Seton Hall associate professor of music Dr. Paul Christiansen has conducted research on music in political advertisements for nearly a decade. Christiansen, who is a musicologist specializing in Czech music and music in political advertisements, had his book, “Orchestrating Public Opinion: How Music Persuades in Television Political Ads for U.S. Presidential Campaigns, 1952-2016,” published this year by the Amsterdam University Press.
To date, Christiansen’s research is the first of its kind. The book focuses on his research of the music in political advertisements and how with the progression of time, they have manipulated voters in different ways.
Christiansen said that music in political advertisements has become more sophisticated than the first television ad aired for a presidential campaign in 1952. He said that the music in that ad was a jingle made by Disney, which they had done free of charge.
Christiansen said that the music in advertisements has become more sophisticated – the music can make us feel a certain way, whether it be happy or uncomfortable. However, people aren’t aware of the music’s sophistication because it does not call attention to itself, he said, so people do not realize the music is making them feel certain emotions.
Christiansen said that his research brought together his undergraduate work and graduate work, as well as the interest he developed in the subject.
He said his background is in television production, but he graduated from the University of California with a PhD in musicology.
Seton Hall students who are involved with the music and theatre departments were excited to hear about Christiansen’s publication.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that he was published, especially because he is from the SHU community,” Andrew Cates, a sophomore majoring in music, said in an email. “When people are thinking about the best schools to go to for music in the country, they talk about Juilliard, Oberlin, Michigan, Curtis, and Jacobs. Seton Hall is never in this conversation. As a major, it’s one of the coolest things to hear that a professor in your school is being published, the way professors at huge conservatories are all the time,” he explained.
Elizabeth Boucher, a junior majoring in theatre and English, is especially appreciative of the publication as a musical theatre student.
“Professor Christiansen’s book looks like it really shows how music affects us in ways we don’t even notice. As a musical theatre student, I appreciate seeing work that acknowledges the important role music plays in the real world,” she said in an email.
Sophomore Jordan Green, a secondary music and theatre education major, is not only happy to hear about the publication because of Professor Christiansen, but also because he took part in the production of the book.
“Professor Christiansen is one of my favorite professors at SHU,” Green said. “He is also so knowledgeable and passionate about musicology/music history and music theory. I think it’s so cool that his book got published and I feel honored that I was able to help out with the book by putting some of the song examples that he used into notation software for him,” he added.
Christiansen emphasized that he is not only pleased about his work being published, but also that readers will develop a broader sense of how music manipulates people.
He said that though there is a lot going on in society today, it is important to be aware that people are trying to manipulate us through methods we may not even be aware of, like music. He added that politicians spend a great deal of money on campaigns to sway people’s opinions, so it is important for citizens to be able to think independently.
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org