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Mark Allan Clague
Regents of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382)
O Say Can You Hear?: A Tuneful Cultural History of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

A cultural and musical history of the national anthem composed by Francis Scott Key.

The story of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the story of the United States of America, yet many know little about the song and what is known is usually distorted by myth and misinformation. My book project—O Say Can You Hear? A Tuneful Cultural History of "The Star-Spangled Banner"—will share the forgotten musical history of Francis Scott Key's song and reveal how the song's story presents a surprising social history of the United States. It will be the first to reveal the full story of the anthem's music: how the version we think of as traditional today, grew over the song's first century. Similarly, Key's now famous lyric was just one of hundreds of American patriotic and protest songs written to this melody. Key's artistry thus offers all U.S. citizens the chance to examine what it means to be American. This book will inspire readers to answer Key's lyrical question for themselves—to show that like the song, America's democratic experiment is always in the process of becoming.

[Media coverage]

Project fields:
American Studies; Music History and Criticism; U.S. History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2016 – 5/31/2017