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Title:The sound of the hidden curriculum: music and sound design in baby-boomer era social guidance films in the United States
Author(s):Cryderman-Weber, Molly Rose
Director of Research:Magee, Gayle S
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Magee, Gayle S
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Magee, Jeffrey; Silvers, Michael; Solis, Gabriel
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):ephemeral film
sound design
instructional film
social guidance film
baby boomer
hidden curriculum
film music
Abstract:Owing in part to successful use by the armed forces in World Wars I and II, 16mm instructional films became widely used as classroom teaching tools in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition to traditional subjects like science and geography, instructional film production companies such as Centron, Coronet, and Encyclopaedia Britannica made social guidance films to address topics such as social courtesy, career-planning, relationship health, personal responsibility, and emotional management. This paper examines the sonic materials in a collection of 104 such social guidance films held by the Prelinger Archive by addressing two primary research questions: what is the nature of the music and sound design in the collection, and what does the music and sound design of this collection of films communicate? To complete this study, I analyzed the sonic materials in all of the films of the collection, categorizing films by the degree of music used and noting tendencies in sonic and musical treatments, as well as the particular styles of different production companies. I reviewed analysis notes to discover trends of privileged materials, and I explored the particular ways in which instructional film sound positions perceivers. My analysis was informed by research both on the hidden curricula of educational media and the functionality of music in advertising. I also explored the physical and conceptual state of baby boomer era instructional films in recent years, including analyses of several parodies. My study demonstrates that social guidance instructional films provided a vehicle for teaching cultural musical codes – a language of associations based on instrumentation, rhythm, melody, and harmony – to the baby boomer generation. Additionally, my investigations of sonic positioning, privileged and absent sonic materials, and the placement of music within the films reveal a hidden curriculum that encourages perceivers to believe that the position of subject-of-paternalism is pleasurable and that sonic materials of the dominant Western culture represent naturalness, correctness, and success. Lastly, I argue that the sonic parameters of social guidance films are particularly useful and durable in contemporary times as a sonic reference to the time and feel of the early baby boomer period due to their reliance on the social values of the era. Despite the age of the material I studied, I believe my work is currently significant, due to the prevalence of ephemeral media and the use of media in education in contemporary times. By drawing attention to the hidden communicative power of sound in a specific body of ephemeral film, I hope to encourage further research into ideologies communicated by ephemeral media and educational materials.
Issue Date:2020-12-02
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Molly Cryderman-Weber
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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