Main Lecture Theatre
John Henry Brookes Building,
Oxford Brookes University,
June 14th 10.00-16.30
9.30 registration – tea & coffee
9.50 introduction: Paul Whitty
10.00-11.15 Session 1: You only sing when you’re winning
10.00 Cyprian Piskurek
TU Dortmund University / firstname.lastname@example.org
Who wrote all the songs?: Football Chants and Authorship
Over the last two decades, football chants have been increasingly exposed to discussions of who wrote or ‘authored’ them. There have been books trying to document the oral culture of football chants in writing (Hulmes 1998, Bremner 2004, Shaw 2011, Marshall 2014), internet discussion boards are full of debates about which fan group created a specific chant, and, in 2004, Barclaycard even chose an official Chant Laureate to pen new chants for English Premier League teams. Such attempts to credit individual persons or specific fan groups with writing a certain chant are especially astonishing in a subculture which seemed to thrive on bricolage and a willingness to appropriate melodies and chunks of lyrics that had originated elsewhere.
In this paper, I am going to discuss why the question of authorship has come to matter to the collective ‘folk’ culture of football chants, how the neoliberalisation or ‘hypercommodification’ of the game may have paved the way for this development, and what cultural value these debates are apparently bestowing on the sounding cultures of football. Moreover, this will show how the soundscape of the stadium is permeated by political discourses over how football fan cultures are being represented across Europe.
Cyprian Piskurek is Lecturer for British Cultural Studies at TU Dortmund University. He is the author of Fictional Representations of English Football and Fan Cultures. Slum Sport, Slum People? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Research and teaching interests include, among others, Football Fan Cultures, Architecture and Culture, and Irish Studies.
10.25 Andrew lawn
From a piano to a wheelbarrow; the evolution of football chanting
Football fans have a proud tradition of chanting at football matches. These chants can be supportive or critical of their team, critical of the opposition, hostile, crude, humorous and on occasion seemingly pointless. But why do we chant at football? Where did it start and how did we reach a point where football is considered an arena in which almost anything can be shouted, resulting in various obscene chants hitting the headlines on a regular basis? I will examine the history and evolution of football chanting through 8 key chants that chart it’s rise from the music halls of Victorian England.
Andrew Lawn is the author of ‘Who are ya, who are ya? Who are we?’ which looks at the political and sociological factors behind football chanting, answering the question; why do we chant at football and what does it tell us about ourselves and society. He is the co-founder of online fanzine; AlongComeNorwich and is a freelance contributor, appearing on TV, radio and in print, including in The Blizzard, Stand and on BBC Radio 5 Live. Andrew supports Norwich City and FC St Pauli and lives with his wife Jo and dog Arthur.
10.50 Pedro Silva Marra
I’ll be on the terraces, so I’ll be thrilled”: Sonic techniques of football
This paper discusses results of research on football fans’ sonic techniques employed during matches. It understands sonorities as devices for (dis)assembling different groups on the terraces through the production of unison or uproar dynamics, as the audience echoes various sounds, songs, watch words and noises, according to what happens in the pitch. Those ephemeral processes afford the audience to encourage or discourage athletes, opening them a possibility to take part on the production of soccer spectacle. The investigation is based on the hypothesis that the audiences’ sound performances take advantage of the acoustic possibilities of the sounds they manipulate in an affective dynamic through which soccer agents’ bodies produce an impact in one another, what delineates an intricate network that intertwines sensibilities, sport cultures and management, beliefs, desires, as well as political issues, such as the ones related to gender. The investigation accesses data collected on a set of field work with sound recordings done in 21 Atlético Mineiro’s matches in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, from 2011 to 2015. Those recordings were also edited and mixed into audio pieces that enable to listen the research findings on the communication among fans and the events on the game.
Links to audio pieces:
I’ll be on the terraces, so I get thrilled
Pedro Silva Marra is a Professor at the Communications and Media Department at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, where he teaches sound to journalism and cinema undergrad students. He leads the research group Ateliê de Sonoridades Urbanas, which investigates sonic dynamics for the production of space and territorialities. Pedro Marra completed his PhD in Communications and Media in 2016 at Universidade Federal Fluminense, and was a research trainee at Art History and Media Department at McGill University, in Montreal, from October 2015 to March 2016.
11.30-12.45 Session 2: Traces, archives, spaces
11.30 Lauren Redhead
Sounding and Un-sounding Gender in Jocelyn Pook’s Arsenal (Portraits in Absentia, 1999)
(Dr Lauren Redhead, Canterbury Christ Church University )
Jocelyn Pook’s 1999 work, Portraits in Absentia, combined scored music for orchestra and recorded samples taken from answerphone messages received by the composer. One of these messages, heard in Arsenal, records the sonic aftermath of a football match; a lasting trace that has been frozen by composition. Beyond sounding football fans, chants and activities, this recording also sounds gendered activities, behaviours, and positions with respect to football: examples of ‘doing’ gender as conceived by West and Zimmerman (1987). However, this ‘doing’ or ‘sounding’ gender in football (and electronic music) relates only to the past of the samples that are sounded in Arsenal. In ‘Undoing Gender’ (2007), Deutsch describes how the ‘interactional’ might ‘illuminate the possibility of change’ (p.114). This paper explores how Pook’s interaction with the recorded materials of Arsenal has the effect of ‘un-sounding’ gender in the present, with respect to football and its electronic materials. Narratives of difference and resistance that arise from compositional and material practices are considered, alongside examples of sound and gender in football, and Rogers’s (2010) critique of gender in electronic music cultures. I consider how such narratives are themselves highlighted when football is an ostensible part of the materials of the work.
Deutsch, F. (2007). ‘Undoing Gender’. Gender and Society. 21.1. 106-127.
Pook, J. (1999) Arsenal: Portraits in Absentia. Soundcloud. Accessed 01.02.2018. https://soundcloud.com/jocelyn-pook-official/jocelyn-pook-arsenal-portraits-in-absentia
Rogers, T. (2010) Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. Durham: Duke University Press.
West, C. and Zimmerman, D. H. (1987) ‘Doing Gender’. Gender and Society. 1.2. 121-151.
11.55 The Manor Ground Laurence Crane in discussion with Paul Whitty
12.20 Duncan Whitley introduces his archive This is Highfield Road
‘In 2004 I began research and development of a documentary sound project called This is Highfield Road. At the time my practice was largely driven by an interest in the semantics of sound, which I intuitively imagine as a system of communication operating simultaneously on two levels: on the one hand, semiotic and syntactical (including but not limited to the use of words in a given language), with embedded content carried within or by the medium of sound; and on the other hand, spatial and material, an aesthetic language in which the content is the heterogeneous matter of sound itself, and which we might describe simply as acoustic effect. I would propose that the culture of sound-making at professional football matches, with its traditions of song and chant, is a ritualised arena in which these two aspects of sounds semantic system are complex and highly developed. The project broadly promotes a vision of acoustic communication which is participatory and interactive, both in terms of its production and its reception.’
13.30-14.45 Session 3: Home and Away
13.30 Matt lawson
The Boys are back in Town: Scarborough Athletic, and the Sounds of Exile and Homecoming
(Dr. Matt Lawson, Oxford Brookes University)
In June 2007, Scarborough Football Club were wound up with debts of £2.5m, bringing 128 years of footballing history to a sad close. Out of the ashes rose a new, supporters-owned club – Scarborough Athletic. Without a home ground to play at in Scarborough, they arranged a ground-sharing deal with Bridlington Town, 18 miles down the Yorkshire coast. While Scarborough could never claim to be well supported, their twelve-year foray into the Football League between 1987-1999 saw average crowds of between 1,500-2,500, with many more attending the derby matches against Hull City, and arch-rivals York City. However, with a 36-mile round trip for home games, and the new club having to begin life in the tenth tier of English football, crowds hovered between 300-500.
In July 2017, Scarborough Athletic returned home to a brand new 2,070 capacity stadium, built with a 4G pitch as part of a new leisure complex. The grand opening, against a Sheffield United XI, sold out in days. At the time of writing, with ‘Boro’ chasing a promotion place from the Evo-Stik North (tier 8), average attendances are over 1,000, an increase on the 2016/17 season of over 700 fans.
This multi-faceted paper will examine the impact of exile on the atmosphere and ambient sounds of a former Football League club’s matchday, and analyse how the vocal supporters of Scarborough Athletic approached a shared space in exile, away games at very basic grounds, and the new stadium which they could finally call home.
13.55 Bethan Elford discusses West Ham and her work Songs from the stands for the exhibition Get Some Chalk On Your Boots!
14.20 Tom Ottway
Home and Away: Sounding the Game of Two Halves
Sound artist, academic, and ground-down Nottingham Forest fan Tom Ottway muses on the experience of the archive he has created consisting of thousands of minutes of football over several years at the Amex Stadium in the city of Brighton & Hove, perched in seats close to the boundary of the home and away area. Since Brighton & Hove is his adopted home, and his doctoral research centres around the city as ’sonic home’, he has slowly become enmeshed in and fascinated by the club.
Here he considers the implications of sounding cultures of ‘home’ for the Seagulls (and the responses of the ‘other’ or ‘away’ end) as they slowly inched their way from lower leagues to the supposed promised land of the Premier League. Ottway offers a forensic sonic analysis of a recent game in the archive (Brighton & Hove Albion Vs. Manchester United), and also presents parts of a 90 minute piece: ‘Home and Away: Sounding the Game of Two Halves’, partly in an attempt to understand and process why something as potentially thuggish and boorish as football has held him in thrall his whole life, and why the sonic continues to thrill.
Referring to recordings made in the stadium on the evening of the game on May 4th 2018 at the AMEX Stadium, Ottway considers the stadium as a score, applying Sonnenschien’s (2001) notions of sound design for film, and its soundscape, to that of the football ground as a site of sounding culture, and of home and away. Making reference to the phenomena of home advantage, he also considers how the home supporters rally the home team/team home to an improbable home victory. He also articulates how his experience as a one-time Manchester United fan muddies matters further, until he is swept up, involuntarily, in the sonic wash of home support.
15.00-16.30 Session 4: From the grassroots to step two
15.00 Paul Whitty
Get Rid! Sounding cultures of grassroots football!
Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out.
Georges Perec, Species of Spaces (1974)
To listen to the sound of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds, playing fields and village greens is to listen to the fleeting traces of a rich sounding culture. The iterative ritual of marking out the pitch, cutting the grass, fixing nets to goalposts with cable ties and driving corner flags into the earth. Then the distinctive practices of on-pitch communication; the whistle; the sound of football boot on ball, of the ball as it lands; the struck crack of the crossbar; studs compressing the soil, brushing the grass, slicing through the turf. Grassroots football is a game of noise, silence, presence, absence, activity, inactivity. The sounding comes in waves — building, receding. Pitches stand empty for days then startle into exuberant sound-making action. Football is present. Football is happening. A substitution is made; the ball takes a wild deflection from a corner — disappears into a garden — and is followed by a player who climbs over a fence and into undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; the goalkeeper argues with his left-back about how many players should be in the wall; the central defender argues with the ref about the infringement; the assistant referee checks his phone for messages. There’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or lost in their own thoughts. Then the game crackles into life with a high tackle; a controversial decision; a header that slaps against the post; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who, instead, ends up kicking the dugout. The final whistle. The everyday sounds of the parish recreation ground, playing field and village green return. Football is absent. Football isn’t happening.
15.25 Lauren Redhead reads Alty.
15.35 Steven Matthews in discussion with Paul Whitty and reading from Grassroots Match Notes.
16.00 Ruth Potts reads Football her contribution to the Get Some Chalk On Your Boots! publication.
16.10 Patrick McGinley reads from 36,000 for Madrid and discusses his experiences of football and sound.
16.30 Finish and head to the Sports Bar to see the second half of Russia v Saudi Arabia.