By Josh Kun

About Josh Kun

Josh Kun is Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the Department of American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Popular Music Project of the Norman Lear Center. His most recent book is Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: Sheet Music from the Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library.


The final moments of President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address took a decidedly sonic turn. Standing inside the rotunda of the Capitol building, Reagan said that he could hear “echoes” of the “American” past and then proceeded to list them off as if he were doing a voice-over for the trailer to a new History Channel miniseries:

A general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air. It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. That’s our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still. (Reagan 1985)

For Reagan, the arc of U.S. …

Embodiments, Feelings, Methodologies
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