Writing about Music Lesson Plan: Musical Evidence

Lesson Plan on Musical Evidence
Emily Wilbourne, Queens College, CUNY, Music
Music 121 or 122

Lesson objective(s): Students will focus on the scholarly conventions by which musical sound can be adduced as evidence in an argument.

Total estimated time: 50-55 minutes.

Additional outcome(s): N/A

Course work or assignment underway: A major piece of writing (preferably an historical/musicological project).

Work and/or reading completed before class: This assignment works best early on in the writing process.

Sequence of Classroom Activities:

1. Hand out extract from Wendy Heller, Emblems of Eloquence. Students should read the extract marking up their work to identify (1) musical description, (2) analysis, and (3) argument. (10 mins).

2. Discuss the reading (as a class). Note the particular details that Heller chooses to focus on; discuss the details that she doesn’t bother to mention. [It could be useful to play the extract that she discusses in score; depending on the musical literacy of the group, it may be necessary to explicate which elements of the graphical representation are at issue here]. Discuss the way that she links those details to her argument. (10-15 mins, depending on the literacy of the group).

3. Play a musical example, provide a score. Have students generate a dot point list of four notable musical details. Play the example at least twice. (5 mins).

4. Posit a possible argument that could be made about the music at hand. Have students identify which musical details on their list would support that argument. (3 mins).

5. Draft a paragraph that moves from musical detail, through analysis, to argument. (15 mins).

6. Exchange your paragraph with a colleague. Read the draft PAYING ATTENTION TO THE USE OF MUSICAL DETAIL. Which sections were the most convincing? Which sections were too vague? Write a brief paragraph for your colleague explaining your answers. (7 mins).

7. Return to a group discussion, focusing on the way in which these techniques could be used in their individual papers. (7 mins).

Reflection on the lesson’s success or alternative approaches:

This assignment could also function as a take-home written exercise. This could be done at home for the first time, or, after having completed this exercise in class, students could be asked to repeat the process using a piece that is relevant to the argument of their class paper.

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