91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why the national anthem in Rio might be rubbing your ears the wrong way

Flickr user George Makris/Flickr
DeBord said he's not against a "sideways take at a piece of music, but it's the setting - context is everything..."

There have been plenty of Americans winning gold at the Rio Olympics.

And each gold medal win by a Yank means you'll hear the Star Spangled Banner during the medal ceremony.

Some have noticed that there's something about the version of the anthem being used in Rio that's just a little bit ... off.

But what is it?

Jason DeBordis one of those who's annoyed, and he's well qualified to tell us why. He's on the faculty at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, in the Department of Musical Theater. 

Here's DeBord with an approximation of what is played at the Olympics today:

And here's the traditional version:

Can you hear the difference? It's quite stark, no?

DeBord explained that the current Olympic arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner leans on minor chords in places we're used to hearing their major counterparts. He told us more about that change and how it rubs our ears the wrong way in our conversation above. 

GUEST Jason DeBord is an assistant professor of music at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, in the Department of Musical Theater.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)


Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
Related Content