Trumpchant in B flat

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The opening phrase of Donald Trump's speech in Mannheim PA, 10/1/2016, was sung on a single well-controlled pitch:

The fundamental frequency of this monotone chant is about 238 Hz, to which the closest tempered pitch class, at concert A=440, would be the B flat below middle C at 233 Hz. And the next phrase is about a semitone lower, at about 218 Hz, pretty close to A 220:

I haven't heard this type of chanting before from Mr. Trump, or indeed from any other political figure. (But see "Trump's prosody", 8/8/2016, for a different sort of sing-song delivery…)

Over the first minute of the Manheim speech, he gradually relaxes in the direction of his normal public-speaking prosody:

we are going to make America great again
we are
I'm thrilled to be here tonight beautiful city
and I'll tell you what we're going to win the great state of Pennsylvania I went to school in Pennsylvania
we are going to win Pennsylvania
we're going to win back the white house and we are going to be so happy
we are going to be so happy
and we're going to again be proud of our country
we will
be proud
we're going to take on the corrupt media the powerful lobbyists
and the special interests
that have stolen your jobs
your factories and your future
and that's exactly what's happened
and we're going to stop Hillary Clinton
from continuing to raid the industry
from your state
for her profit

But his normal style of delivery often involves almost-chanted sequences of level or nearly-level pitches — though usually not with the same extreme prolongation of monotone syllables:

And these almost-sung segments are are also less obvious when they're immediately followed by a more modulated phrase:

Maybe the repeated performance of the same phrases in rally after rally is developing a chant-like groove.

Or is that chanted monotone meant to invoke some familiar pattern? A one-man demonstration chant? A really plain sort of plainchant? Some kind of magical incantation or Tony-Robbins-like affirmation? None of those really fit. Is there a model that I've never heard or am not thinking of?

Since YouTube has Trump rally recordings going back several years — and whatever happens on November 8, I'm sure we'll hear from Mr. Trump again — there's an opportunity here to study the evolution of a unique rhetorical style. It seems to work for him, though I think that any other politicians who spoke that way would be mercilessly ridiculed.


  1. Chris Waigl said,

    October 2, 2016 @ 11:51 pm

    I've been listening to the YouTube channel that either goes by The Gregory Brothers or schmoyoho (accent [well, stress] on the "yo"), an outfit that "songifies" a lot political speechmaking, using autotune (and of course re-jiggering rhythm). Despite their intervention, what they do clearly works best when the pitch and rhythm of the original snippets is already a melody. There's their take on the first debate: . While Mr. Trump sure doesn't look good in this satirized take, the catchiness of his tuned-up speech is quite remarkable. (There are other schmoyoho Trump videos — a 10 min loop of the "Sean Hannity" bit, and a pretty frightful one playing on "I go hard" from an interview with Megyn Kelly.)

  2. Bill Benzon said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 8:10 am

    Black vernacular preaching often breaks into chant, e.g.

    [(myl) Preachers of all colors in certain strata of Protestantism often preach in a chanted style. But never long stretches on the same note, at least not in the sample that you link to.]

  3. David Marjanović said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 8:35 am

    Having no fear of exaggeration, Trump opts for maximum bombast in the hope to convey authority, hope and comfort – exactly what authoritarian followers want from an authoritarian leader.

  4. Luke Dahn said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

    I was reminded of the introductions given for President Nixon at his State of the Union addresses by William "Fishbait" Miller. It turns out that Miller's monotone in 1970 was precisely the same B-flat pitch as Trump's (perhaps a few microtonal shadings higher).
    Miller modulates to B-natural in 1972 and 1974.
    And 1971 must have been a particularly tense year, as Miller went as high as C#:

  5. Luke Dahn said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 3:44 pm

    Here's the corrected link for the 1971 announcement, in case anyone really cares:

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