of their intellect in the official curriculum.

Various members of the university community at Stanford University, The University of Texas, and Yale University promoted this idyllic view of collegiate life in the extracurriculum. Marching bands, glee clubs, and bell instruments were thought to transmit collegiate values of community and character building. The music’s adaptation to modern trends and values, however, reveal that it did not fully adhere to an idealized image of pre-modern college life. The university communities believed that music (and sound in general) with its ability to reach listeners’ memories and emotions, was unique in its access to interior subjectivity. This belief guided university administrators to use campus sounds to instill school spirit and nostalgia. Yet the failure of certain audio memorabilia, namely the Talking Page of the Onondagan yearbook of Syracuse University and The Cactus in Sound of The University of Texas, leads us to question this assumption of special interior access. Administrators, students, and alumni all had a hand in using sounds to elicit these strong sentiments toward their university, which administrators hoped would foster increased financial support




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