pick 2 20th century songs with artists below and write a five page close listening essay

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Compare two songs and write a five-page creative essay that explores the sound and style of the songs using descriptive and technical musical terminology (see list of musical terms for reference). You may choose songs by one of the artists below, who we have discussed in our first classes about art song, folk song, Tin Pan Alley, Great American Songbook, and jazz and blues. The selection must be a vocal song (as opposed to another type of musical composition/work/piece). You may also choose a song by another artist if it relates to our topics in the first several weeks of class and if it is an early 20th-century song. let me know with any questions about your song selections.

Listen to your song many times and use your ears to describe what you hear. Consider melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, vocal timbre, instrumentation, word painting, function, form, and mood. Take notes as you listen and consider how you want to structure your creative essay to present your observations most clearly. The main requirements are that you practice close listening of the song and use musical terms in your essay to describe it. Include a link and information about the versions you describe.

No sources are required for this essay, but you must cite your sources if you use any to avoid plagiarism. It is preferable that you rely solely on your own listening experience. (Any factual information that you may need to look up, such as album title, year, recording label, etc., counts as general knowledge and does not need to be cited.) Please refrain from relying on others’ descriptions of your song and use your own ears to describe what you hear. I am not interested in song analyses or descriptions that can be found in Wikipedia, blogs, magazines, or academic articles. The focus should be on your interpretation and description of musical sound.

If relevant, you may draw from themes we’ve discussed in class, content you’ve learned from reading, or summaries available on Oxford Music Online, but the focus should be on describing sound, rather than broader background information. You may choose to continue researching this song and its cultural contexts for your final paper, if it is suitable for the prompt in terms of theme, argument, and setting.

Cite the link – where you hear this song? Youtube spotify etc.

Mark the time (1:22 or 1m 22s) you are talking about.

Please remember to pay attention to formatting, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Assignment documents should include your name, an interesting title (not “Close Listening Essay”), and page numbers. The paper should be five pages, double-spaced.

Some songwriters/singers to consider:

Louis Armstrong

Irving Berlin

Duke Ellington

George and Ira Gershwin

Percy Grainger

Charles Ives

Jerome Kern

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Memphis Minnie

Charley Patton

Cole Porter

Ma Rainey

Bessie Smith

Bessie Tucker

Traditional folk tunes


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