Music Paper

Select two contrasting musical traditions that interest you – these can be topics we have studied in the course (e.g., romantic music and bebop), or can include additional musical traditions that you have some knowledge of. In a paper of about 1,000 words, analyze and compare these two contrasting traditions by discussing how they incorporate the roles of composer, performer, and listener/audience. Be specific! Do not say “classical music” (i.e. not just music from 1750-1820) or “jazz” as those are too broad. Differentiate the specific traditions as clearly and specifically as possible.


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This paper relates back to issues raised in the Module 10 (Composers, performers, and audiences), so begin your work by reading through that module again and thinking about how your chosen traditions relate to some of the issues raised there. Consider some of the following questions to help guide your thoughts as you compare your two chosen traditions:

What role(s) do composers play in this tradition? Do they write music down? Teach it orally/aurally to performers? Work it out in their head and through practice, without writing it down? Create recordings rather than written versions? If there are no individual composers, how is music created?
What do the performers in this tradition play? Do they play their own creations or those of a composer? Do they play exactly what is specified or are they able to introduce elements of ornamentation or improvisation? How much are the performers expected to interpret the music? What kind of situations/places are the performers expected to play in? (And for more historical traditions: What differences are there between the situations the music was originally played in and those it is played in now?)
What kinds of people are the audience for this music? (For historical traditions: What differences are there between audiences then and now?) In what situations/places do they normally listen to it? How do audiences and listeners behave or react while listening to this music? Do they participate in the music? (If so, how?) How do issues of audience taste and preference play into this tradition?
Do not write half the paper on one tradition and half the paper on the other! Try to compare the two traditions directly and discuss in detail how they relate to these issues. One paragraph on each of the main issues (composers, performers, audiences) is recommended, but organize your points within each paragraph clearly and logically (do not just answer the above questions in order). You are not required to use external sources, but anything you do quote from another author must be acknowledged with appropriate and accurate citations.

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