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Music

What kinds of writing assignments can I expect in upper-division music courses?

Currently music students may fulfill their DSW requirements by successfully completing the writing-intensive History of Music in the Western World and World Music sequence. As part of these courses students engage in formal and informal writing assignments, in and out of class, such as the following:


In addition to the sample writing assignments above, assignments in other music courses may include, among a wide variety of other assignments, the following:


How is my writing evaluated?

Your professors may weigh criteria differently depending on the nature of the assignment. In general, assessment of your writing assignments may take the following into account:


Why write about music?

We write about music to help ourselves and others better understand music: its histories and contexts, its styles and forms, its composers and performers, its practices and meanings. In writing about music we explore musical coherences and express, refine, and support the musical judgments that we make.

As many have noted, writing about music can be challenging. Music is sometimes thought to bypass human linguistic processes and interact directly with the emotions; many have espoused music's ability to "say" what words cannot not say. Even when music accompanies a text, it can be difficult to convey exactly what the music adds. And, most of us have little experience writing about music. As Robert Wingell points out, "our culture thinks of music as comforting background noise, an atmosphere one creates for oneself, a sort of sonic wallpaper….In this atmosphere, it is difficult to argue logically and convincingly about issues of musical style or quality" (Writing about Music, 3). Through writing about music, we might help others heard music as more than sonic wallpaper, indeed, as a subject of critical inquiry, as are the other arts, humanities, and sciences.


General tips for writing about music