O Say Can You Hear: A Cultural Biography of 'The Star-Spangled Banner’

Date: July 7, 2022 at 7pm ET
  • American Antiquarian Society
  • 185 Salisbury Street
  • Worcester, MA
  • 508-755-5221
  • Go to Venue Website

Presented By: American Antiquarian Society

This virtual program is free, but registration is required. You will be sent an email with a link and instructions on how to join the program upon registration. Closed captioning is available as an option via Zoom’s live transcription.


Join musicologist Mark Clague as he shares insights from his research at AAS that contributed to his most recent book, O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' (W.W. Norton, 2022). In the book, Clague examines the origins of both text and music, alternate lyrics and translations, and the song’s use in sports, at times of war, and for political protest. He argues that the anthem’s meaning reflects, and is reflected by, the nation’s quest to become a more perfect union. From victory song to hymn of sacrifice and vehicle for protest, the story of Key’s song is the story of America itself.

Mark Clague, PhD, serves as Associate Professor of Musicology, Arts Leadership, and American Culture at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, where he is also Associate Dean of Collaborations and Partnerships. Mark’s research focuses on the social power of music in American life. His publications include the recording Poets & Patriots: A Tuneful History of The Star-Spangled Banner, which surveys historic versions and political parodies of the U.S. national anthem. This work also appears in the Star Spangled Songbook, a collection of sheet music. His anthem research work has sparked collaborations with the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Los Angeles Grammy Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, and in recital with baritone Thomas Hampson at the Library of Congress.

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