Writing about Music Assignment #2: Inferring musical meaning

Essay 02. Inferring musical meaning. 6-8 pp.

Select a scene from an opera, film, novel or television show in which music provides crucial information that is otherwise absent from the narrative. Analyse the specific musical features of the music and articulate how these musical details affect the meaning(s) engendered by the piece and its narrative context. Be careful to make your description of the scene itself as economical as possible (no more than two pages), in order to devote enough time to the analysis you will provide.

Audience: Educated, intellectually curious readers.

Pre-Draft Writing Assignments:

a)    annotate a crucial passage from a written (fictional) text, identifying the sounding aspects that are referenced by the author; elaborate on the inferences and implications of the musical references (e.g. do the sounds mentioned give information about the locale, the clientele of a given place, about the narrator, &c.)

b)   in class: watch a scene from a film, then listen to the soundtrack of the same clip (but with the visuals turned off). Students will describe the sounds they hear in short writing exercise. Class discussion about whether the sound track sounded different once the images were removed (how was the experience different?).

Writing Lessons: analysis, evidence, critique, context, identifying conventions, motive


Verdi, Rigoletto, “La donna è mobile,” (final act).
Myerbeer, Les Huguenots, massacre scene.
Other textual examples

Posted in Critique a text to support an arguable thesis

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