3 jazz songs: “So What” by Miles Davis, “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, and “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck.
Instructions for Paper
1. Send instructor a concise topic proposal. After the topic and songs are approved students may begin work on the paper. Without approval of the instructor of the topic and songs the course paper will not be graded.
2. Evaluation of the paper:
a. The paper should be no less than five full pages long, double-spaced (approximately 22 lines per page).
b. However, to receive a grade the paper should be no less than three full pages long and should have a bibliography. Such paper will receive 60 credits. Otherwise, the paper will not be graded.
c. Writing the paper, students should follow directions which are given by the instructor at the time of his approval. Otherwise, the paper will not be graded.
3. Students may choose any composer or a group of composers/performers; however, don’t write biographies of composers/performers. Rather choose one of his CD(s) recordings or YouTube from the web and write about one or more of his works. Try not to choose topics which are too general, e.g. “The Symphonies of Beethoven”, “French Music in the 16th century” or “The History of Jazz in the 1930s”, and the like. Instead of this students may write about one or two movements of a symphony of Beethoven, or about 1-3 short compositions written in France in the 16th century, or about several jazz compositions which were created in Chicago in the 1930s. It is also possible (and interesting) to compare several pieces written in different times. E.g., three different jazz compositions: where one of them was created in the 1930s, another in the 1940s, and a final in the 1950s.
4. Students may make an analysis of chosen musical work(s) by listening to music (if they can’t read music or can’t get printed music). It is highly recommended that students study the analyses which are given in the course textbook and use these techniques when describing their chosen musical work(s).
5. Students need to add a bibliography as the 6th page of their papers, thus consulting all available materials. They should include information they acquired by reading materials published as a supplement to their CD(s), information borrowed from the Internet (give URL address), information borrowed from dictionaries and books or articles (e.g. the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians or an encyclopedia of popular music and jazz, and the like) etc. It is an excellent idea for students to use the Grove Dictionary of Music Online. To use this resource, open “my.Parkland” and click on the “library” of Parkland College; then click on “electronic books”; then choose the Grove Dictionary of Music Online.
6. Please avoid to write about works which are discussed in your textbooks and about too well- known works, e.g. Fuer Elise, “Moonlight” Sonata, Fifth’s and Ninth’s Symphonies of Beethoven, Canon of Pachelbel, 40th Symphony of Mozart, etc.; avoid rap.
7. One should discuss music of entire songs (not samples).
8. There is no one way to write a paper. Every student is allowed to write in his or her own style.
Suggestions about analyzing the music of songs of popular genres (jazz, rock, pop songs, folk songs, religious, dances, etc.).
Please try to examine as many following characteristics as you can. You will be evaluated and graded not by correctness of your analyses but rather by your attempts to do them. Therefore do not be intimidated and afraid of making mistakes, just do your best. Analysis of music is both objective and subjective. It is better to examine in a deeper way just a few songs than slightly go through many.
You need to write your critical evaluation on the quality of the music of songs.
1. Form of the song
After listening to a song try to find out its form: whether the song consists of one or more parts or sections. Find it out showing the precise timing in minutes and seconds. The form of a song can be designated by letters, where repeated sections use the same letter: e.g., AAA, or AB, or ABA, or AAB, or ABB, or ABC or ABCA, etc. There can be many variants for this. If the same music is repeated with some changes, e.g., in instrumentation or in rhythm, etc. then designate it as ABA1, or ABB1A1 etc.
2. Now examine the music of each separate section, that is, its:
Genre characteristics: e.g., dances (e.g., modern dance, or older dances like tango, waltz, etc.), marches, chorals, various kinds of jazz or rock, etc.
Instrumentation: Find out which instruments/voices or instrumental groups participate, e.g. string instruments, woodwind instruments, brass instruments, percussion instruments, keyboard instruments. Or, there is an ensemble of different instruments, e.g., saxophone, trumpet, piano or synthesizer, double bass, etc. Do they play together all the time or not?
Duration: Examine general duration of a song and then durations of each section in minutes/seconds. Find out whether each section has its own duration, and if yes, what is their proportion. E.g., the first section may be 60 seconds long and the second section only 30 seconds long – that is, there is a durational proportion of 60:30 =2:1, etc. Is the song unnecessarily very long or not?
Tempo: Find out whether the song has fast, moderate, or slow tempo. If you have a metronome designate it with numbers: e.g., half note is 60. Pay attention that the tempo of a song might be moderate, but you perceive it as slow or fast. This is not a mistake. Also find out whether the tempo is stable within the song or different in various sections. Finally, try to perceive if the tempo is gradually speeding up or slowing down (what is in Italian designated as accelerando or ritardando).
Texture: usually homophonic. Also which instrument(s) play important solo parts and which have mostly the function of an accompaniment.
Dynamic level: stable or not within the section, etc.; how loud it is.
Rhythm: stable/unstable, regular or not, strongly accentuated or not, syncopated or not; time signature: two or three beats per measure.
Melody: melodic range (that is the distance between its highest and lowest level), with big leaps or without, with quick changes from highest notes to lowest or not, and how often the melodic line returns to the same note/pitch.
Harmony: how consonant or dissonant; how soft it is, how often it is changed. If it is a piece of tonal music find whether it is written in a major or minor key, etc.
3. Now find out the differences of music in different sections while comparing their characteristics.
4. When discussing songs with texts you may try to explain how music reflects the text: e.g., if the text is happy/unhappy, quiet/aggressive, religious, etc. Please do not examine the texts themselves.
After examining music of various songs you may shortly compare peculiar characteristics of the music of each song you examined. However, first make your analysis of the music of every song separately.
Important: your evaluation of the music of a song (if you wish, use a 10 -level scale): how artistically good is the song? Remember that not many popular songs have a high artistic level. Try to make critical remarks of any part of a song: e.g., criticizing its rhythm as too simple or primitive, melodies or harmony as not having individuality, dynamic level as permanently too loud, etc. You can do it at any place in your paper: while discussing different dimensions of music and/or after full examination of a song. And , of course you may praise your songs.
Here is an email from the professor:
“Hi Min-Chul ,
You have good choice of topic for your course paper. However, please just analyze music of chosen songs and avoid to write about discussing life and work of musicians in general. Compare their melodies, rhythms, form, dynamics, etc. E.g., is rhythm in a song often regular or irregular, how large is melodic range of various songs, is tempo of the song moderate, slow or fast (stable or unstable), how they imitate instruments, does this particular song have soft dynamic level or the opposite, etc? You can find different types of music analysis in your course book (which you may follow) which is convenient to use. Just avoid to discuss any personal, historical, religious, medical, political and/or economic issues and concentrate your course paper on discussing music of chosen songs.
Please follow directions which are given in INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAPER.
Just discuss music of chosen songs – NOT LYRICS (because the main goal of course papers is to discuss music). However, e.g., you may mention that music of a song is sad or light because of its lyrics.
You may change your topic by whatever reason – however, you need to submit it again for my new approval. The deadline is the end of the semester – but please don’t submit your paper and concert reports on the last day.
don’t forget to submit your bibliography including CD(s) and information from the Internet used (on page 6).
songs are okay. However, if you wish to change them or add new songs please submit their names for my approval.
submit a well though-out paper with a detailed discussion of music. If you have any questions please let me know.”