Writing about Music Assignment #1: Musical description

Essay 01. Musical description. 5-6 pp.

Choose a short piece of music (ca. 3 mins) and describe first the piece and then the listening experience in as much detail as possible. Note that the two aspects of this task will require different approaches. In the first instance, concentrate on finding precise language with which to convey the musical features of the piece; use the technical vocabulary that we have defined in class where appropriate (timbre, beat, metre, dynamics, texture, &c.). In the second, search out language that best captures the affect of the music. Ask yourself, “how does this music make me feel?”

Audience: A musical enthusiast (who has no familiarity with this specific piece).

Pre-Draft Writing Assignments:

a)    In-class listening response exercise (opera/dance music/country/folk); students respond to two prompts

  1. What cultural meanings/signifiers are associated with this genre of music?
  2. What structural features of the music elicit those particular associations?

b)   Practice building sentences with technical vocabulary.

Writing Lessons: analysis, critique, evidence


(Elisabeth Le Guin, “One Bar in Eight: Debussy and the Death of Description.”)
Ian McEwan, Saturday
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Excerpts of musical descriptions from academic prose

Posted in Critique a text to support an arguable thesis

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