The Analytical Essay

For this paper, you will write an analytical paper on a complete work or a movement / portion of a larger work from the seventeenth or eighteenth century.

Length: 1500 words, typed, double-spaced, using a 12-point font, heading and page numbers.

  1. Choose a work / movement composed in the seventeenth or eighteenth century (no Beethoven please).
  2. Listen to one performance of the work (with score if possible). Please talk with me about score selection.
  3. Think about form, instrumentation, melodic contrasts / similarities, rhythmic contrasts / similarities, etc. as you listen. Keep notes; this will be the body of your paper.

Your essay needs to include the following components:

  • A title. Be creative!
  • An introductory paragraph (or two) to present the piece / movement, composer, and in what ways you will analyze the work (articulation, phrasing, tempo, dynamic shadings, balance of parts or musical lines, etc). Placing the piece / composer in historical context is also good, but this is not the focus of the paper.
  • The body of your essay presents details, descriptions, etc. that will help to explain your topic more fully. It is often easier to write from large scope to smaller details (form to melody / articulation), devoting a paragraph or two to each element. You can refer to specific passages in the recording by measure number or timing.
  • A summary paragraph (or two) concludes your essay with more general statements about the topic (and possibly avenues for further exploration; i.e. other ways one might "hear" this same piece).
  • A works consulted list at the end of your essay needs to include citations for the score and recorded performances for your piece / movement.

Please do NOT consult any source beyond the score, recorded performance, and our text. This essay is strictly about what YOU hear!

This essay will then be revised and expanded to a total of 3000 words by comparing performances of the same composition.

Concert Reports

You are required to attend at least 2 concerts featuring the music of the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries and write a 500-750 word report on each experience. If you have any questions about a concert program, please let me know. Concert reports must discuss each work on the concert in a thoughtful way. A successful report will be organized effectively and demonstrate competence with the fundamentals of writing (spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax). Reports should be submitted with the concert program and ticket.

Some Things to Consider as You Listen

The following questions are designed to help you think about the music you will hear during the concert. You do not have to limit yourself to these questions, but be sure to focus your report on the music and its performance. Taking notes during the performance can disturb those around you; try writing down a few short ideas at intermission and immediately after the concert. Then write a draft of your report just after or within one day of the concert.

What is the form of the piece?

  • Are there any melodies that return?
  • Do particular sounds, instruments, or voices return?

What techniques are used to create a sense of expectation?

  • Are there a lot of dynamic changes?
  • Are there sudden dynamic changes?
  • Are there very high or very low notes held for a long time?
    • Does this create expectations in you the listener?
  • Does this lead to new music or a return to music that was heard earlier?
  • What techniques are used to create contrast?
    • Think about how dynamics, different instruments, different tempos are used.

Is the performance convincing?

  • If there is a text, do you think that the music is appropriate for that text?
  • Do the performers give the impression that they know the music and what they want to convey in that music?

If there is more than one performer, do you get the feeling of an ensemble working together?

Do you think the pieces played were programmed to reflect a theme or purpose? In what way(s) were the compositions related?

If the composition is on our syllabus, how does your prior knowledge of the piece affect your understanding of this particular performance? Does familiarly with the piece change the listening experience? How does this compare with hearing a piece for the very first time?

Listening Outlines

You will create two listening outlines, one on a work / movement from each century studied, to share with your fellow students as part of a class presentation.