About the Writing Assignments

This course is part of the MIT Communications - Intensive Program, and requires that you write at least twenty pages during the term. Our writing assignments will take three forms.

  1. A preparatory format essay of two pages.
  2. Two concert reports of two concerts each, two pages per concert attended, are collected halfway through the course and again toward the end. They should reflect your study in culture areas beyond traditional rock, pop, jazz, or western classical music. They should be written up with a music-culture perspective. Three of the four of these should be by professional performers (not amateur or school-cultural show performances). The concerts will be handed in with any paraphernalia (tickets, programs, etc) in a pocket-folder. All reports will be kept together in the folder and resubmitted.
  3. A two-part assignment which concentrates on a living musical culture of your own choosing. You should be able to access this culture in your travels in and around Boston, perhaps even here at MIT. Once you have identified a musical culture, you will write it up in two papers of six to seven pages each.

Paper 1 will be about the music culture as you may be able to access its background through books, journals, recordings, and the Internet. You will research the music through these secondary sources to become acquainted with the culture which produces the music, and what kind of styles and genres are representative of it. It will necessarily be a wider view of the music and its cultural background, but must focus on the music as you expect to encounter it. This paper will be returned for revision, and then resubmitted.

Paper 2 will show live interaction with your chosen culture through concerts, interviews with performers, and discussions with listeners and people who make up the local community of that culture.

NB: Because you will need to ascertain the availability of situations that comprise the focus of Paper 2, you will probably need to start the project with identifying these sources before beginning Paper 1.

There will be expected to be a spirit of freshness and objectivity in your writing, so it is preferred that you choose a culture of which you are not a personal representative.

Guidelines for Formatting Papers (PDF)

The following examples of student work are included courtesy of the students and used with permission.

Paper 1: Exploring a Musical Culture through Background Research

Assignment Description (PDF)

Example papers:

"Samba: Brazil’s Defining Personality" by Aaron Sarfati (PDF)
"Maninka Music in Guinea" by anonymous student (PDF)

Paper 2: Experiencing a Living Musical Culture

Example papers:

"The Samba Experience" by Aaron Sarfati (PDF)
"Ba Cissoko" by anonymous student (PDF)