From rocking chairs to outdoor barbeques, the South has long enjoyed a reputation for its slower pace of life and festivities. In some sense this is surprising, given the region’s historical focus on agriculture and other forms of manual labor. However, in many ways this has catalyzed the development of a variety of ways to unwind after a long, hard day’s work. The tremendous importance of Southern leisure is reflected by the iconic sounds of NASCAR, barbeques, and football games. Some of these sounds have undergone great change since their inception, while other traditions have remained the same, allowing one to glimpse back into the past through audial immersion. As you listen to this section, we invite to consider which sounds have been altered by modernization, and which ones have remained constant.
Deep sea fishing has become a popular outdoor sport. Often, individuals can charter boats from coastal communities for half-day and whole day trips. Most excursions take patrons into international waters where rods and reels are put to the test to catch fish at the lowest depths. The small southern coastal communities from Virginia to Florida to the Gulf Coast have become popular embarkation points for deep-sea fishing excursions due to their proximity to warmer waters which are home to the most desirable fish for a longer period during the year.
“Clogging” perhaps evokes sounds of an individual stomping around in clogs. In fact, clogging was performed in clogs when it originated in England. Clogging is a style of dance very similar to tap. However, the shoes are slightly different. Tap shoes have a single front tap, while clogging shoes have a double tap that creates a completely different sonic experience. Double the taps equals double the sound—one that is much less clean than the sound heard in tap routines. Today, clogging is performed in a wide range of venues. Clogging is popular in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States and is often performed at folk music festivals as a supplement to square dancing and other folk dance styles. Modern clogging has also been performed to hip hop and rap music to contemporize the style of dance and give it a wider appeal.
Front porches today are not necessarily associated with a particular region of the United States, but they were once an iconic aspect of Southern culture. Farm houses dominated the region and many farm houses had a porch. Rocking chairs were a featured piece of furniture on porches and were known for the unique rumble and creak they produced when one rocked back and forth. On warm summer evenings, porches provided a space for relaxation and rest after a hard day’s work. Families could enjoy tranquil sunsets amidst the quiet lull of cicadas and crickets. Sadly, while these sounds still exist, they often go unnoticed due to the faster pace at which we live today.
Hunting has always been a significant part of Southern life. With nearly 15 million hunting licenses issued every year, what started off as a way of survival has turned into a very prominent sport. Hunting lodges across the South symbolize the rich history and prevalence of this activity. Even though the tradition of hunting remains, technology has significantly changed the weapons. High powered rifles have replaced the more traditional shotgun or trapping methods. The distinct sound of these rifles symbolize the new era of Southern hunting.
An open pit barbecue is a unique method of cooking meat that is associated with southern cuisine. Open pit barbecue involves slowly smoking the meat, having the meat juices drop into the heat source, and then allowing the smoke to come back up and infuse the meat with the flavor. The sound is particularly significant since cuisine is a major characteristic that can widely differ between regions. This difference is even prevalent in the regions of the United States, as foods and styles of preparations differ between the northern US and southern US. This sound has not changed over time, but rather has remained the same in an effort to maintain the integrity of traditional southern cooking in the face of newer techniques.
College Football games are an important and unique part of southern culture. The sport draws thousands of spectators, and in many regions in the south college football is even more popular than professional sports. College football game days are usually characterized by tailgates, celebrations, and intense energy from the crowd. Over time, college football has become increasingly popular, and much of this is due to its ease of access through television. In televised college football games, the role of the sportscaster has also grown to be instrumental to contributing to the intensity and excitement of the game.
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy once quipped, “if the word ‘NASCAR’ appeared anywhere in your wedding vows, you might be a redneck.” Fewer sports have stronger associations to the South than the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. From humble beginnings in Daytona Beach, NASCAR has expanded all across the country. The racetracks are bigger, the cars are more sophisticated, and famous drivers have come and go. But the heart of NASCAR has always been about speed. No matter what year it is or who's behind the wheel, the roar of the engines and the rush of cars speeding past are what NASCAR is all about.
In the South, college football is not just a sport – it’s a religion. Many Southern states are home to some of the most well-known college football programs in history, along with some of the sport's most rabid fans. Despite different faces on the field, on the sidelines, or in the stands with each new season, numerous traditions have endured for each school and program, especially the fan cheers. One of the most recognizable cheer is “Rammer Jammer," which is chanted by fans of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide after each victory. Fewer things intimidate a foe more than a hundred thousand fans celebrating a win.
Step dancing (stepping) is an art form which originated in slave communities. Through dance, slaves had the opportunity to express themselves, as well as sustain a traditional aspect of their culture which they were otherwise prevented from celebrating. A characteristic of stepping, ‘call-and-response’ suggests a respect for the technique slaves employed to share important information quickly. In the 1960s, stepping was popularized by African American sororities and fraternities who added a degree of modernity to the genre. The discussion of dance relates to the narratives Twelve Years a Slave and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in that like music, dance was a means of catharsis and expression for slaves who were otherwise limited in showing their feelings.
The sounds of a live college football game distinctly set it apart from other sports. One prevalent sound in the game is the sound from the audience. Unlike many other sports, the fans in college football become very involved in the game, as demonstrated through the intense sound they make. In college football, the band also plays an important part of the game as they serve to entertain the fans and add to the energy level in the stadium. College football has increased in popularity since it was first played and continues to be an integral part of southern culture.
Heard in this sound recording is the creaking of a rocking chair rocking back and forth on a wooden porch. A picturesque sunset viewed while sipping sweet tea on a back porch in a rocking chair certainly alludes to America and more closely the south, as those on the back porch stare off to where the sky meets the rolling fields of crops. The back porch, a style of architecture adapted from African homes, is the medium through which the creaking rocking chair is used. In this recording, each creaking sound is distinctly separate from one another as the person sitting in the rocking chair methodically shifts their weight forwards and backwards. Unfortunately, though the creaking of a rocking chair is not always heard so clearly due to modern industrialization and technology. Yet this iconic sound of leisure alludes to the slower recreational lifestyle of the American South.
Heard in this recording is the distinct "plunk" of pebbles as they hit the water. There is also the sound of ducks quacking in the background. This combination brings to mind idyllic Southern images of lazy summers by the lake and children throwing pebbles in the water. Even though modernization has drastically altered the auditory landscape, these simple sounds of nature have remained unscathed.
“Southerners do it better” is a popular expression that surrounds Southern hunting culture. What began in the US as a 10th century Native American tradition has since been transformed into a Southern icon, now constituting one of the most popular Southern pastimes and leisure activities. Modern hunting in the South is done using a wide variety of specialized guns, an example of which is heard here. This example of just one particular gun serves as a representation of the importance and prevalence of the sport in Southern culture.
A cinematic representation of the Civil War, “Gone With the Wind” romanticizes this struggle of war through a distraught love story in the American South. The plot revolves around the main characters: Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes, and Melanie Hamilton. Scarlett's unrequitted love for Ashley, whom truly loves Melanie, drives her every action through the four-hour long film. While the Union invades the Confederate south and numerous people die, Scarlett's selfish actions drive all those who love her away and in the end she is left alone. Together these five sound recordings embody the essence of the film as they vary from spoken dialect to ambient noises to orchestral melodies. Gone with the Wind can start to be understood from these five audio clips, though the true understanding of it can only be achieved through viewing the film itself.