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

Synthia Sydnor

University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
Session: Sport as Avant Garde #2
Paleolithic ritual and music in regard to a treatise on the nature of sport
This research centers on Paleolithic (2.6 million to 10,000 years ago) music/musical instruments that experts hypothesize were associated with ritual during that time period. My work builds upon an exposition in progress that forwards a treatise of the nature/phenomenology of sport.  In combination with Adam Seligman, Robert Weller, Michael Puett, and Bennett Simon, Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity (2008); Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, 1977; Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories (2010); and others, my treatise begins with David Sansone, Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport (1988). Sansone argues that the intense expenditure of Paleolithic humans’ physical energy dissipated about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture, trading, division of labor, and the development of societal institutions.  The energy used by Paleolithic humans was so linked to survival/collective emote that when humans’ precarious subsistence ceased, rituals/motifs associated with energy expenditure were “turned to a different purpose” (Sansone, p. 47): sport, an evolving and also residual cultural construction.  10,000 years ago, sport is modern, a symbolic ritualized activity, contest oriented, sometimes accompanied by musicians/musical instruments.  Specific activities and extant music/instruments from the period before 10,000 BC: voice/song, bull-roarer, flute, and percussion that came to be symbolically ritualized into sport are discussed in regard to my thesis on the nature of sport.

Session: The Olympic Movement: Examining Race, Gender, & Politics in the Winter Games
Olympic Music and Racialized Institutions: Olympic Ice Dancing in PyeongChang

This paper aims to provide a historical-theoretical understanding of the case of Olympic ice dancing in relation to music selection for competitive programs, focusing on the process of racialization. We do this with a specific case of a South Korean ice dancing pair, Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin, particularly with their music selection for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. The skating pair used Arirang, a title of a Korean traditional folk song representing the history of Korea, specifically under the era of Japanese colonialism. Through the history of figure skating, European classical music has been predominantly chosen and used by most skaters for creating their choreography regardless of the size, level, and location of the competition. Thus, it is claimed that the song Arirang is considered an untraditional and unconventional music selection. In this paper, we will address: (1) how international sport institutions (i.e., the International Skating Union and the International Olympic Committee) racialize people of color; (2) how these institutions reinforce racial ideology through the Olympics; and (3) how study of the specific Arirang music reflects our arguments concerning the aforementioned. Such critique will be interpreted within the web of concepts such as postcolonialism, modernity, and enlightenment.