National Anthems and National Symbolism: Singing the Nation

Reference work entry


There is a commonly held belief that national anthems have a unique power over people. They are examples of unisonance, which is a situation where people, wholly unknown to one another, utter the same verses to the same melody. This unisonance effectively and efficiently allows “each” person to sing the music of the “whole” nation with “all” other citizens. National anthems are now a single – but powerful – part of the paraphernalia of national packaging, alongside flags, currency, or postage stamps, the iconography that many of us inherit and which we come to regard as both normal and normative. Yet although the words of these songs are often banal and their tunes mediocre, simultaneously singing an imagined sound seems to bring people together. Thus national anthems constitute a serious business, and that is why they are played and sung at the most solemn moments dedicated to performing a nation’s spirit, as singing and listening to them generates raised feelings of pride and patriotism. And although music often acts as a unifying factor in social contexts and is often flaunted as being a universalizing phenomenon, it also often serves as a rallying point for expressing personal and group identities, thereby exaggerating rather than minimizing differences. This is the case with national anthems.


National anthem Symbol Identity Music Official Patriotism 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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