Final Project

Note: Due to the pandemic and its effects on everyone’s time and productivity, I have amended many requirements of the final project to simplify your process.

Your final project is an analysis of piece of your choosing. The purpose of the project is for you to apply the skills you’ve learned in class, to a piece that you enjoy and want to share with the rest of the class.

To simplify this project for our compromised semester, rather than doing both, you may choose to do either 1) a video presentation or 2) a paper as your final project. The analytical goals are the same, so just choose whichever format you think allows you to best present your ideas.

Due dates are as follows:

  • Apr 29: Project worksheet
  • May 6: First draft deadline
  • May 9: Peer review deadline
  • May 13: Early deadline, for detailed feedback
  • May 18: Final deadline, limited feedback

This project is the capstone project of the course, and is worth 35% of your final grade. The purpose is to demonstrate what you learned in our seminar by performing your own creative analysis of piece of your choosing. The paper will be an expanded (at least twice as long) and refined version of your presentation.

Content

This is a music analysis project. Some additional requirements and guidelines:

  • Your music analysis must rely on and deeply engage with the analytical approaches we learned in class. This is the most important aspect of this project, and therefore worth the most points in the rubric.
  • Your project should be bound together with a thesis statement of some kind, i.e., some kind of central feature that you discovered while analyzing the piece. 
  • The vast majority of your project should be music analysis. If historical context directly enhances your central music-analytical thesis, then you may include it. Otherwise, restrict your biographical information to one paragraph/one minute. Including extra information beyond this does not help your grade in any way—it’s just extra.
  • You should have chosen at least three aspects of the piece to focus on as examples which prove your thesis statement. 
  • Avoid qualitative language and irrelevant personal experience. The purpose of this paper is to show your understanding of the piece and the analytical techniques used, not to convince someone else to like the piece. 
  • Your tone and focus should be extremely similar to the readings we did throughout class. You might like to view my sample paper as a guide. 

Length

Video option

  • Your video should be at least 15 minutes, but no more than 20. 
  • Time includes musical examples (within reason).

Essay option

  • Your paper should be at least 8 pages, but no more than 13. 
  • Page counts include musical examples (within reason).

If the length is causing you issues, please talk with me and I’ll help you expand or condense your paper as needed. 

Style

  • You must properly cite all authors whose techniques you use. 
  • This is not a research paper, so you should really only be citing people we discussed in class. 
  • You should have a bibliography at the end, even if it includes only one source.
  • Use Chicago or MLA format for your citations, whichever you are more familiar with.
  • Proofread carefully.

Additional requirements for papers:

  • 1” margins; professional 12 point font, such as Times; double-spaced.
  • Add a header with your name, the class, and the date you submitted it.
  • Add page numbers.

Video grading rubric

  proficientbasicpoor
Analysis (60 points total)Thesis statement (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, interesting. (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, but not interesting. (7)Unclear thesis statement or poor thesis statement. (5)
Examples
(10)
3 or more specific examples, analyzed in detail. (10)3 specific examples, but sometimes superficial analysis. (7)Less than 3 specific examples. Not detailed enough. (5)
Methodology (30)Analysis relies on and deeply engages with a methodology learned in the course. (30)Methodology is clearly referenced but is not executed properly, or could use a more in-depth treatment. (20)Methodology is  mentioned but not really used. (10)
Support
(10)
Analysis supports thesis statement. (10)Relationship between analysis and thesis statement is implied but not made clear enough. (7)Relationship btw. analysis and thesis statement is often unclear. (3)
Style 
(40 points total)
Visuals (15)Visuals are professional, well organized, useful, and easy to follow. (15)Visuals are somewhat helpful but need more clarity or more polishing. (12)Visuals are difficult to follow and unpolished. (7)
Speaking (10)Presentation is rehearsed, voice is clear. No long pauses (>4 sec.). Unneccessary or unneeded parts of the video have been edited/removed. (10)Could use more rehearsal, as evident from stumbling over words or long pauses, but overall the point is communicated. (7)Seems unprepared or improvised, language and points are unclear. The video has long pauses and unnecessary content. (3)
Organization (15)Clear flow to the video. Easy for the audience to remember your main points. Time used efficiently. (15)Flow and main points can be discerned but the audience must work to find them. Time used efficiently. (12)Video is poorly sequenced and main points are lost. Video is too short or too long. (7)

Essay grading rubric

  proficientbasicpoor
Analysis (60 points total)Thesis statement (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, interesting. (10)Clearly presented, well-formed, but not interesting. (7)Unclear thesis statement or poor thesis statement. (5)
Examples
(10)
3 or more specific examples, analyzed in detail. (10)3 specific examples, but sometimes superficial analysis. (7)Less than 3 specific examples. Not detailed enough. (5)
Methodology (30)Analysis relies on and deeply engages with a methodology learned in the course. (30)Methodology is clearly referenced but is not executed properly, or could use a more in-depth treatment. (20)Methodology is  mentioned but not really used. (10)
Support
(10)
Analysis supports thesis statement. (10)Relationship between analysis and thesis statement is implied but not made clear enough. (7)Relationship between analysis and thesis statement is often unclear. (3)
Citation (10 points total)In-text citations (5)All sources are properly cited in the essay. (5)Sources are cited in the essay, but with improper formatting. (3)No citations in the essay. (0)
Bibliography (5)A complete bibliography of sources is provided. (5)A complete bibliography of sources is provided, but with improper formatting. (3)Bibliography is incomplete. (0)
Style 
(30 points total)
Spelling and grammar (15)Overall good English grammar and spelling. Written in an academic tone. (15)Occasional grammar or spelling errors or instances of overly casual tone. (12)Many grammar/spelling errors and/or  inappropriate tone. (7)
Organization (15)Argument is easy to follow and the main points are easy to remember. Writing is clear and efficient. (15)Flow and main points can be discerned but the reader must work to find them. (12)The argument is hard to discern. Paper is too short or too long. (7)

First draft and Peer Review

By April 29, you will submit a draft of your final project by uploading it to Blackboard.

I will evaluate you using the final paper rubric for informational purposes only. Your first draft will get an A or B depending on the degree to which you seem to be on the right track. This will be 15% of your final grade.

Peer review

After receiving everyone’s first drafts, I will assign everyone one project to review.

The peer review process is intended to mimic the process of reviewing an article for a journal. In addition to this practical experience, the review process should help you learn to pinpoint similar issues in your own work, and will allow you to get feedback from multiple perspectives (not just mine).

Content

In your review, you will answer each of the following prompts in a Google Form which I will provide:

  1. In your own words, and without re-watching the video or re-reading the paper, do your best to summarize the main points of the proejct. This will do two things: 1) help the author identify any discrepancies between what they thought they were saying, and what they seem like they are actually saying, and 2) help the author understand where you are coming from with your following comments.
  2. What was the most effective part of this analysis? In other words, where did the analysis make you hear something differently, understand the piece better, or convince you of the argument?
  3. Everything in your final project should relate clearly back to the thesis statement. Was there any point at which you weren’t sure why the information was being presented? 
  4. The first draft is probably shorter than the final draft will be. In light of that, name one or two areas where you think the author can slow down, explain more, or go more in depth, to make the paper longer and more effective.
  5. Pose one analytical question to the author, and explain how you would suggest answering that question. The author may think this is a good idea/question, and end up answering it when expanding their analysis for the final draft!

Please don’t hesitate to provide honest feedback. Your feedback will not impact the scores that I give to the draft.

Grading

Your feedback will be graded on completion and counted as a homework grade.


Project Submission

  • Final deadline: May 18, 11:59 pm. This is near the very end of the exam period and unfortunately I cannot extend it futher.
  • Early deadline: May 13, 11:59 pm. If you submit your project by this date, I will have extra time to devote to giving you detailed helpful feedback on your paper.
  • The project will be submitted to me on Blackboard. 
  • If you are submitting a paper, submit as a .pdf file. 

Helpful tips

  • Meet with me one-on-one to improve your project! Students who meet with me always end up with better projects than students who do this on their own. I write a lot and have worked in a writing center, so I have a lot of wisdom about writing to share with you.
  • Begin your project by analyzing the music. Make your musical examples. Then, begin writing the paper by explaining your analysis. Write down the “low-hanging fruit” first to get the ball rolling so you’re not staring at a blank Word document.
  • If writing a paper: read your paper out loud to another human being before you submit it. This is the fastest way to find weird grammatical errors that you made.
  • Words and phrases to avoid: very, it, interesting, unique, thing, genius, “it is ___ that,” “some say,” “I believe,” “it seems.” Maybe also “to be.”

Week 14: Course Wrap-up

Our focus for the remaining weeks of the semester will be creating your own projects and learning to write a music-academic paper. Essentially, a music theory paper is an argument paper. You are going to argue for your own interpretation of a piece/idea, and you will support your argument through musical facts.

Preparing to write your final paper

Genre: the argument paper

Consider a more straightforward argument paper as an analogy. Say I’ve decided to write an argument paper that argues that we should build a public library. That is my thesis statement, and notice that it is an opinion of mine, not a fact. To make a persuasive argument paper, though, I need to support that argument with facts. So I do research and I find facts (note: the following are not real facts) that say that 1) public libraries provide an important community gathering space for children, youths, and the elderly; 2) libraries provide internet access for people who can’t afford to pay for it, and 3) libraries can provide learning programs for free. These would be the facts that I use to support my argument that we should build a public library.

Now the musical version of that: your thesis statement will be an interpretation of the piece, such as “this song uses the fragile tonic technique to emphasize the lyrical themes of emotional vulnerability.” What musical facts would I use to support that? It’s actually implied in the thesis statement itself. I have to show factually that the tonic chord is fragile.And, I have to give examples of how the lyrics show emotional vulnerability.

What not to do

A common pitfall in writing about music is thesis statements along the lines of “This is a good song [or a popular song, or a genius song] because of this Music Theory Thing.” You may have seen lots of examples of this kind of writing in program notes or in online magazines like Slate. They  make catchy headlines and entertaining program notes, but for a scholarly argument paper, it doesn’t work—music is far too complicated to have its success or value attributed to a music-theoretical concept. This is a music theory class, so I’m asking you to focus on music theory—so to succeed, make your thesis a thesis that you can prove using music theory. You’re never going to prove something is popular because of music theory, because to really prove why something is popular, you’d need to talk about marketing, social aspects, sex appeal, cultural context, etc. (all of which are extremely valid lines of questioning, but which are nonetheless far beyond the purview of this course).

To emphasize this point, let’s go back to the hypothetical public library argument. This thesis statement is not as good as my first attempt: “The reason libraries are so successful is that they provide important gathering spaces.” This argument is far more susceptible to counterarguments: what about libraries that don’t provide gathering spaces at all? what about the other reasons that libraries might be successful, like pretty buildings, good collections, or location? etc. etc. There’s too many things for you to prove—because of this, the argument is basically doomed from the start.

I discussed issues like these in our first lesson on intertextuality. It may help you to review those concepts.

Due Wednesday, Apr 29: Worksheet

Build an argument

To get you started on your final project, I have designed a worksheet that helps you think through your project. Download this worksheet by clicking the download icon in the top-right corner and open in Microsoft Word, which will let you fill out the form easily.

Submission

Submit this worksheet to me by uploading it to Blackboard as a .pdf, like an analysis assignment. The submission link is under “Final Project” in the sidebar.

Final project first deadline: May 6

Final project information is on a separate page.

Week 13: Analysis Symposium

Analysis symposia are weeks where we don’t do any additional readings or learn new approaches. Instead this week is a time for you to focus on trying out some of the techniques you were most interested in within the past couple weeks.

Before class: Individual analysis

  • Two people should do Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (1985) and two should do MGMT, “Electric Feel” (2008).
  • To help everyone out with harmonic analysis, I made a lyric sheet with lead sheet symbols.
  • For whichever song you choose, you should analyze it from a perspective informed by one of the authors we’ve recently read in the Traditional Theory unit.
  • Sometime before Wednesday, you should send a one page outline to the other person doing your song, so they get some advance idea of what you are talking about. Agree on a deadline together between the two of you.

Wednesday in class

During our Webex meeting, we’ll have a discussion on each of these videos. We’ll begin our discussion of each song by listening to the song, then having each person who analyzed that song give an informal summary of the interesting things they uncovered (~5 minutes; this won’t be timed, but just as a guideline).

We will spend time discussing each song on its own as well as making connections between the two songs.

Weeks 10–12: Traditional Theory and Pop Music

April 1: Form in pop music

Be sure you know how pop music formal terminology is used in academic settings, which can differ a little from vernacular settings. Read quickly through these two chapters in the new version of Open Music Theory: AABA and Strophic Form and Verse-Chorus Form.

Read .

Due Monday at noon

In Slack, find your thread in #partner-responses. Discuss one or more of de Clercq’s examples of ambiguity. State the formal label you would give this section and discuss the degree to which you agree with de Clercq that it is ambiguous. Has your opinion changed before/after reading?

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


April 8: Harmony

Even though most pop harmony is triadic, and is “simple” in that sense, its unique treatment of harmony can provide analytical interest.

Reading: . I will summarize in class if we have time.

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


April 15: Rhythm

Rhythm is one of the ways in which pop music regularly offers greater complexity than art music.

Reading: .

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library.

Biamonte, Nicole. 2014. “Formal Functions of Metric Dissonance in Rock Music.” Music Theory Online 20 (2). http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.20.2/mto.14.20.2.biamonte.html.
Biamonte, Nicole. 2010. “Triadic Modal and Pentatonic Patterns in Rock Music.” Music Theory Spectrum 32 (2): 95–110. https://doi.org/10.1525/mts.2010.32.2.95.
Clercq, Trevor de. 2017. “Embracing Ambiguity in the Analysis of Form in Pop/Rock Music, 1982–1991.” Music Theory Online 23 (3). https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.17.23.3/mto.17.23.3.de_clercq.html.
Nobile, Drew F. 2015. “Counterpoint in Rock Music: Unpacking the ‘Melodic-Harmonic Divorce.’” Music Theory Spectrum 37 (2): 189–203. https://academic.oup.com/mts/article-abstract/37/2/189/1083396.

Week 9: Analysis Symposium

Analysis symposia are weeks where we don’t do any additional readings or learn new approaches. Instead this week is a time for you to focus on trying out some of the techniques you were most interested in within the past couple weeks.

Before class: Individual analysis

  • Two people should do Tove Lo, “Glad He’s Gone” (2019) and two should do Salt-N-Pepa, “Whatta Man.”
  • For whichever song you choose, you should analyze it from a perspective informed by one of the authors we’ve recently read in the Culture unit.
  • Sometime before Wednesday, you should send a one page outline to the other person doing your song, so they get some advance idea of what you are talking about. Agree on a deadline together between the two of you.

Wednesday in class

During our Skype meeting, we’ll have a discussion on each of these videos. We’ll begin our discussion of each song by watching the video, then having each person who analyzed that song give an informal summary of the interesting things they uncovered (~5 minutes; this won’t be timed, but just as a guideline).

We will spend time discussing each song on its own as well as making connections between the two songs.

Weeks 4–7: Culture

Pop analyses tend to be most effective when they discuss the lyrics and how they interact with the culture in which they are situated. The next weeks’ readings tackle this from various angles. I am currently working on a project on disco and hip hop, so we will use these genres as the basis for these discussions.

Feb 12: Gender and sexuality

This week’s readings: .

Recommended, but difficult:

Other optional readings:

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.
  • Possible prompts:
    • The Butler reading is extremely important culturally speaking; however, it is a tough read. If you do read this one, you could try to summarize the gist of it in your response for those who don’t get it.
    • These readings are basically musicological, rather than music-analytical or music-theoretical. But, how might you use them in a future project to enhance an analysis?

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.

Feb. 14, 12:30 pm: Visiting Scholar Lecture

If at all possible, please come to deLaski 3001 at 12:30 for a lecture from Prof. Thomas Johnson (Skidmore College). His talk is titled “Whose ‘Country’? Lil Nas X, Categorization, and History in Music Metadata.” It will relate to our discussion next week.

When “Old Town Road” was booted from the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in Spring 2019, some country music fans were relieved that Billboard confessed to its mistaken genre identification. Other listeners and musicians felt that Billboard’s decision “just reinforced what [they] knew about being a non-white artist or fan in the genre.” The ensuing controversy was ultimately a simple one: what/who counts as country and what/who doesn’t?

In this talk, I analyze what country music is in the streaming age by exploring metadata in Spotify and Wikipedia. Genre tags and stylistic metadata create connections between musicians in a streaming ecosystem, and a musician’s metadata- network can determine how their music gets distributed. By comparing network properties of black country musicians, white Country Music Hall of Fame members, and musicians currently on Spotify’s “Hot Country Playlist,” I demonstrate that black and white country musicians—both contemporary and historical—and their connective metadata often cluster together along racial lines.

Lil Nas X got his viral hit onto the country charts simply by labeling it as “#Country” on Soundcloud, demonstrating the power of a genre hashtag. This talk explores how its erasure fits into the complex and pernicious history of race, categorization, and American popular music.

Abstract

Feb 19: Race and Ethnicity

Discussion leader: Justin

This week’s readings: .

Please also watch Phil Ewell’s “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame,” which was part of the highlight plenary session of the Society for Music Theory’s annual meeting in 2019.

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.
  • Possible prompts:
    • As with last week, these readings are really musicological and not particularly music-analytical; how might you incorporate them in a future project to enhance an analysis?
    • Each of these articles is somewhat old. From your observations, what has changed since a given article was written, and what has stayed the same?
    • in particular does not only address race and ethnicity, but also gender. This is an example of what’s called intersectionality: attending to issues of race as well as gender within one analysis. Why is it important to bring gender into discussions of race, and vice-versa? Can you tie the Rose’s chapter in with some of the readings from last week? 

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.

Feb 26: Lyrics

Discussion leader: Jenn

Video Summary: Lori Burns, “Vocal Authority and Listener Engagement”

Watch my video summarizing .

Note: This video uses interactive technology. The picture-in-picture can be swapped or even viewed side-by-side. The video also uses a menu so you can quickly navigate to certain portions of the video. For more explanation, see this video from Kaltura.

download lyric analysis slides – download lyric analysis transcript

Here is a link to the song in the model analysis:

This diagram (Example 7.2 in ) summarizes the important terminology introduced in this article.

Burns (2010), Example 7.2.

Reading

Please read .

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Here are some optional prompts.

  • Lyric analysis relies a lot on intertextuality, which you studied back in Week 1. You are not meant to be uncovering the “true meaning” when you analyze lyrics, nor are you uncovering the “true meaning” when you analyze poetry! Related to this: you cannot know the identity of the “real author” and the “real reader,” which is why Burns places those terms outside the flowchart in her diagram. What are some reasons why the “real author” is unidentifiable?
  • A big issue that recurs in pop music scholarship is the notion of “authenticity.” Authenticity is a trait that is prized in many pop genres. Country, rap, folk, rock, metal—the list goes on and on, and includes a wide diversity of genres, if not close to all of them. How does the issue of authenticity relate to lyric analysis?

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


March 4: Music Videos

Discussion leader: Annamarie

Readings:

Lafrance, Marc, and Lori Burns. 2017. “Finding Love in Hopeless Places: Complex Relationality and Impossible Heterosexuality in Popular Music Videos by Pink and Rihanna.” Music Theory Online 23 (2): 33. https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.17.23.2/mto.17.23.2.lafrance_burns.html.
Sterbenz, Maeve. 2017. “Movement, Music, Feminism: An Analysis of Movement-Music Interactions and the Articulation of Masculinity in Tyler, the Creator’s ‘Yonkers’ Music Video.” Music Theory Online 23 (2). https://doi.org/10.30535/mto.23.2.6.
.

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library.

Alim, H. Samy, Jooyoung Lee, and Lauren Mason Carris. 2010. “‘Short Fried-Rice-Eating Chinese MCs’ and ‘Good-Hair-Havin Uncle Tom Niggas’: Performing Race and Ethnicity in Freestyle Rap Battles.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 20 (1): 116–33. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1395.2010.01052.x.
Burns, Lori. 2010. “Vocal Authority and Listener Engagement: Musical and Narrative Expressive Strategies in the Songs of Female Pop-Rock Artists, 1993–95.” In Sounding Out Pop: Analytical Essays in Popular Music, edited by Mark Spicer and John Covach, 154–92. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Butler, Judith. 1988. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal 40 (4): 519–531.
Frank, Gillian. 2007. “Discophobia: Antigay Prejudice and the 1979 Backlash against Disco.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16 (2): 276–306. https://doi.org/10.1353/sex.2007.0050.
Hubbs, Nadine. 2015. “‘Jolene,’ Genre, and the Everyday Homoerotics of Country Music: Dolly Parton’s Loving Address of the Other Woman.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 19 (1): 71–76. https://doi.org/10.1353/wam.2015.0017.
Hubbs, Nadine. 2007. “‘I Will Survive’: Musical Mappings of Queer Social Space in a Disco Anthem.” Popular Music 26 (02): 231–44. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143007001250.
Johnson-Grau, Brenda. 2002. “Sweet Nothings: Presentation of Women Musicians in Pop Journalism.” In Pop Music and the Press, edited by Steve Jones. Temple University Press.
Neal, Jocelyn R. 2007. “Narrative Paradigms, Musical Signifiers, and Form as Function in Country Music.” Music Theory Spectrum 29 (1): 41–72. https://doi.org/10.1525/mts.2007.29.1.41.
Rose, Tricia. 1994. “Bad Sistas: Black Women Rappers and Sexual Politics in Rap Music.” In Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. African American Music Reference. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University.
Waksman, Steve. 1996. “Every Inch of My Love: Led Zeppelin and the Problem of Cock Rock.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 8: 5–25.

Weeks 1–3: Foundations

Jan 22: Why study pop music?

We’ll confront the idea that pop music does not deserve to be studied seriously. Our discussion will be based on .


Jan 29: Intertextuality and Mashups

This week, we continue to absorb the lessons on intertextuality from the week prior as we study mashups. Our primary reading will be .

Due Monday at noon

In Slack, find your thread in #partner-responses. Link to a mashup that you enjoy. Write ~250 words that relate your mashup to .

Due Wednesday at noon

In partners, discuss each of your mashups and your writeups about them.


Feb 5: Transcription

Because there is usually no written score for pop songs, transcription is an essential skill for pop analysis. You will practice transcribing on your own. In class, we will have discussion based on .

Due Monday at noon

  • Transcribe the first verse and first chorus of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” either the original by the Beatles or the cover by Joe Cocker—agree on one with your partner, and do the same song. Work out as much detail as you can. You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts. .mp3 files available in the readings folder.
  • Upload a .pdf of your transcription to your thread in #partner-responses.
  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. What was your process? What was difficult for you? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.

Due Wednesday at noon

Compare your transcription to your partner’s. Discuss the differences, focusing primarily on meter and rhythm.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library.

Adams, Kyle. 2015. “What Did Danger Mouse Do? The Grey Album and Musical Composition in Configurable Culture.” Music Theory Spectrum 37 (1): 7–24.
Burns, Lori. 2002. “‘Close Readings’ of Popular Song: Intersections among Sociocultural, Musical, and Lyrical Meanings.” In Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity and Popular Music, by Lori Burns and Melissa Lafrance, 31–62. New York: Routledge.
Murphy, Nancy. forthcoming. “Expressive Timing in ‘With God on Our Side.’” Music Analysis.