Music Essay Topics And Guidelines

Music Essay Topics And Guidelines

Essay Guidelines

An essay of approximately 6-8 pages, typed double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman font. A complete list of references and discography is included at the end of the book. Long quotes should be indented and separated by single spaces. Essays must be submitted by July 29, 2020. Please upload your electronic copy to D2L by the end of the day. Choose one of the following three questions about your essay.

  1. Find original songs and their cover versions by other artists. Find out by listening to two versions of this song. How are they similar? how are they different? Did the instrumentation change? Are the dynamics, rhythm, tempo, form, melody, or timbre of the singer’s voice different? Is the atmosphere of the work also different? Consider the larger context. Why did the artist cover the song? Are there similarities in the styles of the two artists? Provides background information from academic sources on these styles and their history. How did the audience react to this cover? Do cover songs raise questions about authenticity?
  2. Discuss the history and development of specific subgenres of American (or American-born) popular music. Must be specific. For example, honky tonk instead of country music. Delta blues instead of blues. British punk of the 1970s, not punk. Gangsta rap, not hip hop. Who are the notable artists and composers in this subgenre? What are its general musical parameters – instrumentation, timbre profile, lyrical content – and how does it distinguish itself from other similar subgenres? When did this subgenre flourish? Who was his audience? Did it have a lasting impact on subsequent genres? Consider how music reflects its place and time historically, socio-economically, and technologically. Choose the recording that best represents your chosen subgenre and discuss it using the class’ musical terms as explained in the Essay Writing Guide.
  3. Find a song early in an artist’s career, then another song later in the same artist’s career. The two songs must be at least ten years apart from him (e.g. Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965) and “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979)). Listen to the two songs and find out. How are they similar? how are they different? Did the instrumentation change? Are the dynamics, rhythm, tempo, form and melody different? How does the timbre of a singer’s voice change? Is the atmosphere of the work also different? Did the artist change their style significantly or adopt a new approach to songwriting? Now let’s look at this work in a larger context. Why would an artist change styles or keep recording the same material? Is the artist responding to the demands of the audience? Did the artist work with different producers, band members, or record companies? What elements of the earlier period carry over to the later period? Did the artist’s popularity rise or decline during this period? What does the change (or lack of change) between two songs tell us about the longevity of an artist or the importance of music? Provide background information from scholarly sources on the history of genres used by artists and use it to justify arguments about music.

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