Music in Civilization : “Opinionated Listening”

In this class, you’re developing your ability to describe what you hear. Tis paper is a chance for
you to practice and demonstrate this ability, and to use those descriptions in the service of an
interpretive argument about why you like or dislike music. Tis assignment focuses on the skills
of description. Later assignments will focus on skills of interpretation and argument.
Tis assignment asks you (1) use precise terminology to describe music that you hear, and (2)
articulate why you like or dislike what you hear, referring to the parts of the music you described.
Both of these goals are in the service of fostering the ability to make clear interpretive arguments
about music that are backed up by clearly-described evidence in the music itself.
Assignment Process

  1. Choose two pieces of music you know very well: one you like, and one you dislike. Tese can
    be of any style or genre, as long as you are familiar with them If you prefer, you could choose
    two pieces we’ve covered in class so far.
  2. Listen to each piece of music in the following way: in a quiet/calm place with few
    distractions, listen to the whole piece on headphones. Focus on moments that sound
    particularly interesting, important, or unique to you, taking written notes while you listen.
    Ask yourself: “What are the musical dimensions that make me have this overall impression/
    understanding of this music”? Listen again, this time focusing on those specific dimensions
    individually. Take more notes precisely and accurately describing these salient dimensions.
  3. In a clearly organized, carefully edited paper (500–750 words), write about your reasons for preferring one piece over the other, AND imagine why another listener might have the opposite opinion.

Sample Solution