2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Katie Hemsworth

Nipissing University
Good vibrations? Crowd noise and the “physicality” of sound across sportscapes

The purpose of this paper is to attend to the spatialities of sound in the production of sportscapes. Although scholars have engaged more readily with textual analyses of music in relation to sport (see McLeod, 2006), critical analyses of the spatial, material, and affective properties of sound, more broadly, remains underdeveloped in sport-related contexts. I identify the politics of crowd noise as a taken-for-granted aspect of sport soundscapes, examining how sound produces and disrupts the “game-day experience” through unseen aural architecture (Connell & Gibson, 2003). I argue that deeper engagements with sound through conceptualizations of vibration create alternative understandings of the ways in which “physicality” extends beyond the demarcated field of play. I draw on the examples of the Seattle Seahawks’ “Beast Quake,” the Baltimore Orioles’ “silent” game at Camden Yards, and the selective banning of noise-making devices in stadiums as launching points for thinking about how sound becomes commercialized, weaponized, and policed in sports venues. I conclude that focusing on vibration, as an embodied force, raises new questions about how sonic expression becomes a different form of contact in sports, creating “soundprints” that range from cohesion to violence.