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In the final chapter of his book Musicking, ethnomusicologist Christopher Small writes:
“When we take part, whether as performers or listeners or in any other capacity, in a musical performance that we find beautiful, it must be because the inner relationships of the performance accord, or fit, in some way with those relationships we imagine to be ideal. Our sense of beauty, our aesthetic sense, then, is by no means a free-floating or functionless source of pleasure but is an important element of the way in which we explore, affirm, and celebrate our sense of how the universe is put together and of how we relate to the other elements in it.”
In this first essay, you are to select one form of musicking from this semester–discussed in the classroom and/or covered on the course website–and discuss it in the terms laid out above. In other words, how does your chosen form of musicking “explore, affirm, and celebrate” the way the universe works (or how the universe ideally *should* work) according to the culture that primarily creates and consumes the music in question?
There is much leeway in where to place your focus in this essay. You may want to discuss how musicking reinforces certain religious ideals, political ideals, and/or other societal ideals–it’s up to you–in your chosen case. Note: my use of term “musicking” here means that you will not only be addressing the musical sounds themselves but also performance practice, aesthetic standards, and other extra-musical factors relating to the music.
To receive the highest score possible on the essay, add a final paragraph of two comparing your chosen musical example to some other form of musicking that you believe works in a similar way, or which provides a meaningful contrast, in terms of how cultural ideals are expressed. This second example could be drawn from the class or it can be some other form of musicking with which you are familiar. If your comparison is especially creative and convincing it may result in a perfect score. (note: an ‘A’ is still possible even without including this last section, but only if the essay is thorough and insightful).
For the second essay choose one example of music from this semester (not the same as above, obviously) that you would likie to discuss in more exclusively musical and aesthetic terms. This essay has two parts. In part one, break down the musical structure in some detail according to the musical parameters outlined in class. In part two, relate these musical parameters to the emotional resonance of the music in its given cultural context. In other words, how does the music achieve its desired effect/affect among engaged, knowledgeable listeners?
Similar to the essay above, you will receive the highest possible score only if you add a final section comparing and contrasting your chosen musical example to another musical example–either from the class or from your own musical background–in terms of how musical structure and emotional resonance are related in each case.
Final note: Since I’m only assigning two essays instead of three, my expectations would be slightly raised. There is no set length requirement but I would guess that most potential ‘A’ essays would be at least 2-3 pages double spaced. Send the essays to email@example.com. The due date is one week from now on Tuesday 12/13 (by the end of the day or by the next morning at the latest).