• Cultural Diversity and the Musical Representation of California in Regional 1970s Television

    Kendra Leonard (see profile)
    American Musicological Society, Film Studies, MS Screen Arts and Culture, Society for Music Theory (SMT)
    Musicology, Motion picture music, Television, Race
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    2020 joint meeting of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory
    Conf. Org.:
    American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory
    Conf. Loc.:
    Conf. Date:
    November 2020
    Film music, Animation
    Permanent URL:
    In 1970, a television-show dance contest in a small California town ended abruptly when the studio was briefly plunged into darkness because of an apparent power failure. The media coverage of the event eventually helped uncover criminal activity at the studio; over the course of this reporting, the narrative was accompanied by select genres of music, mostly popular, which became noticeable for their signification of the contest’s participants as young, urban, white teens. In reviewing earlier footage of youth-focused events from the same source, it is clear that the studio engaged in a practice of both identifying and catering to specific demographic groups through the use of select musical genres and forms of music in the service of creating a single, demographically-limited “look” and “sound” of California youth. A representative sample of this coverage provides a case study on the ways in which television music directors and arrangers denoted race, age, gender, and other demographic and cultural identities in a microcosm of the televisual medium. I focus on several instances from the 1970s in which music was used to suggest preferred, “normate” class, age, and race in several California cities and towns. I demonstrate that despite national and local attempts to be inclusive in covering cultural diversity, the cultural environment of the news media in the late 1960s and early 1970s was one in which difference and Otherness was not only marked by cinematography and broadcaster language and speech bias, but also by deliberately anempathetic music that privileged middle and upper class white youth culture.
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago


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