Music Essay (3 topics to choose from)

Grades are based on the following criteria:

Length: Essays must be at least 800 words in length.

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Music Essay (3 topics to choose from)
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Spelling/Grammar: Essays showing little to no regard for spelling and grammar will not receive a passing grade. I would suggest either composing your essay using the Grammarly web extension or within Microsoft Word and then simply paste it into the textbox.

Content: Always address the topic directly. For these topics, there is little to no need for retelling the history of a subject as mentioned in the textbook or from my lessons; this essay is an opportunity for you to give your insight into the matter. When applicable, use musical terminology in your writing. Outside sources may be used, but do so very selectively; please do not rely heavily on external websites, etc. Be very careful NOT to commit academic dishonesty by plagiarizing. All outside sources must be cited. You may use the formatting style with which you are most comfortable (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).

Writing Tone: Although your essay should be based on your insight, always be mindful of your writing style. Too often, students fall into an overly informal tone. You may want to draft your essay “as you would speak” but remember to follow up by reworking a more collegiate tone into your paper.


In a formal essay such as this, it is assumed that statements you make are your own point of view; therefore, it is not necessary to use the first- and/or second-person point of view. The easiest way to fix this is to simply drop phrases like “I feel,” or “You can see,” from the sentence. For example, let’s say you have a sentence such as: “I feel that Aristotle’s claim requires a bit more nuance …” Here, you may simply drop the “I feel that” in order to create a sentence with a stronger tone: “Aristotle’s claim requires a bit more nuance…” (The same concept applies to the use of the second- person “you” in sentences.)


Imagine that you would be reading your essay out loud to an informed yet interested audience; you would want to connect with your listeners by providing personal insight, all the while maintaining a professionally eloquent tone. Think deeply about what you want to say and choose your words carefully.



Choose 1 of the following topics to discuss at length.

1. According to Aristotle, music “imitates the passions or states of the soul, such as gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites. Music that imitates a certain passion arouses that same passion in the listener. Habitual listening to music that rouses ignoble passions distorts a person’s character. In short, the wrong kind of music makes the wrong kind of person, and the right kind tends to make the right kind of person.”1 Respond to this claim in terms of your understanding of music. Do you feel that Aristotle is correct or not? Use specific examples to support your claims.

2. The play The Marriage of Figaro (1784), which ridiculed the privileges of the aristocracy and set a common servant above his master, was banned throughout France and Austria. It has been considered an early indicator of the French Revolution. Certainly authorities of the eighteenth century felt justified in their banning of the work. Please discuss your position on musical restrictions. Do you feel there is ever justification for a piece of music being restricted or banned from public consumption? Use specific examples to support your claims.

3. In recent years the question of whether or not to place high importance on film music has seen much debate. Many feel that, given the nature of the film industry (e.g. director restrictions, editorial cuts, etc.), that film music can not rightfully be considered alongside works of past masters. Others, however, champion some film scores as modern masterpieces in their own right. Given your understanding of the history of music, please discuss your thoughts regarding the status of film music. Do you believe that orchestral scores composed for films deserve to be an important part of the history of classical music? Why or why not? Use specific examples to support your claims.

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