Categories
2023

Weeks 14–15: Final Project

Your final project is an analysis of a pop song (broadly construed) of your choosing. The purpose of the project is for you to apply the skills you’ve learned in class to something that you enjoy and want to share with the rest of the class.

Due dateAssignment
Sunday, April 23 at noonProject worksheet
Thursday, May 4 at 7:20pmVideo
Sunday, May 7 at noonPeer feedback
May 10–15Essay

Recommended reading

If you want more explicit help and guidance on writing an analytical paper, read Chapter 7 of . This is available for you in the Readings folder on Teams. This chapter will teach you how to make sure your paper is unified and has a coherent argument.


Project Worksheet

To get you started, I have designed a worksheet that helps you think through your project. I have added a copy of the worksheet to your homework submit folder. The filename is 13 final project worksheet.docx.

Save as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder by Sunday, April 23 at noon.

After you’ve gone through my feedback on your worksheet, you may like to schedule a time to do an individual meeting to discuss your project with me.


Video

Make a video (max 10 minutes) in which you apply knowledge you gained in our seminar to a song of your choosing. It is worth 15% of your final grade.

The video will be like a first draft of your final paper. This will be an opportunity for you to get feedback from me and your peers.

Content

  • Use the worksheet you submitted and my feedback as a guide for your content. However, your video should go deeper than your worksheet. You should have specific analysis by this point.
  • Analysis must engage with one or more methodologies discussed in class. This is where the majority of the points are—failure to do this will certainly result in a poor grade.
  • You should have a clear thesis statement in your video, and all your analysis should tie into the thesis statement. 
  • Your video should be, at most, 10 minutes long. This correlates to about five double-spaced pages of writing. It’s really not much so make sure you’re tightly organized.
  • Please make sure I have access to all necessary material to understand your paper (files or links for relevant video/audio, transcriptions, etc.).
  • You should have a powerpoint presentation or some other comparable visuals.
  • This video is too short to include historical context—get straight to your analysis! Historical context will not help your grade and will only give you less space to present.

Style

  • Your voice explaining everything must be included in the video. 
  • You may do either a picture-in-picture layout, where one picture is yourself talking to the camera and the other is your powerpoint, or you may do a disembodied voice layout with only your powerpoint on screen. 
  • Videos must be professional, rehearsed, well-organized, and polished, in order to maximize the effectiveness of your limited time. 
  • Videos should be edited to remove any awkward pauses and unnecessary content.

Submission

  • Upload your video on Teams by Thursday, May 4 at 7:20pm (class time—although we won’t have class).
  • In the General channel, there is a folder called final project videos—this is where you should put your video.
  • The filename of your video should be your last name.

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)

Peer 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).

Peer review assignments will be posted to the #general channel on Teams. Further guidance is posted there.

Content

You will complete an evaluation using a form; this form will be made accessible as a tab in the General channel. The form asks you to answer the following questions:

  1. In your own words, and without re-watching the video, do your best to summarize the main points of the video. 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 video’s 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 video and 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 final paper is longer than the script for these videos 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 paper!

Please don’t hesitate to provide honest feedback. Your feedback will not impact the scores that I give to the video. Of course, you ought to still be polite and constructive whenever possible.

Submission

Complete the form on Teams by Sunday, May 7 at noon.

Grading

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


Essay

The analytical essay 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 a song 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 paper. 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 paper, and therefore worth the most points in the rubric.
  • Your paper 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 paper should be music analysis. If historical/cultural context directly enhances your central music-analytical thesis, then you may include it. Otherwise, restrict your biographical information to one paragraph. 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.

Length

  • Your paper should be at least 10 pages, but no more than 20.
  • If you are under or over my suggested page counts, please send me a draft and I’ll suggest places where you need to expand/condense.
  • Page counts include musical examples (within reason).

Style

  • 1” margins; professional 12 point font, such as Times; double-spaced
  • Add a header with your name, the class, and the date you submit.
  • Add page numbers.
  • 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. I am uncomfortable proofreading/assessing APA style.
  • Proofread carefully.

Submission

  • You may submit your paper anytime between May 10 and May 15.
    • Submit by May 10 if you want detailed feedback on your grade.
    • Papers submitted after May 10 will receive feedback on the rubric alone. (You can of course ask me after the semester/holidays for more feedback if you like.)
  • The paper will be submitted to me in your homework submit folders.
  • You must submit your paper as a .pdf file. 
  • Please make sure I have access to all necessary material to understand your paper (video/audio clips, transcriptions, etc.).

Final Paper 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)

Helpful tips

  • Come talk with me one-on-one to improve your paper! 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.
  • 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.”
  • I recently made a practical guide for how to type theory things in your word processor of choice.

Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Categories
2023

Weeks 11–13: Rap

Rap has become inescapable in pop music culture, as evidenced by (among other things) Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. winning the Pulitzer Prize. Music theorists have developed several specialized tools for discussing this genre, which diverges from other pop music in many ways.

April 6

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (MeHaley discussion leading)

Special guest! Dr. Loren Kajikawa will join us to discuss his book chapter.

Here is the recording that Kajikawa analyzes in the chapter:

https://youtu.be/nTHCZCNm9v8

Writing due Sunday at noon

Following Manabe’s examples, make a metric/lyric chart of some part of Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe,” which will be the focus of one of the readings next week. I have uploaded an .mp3 as well as Excel sheet to use as a template in Teams.

  • Download the template and create a new file (don’t fill out the file directly within Teams).
  • Listen closely, select a section of the song that you’d like to transcribe, and fill out the chart like Manabe does.
  • Once you’re done, export as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.
  • Feel free to also add some sentences that explain any difficulty you had if you like.

Manabe explains her chart as follows:

My modification of Krims’s (2000) method places each 4-beat measure in a row, with each box representing a quarter note containing four sixteenth-note pulses. An “x” marks a spoken pulse, and a “-” marks a silent or held pulse. Verbal accents are capitalized, while rhymes are italicized. The yellow shading represents an A♭ chord, while tan represents the onset of a Gm9 chord (with light tan a repeated onset) and green, the final Cm7/D-bass chord.


April 13

Readings due Thursday before class

  • , chapter 3 (Scott discussion leading)

Special guest! Dr. Olivia Lucas will join us to discuss her book chapter.

Writing due Sunday at noon

Make another metric/lyric chart like last week’s, but this time using “Real People” by Common, which will be an example in Tatar’s presentation next week. I have uploaded an .mp3 as well as Excel sheet to use as a template in Teams.

Again, you can choose what portion of the song you analyze and transcribe. I think the first verse is hardest, the second is easiest (except a bit in the middle), and the third (short) verse is somewhere in between. The whole song is more difficult than last week’s song, because this rapper’s flow isn’t as strictly in the beat—you will have to normalize/quantize things in your head a bit to write it down.

  • I have copied the template file to your homework submit folder for you to edit. The file is called 12 Real People.xlsx.
  • Listen closely, select a section of the song that you’d like to transcribe, and fill out the chart like Manabe does.
  • Once you’re done, export as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.
  • Feel free to also add some sentences that explain any difficulty you had if you like.


April 20

Part of this class will also be dedicated to going over the final project.

Reading due Thursday before class

These readings were chosen by our special guest instructor, Jeremy Tatar, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University specializing in rap.

He also requested that you listen to the following tracks.

  • “Kick in the Door” by the Notorious B.I.G. (Produced by DJ Premier)
  • “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  • “Real People” by Common (Produced by Kanye West)
  • “Sweet Children” by Caesar Frazier
  • “Lil’ Freak” by Usher
  • “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder

I’ve compiled these into a playlist:

Writing due Sunday at noon

  1. Complete the project worksheet for your final project. (This due date was moved up one week.) I have added a copy of the worksheet to your homework submit folder. The filename is 13 final project worksheet.docx. Fill out this docx and then export as a PDF in your homework submit folder.
  2. Schedule a time to do an individual meeting to discuss your project with me.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Categories
2023

Weeks 9–10: Voice

Recent years have seen an immense increase in analytical approaches to the voice in popular music. We’ll study the voice from a few different analytical lenses.

March 23

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (Andrew discussion leading)
  • (Rita discussion leading). You can skim section 2, focusing on its last couple paragraphs (the ones with subheaders “Issue 1” and “Issue 2”).

Writing due Sunday at noon

Analyze some part of the vocals of “you should see me in a crown” by Billie Eilish (2018). Your work should be inspired by Duguay and Malawey but doesn’t need to strictly adhere (especially in Duguay’s case, since she uses a lot of special software). I have provided .mp3 files of the original and of an isolated vocal track I created using Izotope RX (as suggested by Duguay) on Teams. Write 250–500 words on your findings.


March 30

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (Yue discussion leading)

Special guest! Kristi Hardman will join to talk more about using music information retrieval (MIR) technology to analyze music.

Writing due Sunday at noon

None!


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Categories
2023

Week 7: Music Videos

Music videos have increased vastly in importance for the promotion of music since 1981, when MTV was created. We’ll learn some analytical frameworks for systematically discussing music videos.

March 9

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (Ying discussion leading)
  • Optional:

Writing due Sunday at noon

Complete an analysis of the video for “You Don’t Know Me” by Son Lux (2015) after Lafrance and Burns. I have copied their Figure 1 into a spreadsheet on Teams. Download this spreadsheet and fill it in with specifics relating to “You Don’t Know Me.”

Write a few additional sentences explaining any problems you encountered, special points, etc.

Save as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Categories
2023

Weeks 5–6: Form

If you are unfamiliar with pop music, you may want to read quickly through these two chapters in the new version of Open Music Theory: AABA and Strophic Form and Verse-Chorus Form. Note that pop music terminology is used in a very precise and specific way in academic settings, which can differ a little from vernacular settings.

Here are some helpful abbreviations for verse-chorus form sections.

Abbreviation Section name
V Verse
P Prechorus
C Chorus
Z Post-chorus
B Bridge
I Intro
O Outro
X Coda

Feb 23

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (John discussion leading)

Special guest! Dr. Alyssa Barna will join us for class discussion.

Writing due Sunday at noon

Analyze the form of “CUFF IT” by Beyoncé (2022).

  1. Use the BriFormer web app to create a formal diagram.

  • Click “Create a new BriForm using a YouTube link”
  • Enter the YouTube link for the official video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrtWLyp5gLI
  • Make your diagram!

    • Use different arches to signify different sections.
    • Use at least two levels of groupings.
    • Color-code your sections: all verses should be Color A, choruses Color B, etc.
    • Add labels for your formal sections. You may want to use the abbreviations listed above.

  • Once you’re done, click “Share” and then “Create shareable link,” and copy the URL.

2. Paste the URL into a document so I can access it later. Write an explanatory paragraph that accounts for anything you couldn’t get into your formal diagram—ambiguities, important details, etc. Additionally, discuss how Nobile and Barna’s ideas informed your decision-making.

3. Save as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.


March 2

Readings due Thursday before class

  • (Randy discussion leading)
  • (Naima discussion leading)

Writing due Sunday at noon

Write a brief reading response (~250 words is fine) about the readings from this unit. Some optional prompts:

  • How did your perception of pop form change after doing the readings?
  • What do you think of how genre intersects with form?


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Categories
2023

Weeks 3–4: 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. The analytical readings all rely on transcription to communicate their points. We will discuss how to use transcription effectively.

Possible useful programs: Audacity, Sonic Visualiser, The Amazing Slow-Downer.

February 9

Reading (due Thursday before class)

  • (Tyler discussion leading)
  • (Vinny discussion leading)

Writing (due Sunday 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. .mp3 files available in the readings folder.

    • Focus on the pitched material (although obviously you need to be rhythmically accurate as well.)
    • Work out as much detail as you can.
    • You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts.

  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. What was your process? What was difficult for you? Did the readings inform your process? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.
  • Save both files as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.


February 16

Reading (due Thursday before class)

Special guest! Dr. Nancy Murphy will join us to discuss her article.

Writing (due Sunday at noon)

You have two options for transcribing (MP3 available in the readings folder):

  • Sufjan Stevens, “Concerning the UFO Sightings…”. Ignore the flutes and focus on piano and voice.
  • Robert Johnson, “Terraplane Blues.” (This one is the more difficult option!)

For either selection:

  • Transcribe the first minute or so.

    • Pay special attention to rhythmic accuracy.
    • Consider annotating your transcription to show any places where there are metric ambiguities (following ).
    • Work out as much detail as you can.
    • You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts.

  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. Can you apply any specialized terminology from the readings to these examples? Did knowing these terms help you recognize the aural phenomena? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.
  • Save both files as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Categories
2023

Weeks 1–2: Foundations

Jan 26: Introductions

In the first class, we’ll go through the syllabus and talk about the music we’re interested in. Before class,

Due Thursday before class

Click here and submit one pop song you’d like to discuss with everyone. (“Pop” is very broadly construed here and throughout the course as an umbrella term including all popular genres—it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Billboard Top 40 hit or anything.) Be prepared to discuss briefly what you find so compelling about it. 

Due Sunday at noon

Fill out this form to indicate your top 3 preferred readings for discussion leading.


Feb 2: Analyzing pop music

This week, we’ll discuss the analysis of pop music in a general sense and consider some of the main challenges we might face.

Reading due Thursday before class

  • (Michael discussion leading)
  • (Calvin discussion leading)

Due Sunday at noon

Write a brief response to the readings and our in-class discussion. You may want to mention what you want to get out of this class and how the readings related to that (or didn’t). Please save as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).