Instructor(s): Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Associate Professor of Music
Instructor(s) home department(s): Music
Partners and Sponsors: Naomi Graber, Associate Professor of Musicology, University of Georgia
Established in 2015, Trax on the Trail is a Georgia College-sponsored website and research project devoted to the study of U.S. presidential campaign music. Our interdisciplinary team includes students as well as academic experts from the fields of political science, musicology, sociology, history, media studies, and ethnomusicology, across the U.S. and Canada. Committed to the ethos of public history, the Trax on the Trail team develops accessible content on the subject of music and elections. This includes essays, podcasts, digital lectures, and educational materials. Equally committed to advancing scholarly inquiry into the function of sound in electioneering, team members have presented their work in classrooms, community centers, and colleges around the country, as well as published their research in scholarly journals, including Music & Politics, American Music and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. Trax on the Trail has been cited by the BBC, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Slate, The Boston Herald, Pacific Standard, Elite Daily, and Variety.
The cornerstone of the Trax on the Trail website is Trail Trax, a database where our team tracks and
catalogues music heard on the presidential campaign trail. Trail Trax represents the first attempt to
document, analyze, and catalogue the soundscape of U.S. presidential campaigns. With over 8000
entries created in 2016 and 2020, this database (created by Georgia College students) allows end users to track candidate music strategies as well as musical responses to candidates generated by the
Combining computational tools with humanities-based inquiry, the Trail Trax database reorients the established scholarly discourses on campaign music both literally and metaphorically as spatiality, transmission, and reception of the genre provide a more deeply contextual understanding of how music can function in campaign contexts. Georgia College students involved in this VIP will be responsible for collecting, cataloguing, and analyzing music data during the 2024 election cycle, and as such, they will be key players in an interdisciplinary project that stands on the vanguard of music research.
While tracking the soundscape will be at the center of this team’s work, students will also participate in other aspects of the Trax on the Trail project that align with their interests and career goals. This includes marketing the website through social media and traditional media, editing, archival research, podcast content development, organizing and coordinating events, and the development of original research on music and politics.
We designed the Trail Trax database with these goals in mind:
- Provide educators with the requisite knowledge, educational resources, and research tools needed to bring the study of campaign music into their classrooms, fostering the development of media literacy as it pertains to messages communicated through music and sound more broadly.
- Formulate research that analyzes the role sound plays in branding and marketing presidential candidates and shaping public opinion.
- Create a valuable resource that will stimulate research on the topic of campaign music among scholars in diverse fields and generate general public interest in the subject.
- Establish opportunities for collaboration both within and outside of Georgia College, especially with students and faculty in political science, mass communication, sociology, and history.
Issues Involved or Addressed
A lot of musical activity occurs during campaign season, and while much of it is documented, it is
difficult to assemble a complete picture of what a soundscape looks like in a given election and how
the soundscape evolves from the early days of a campaign to election day. With Trail Trax, there will
be a complete record of music utilized during the 2024 election. The database’s open-access digital
format, combined with the skilled work of student researchers, affords scholars, journalists,
educators, and the public the opportunity to access the most up-to-date information on the topic.
Methods & Technologies
- Digital Ethnography
- Audio-visual Analysis
- Digital Research Tools (Hootsuite, Google Alerts)
- Online Databases (ProQuest)
Preferred Students Majors
- Political Science
- Mass Communication
- Data Science
- Women and Gender Studies
- Museum Studies (minor)
Preferred interests and preparation
- Background/interest in music and U.S. presidential politics.
- Experience with or willingness to learn audio-visual analysis, music research resources, digital research tools, and digital ethnography.