MUS 202 Final Essay Spring 2009 (Take-home Essays)

Question 1 (one-two pages)

Read the Alex Ross article “Why So Serious?” and the David Segal article “Memoirs of a Music Man.” What is the importance of live performance of music today?  Is spontaneity part of that importance?  What is your experience and feelings about it, and what do you think other people feel about it?  (Be clear in your writing as to what is speculation and what is supported by observation and other sources.)  Classical, jazz, rock, pop?

Relevant links:

David Segal, a music critic for a newspaper, reflects on the live concert experience, authenticity, and rock.

Why So Serious?,” by Alex Ross in the New Yorker magazine, 8 Sep 2008.

Linda Ronstadt testimony (pdf)

excerpts from an interview with Glenn Gould around 1980

Rock musician David Byrne discusses in this blog entry another Alex Ross article, this one about recordings and live performance.)

Other David Byrne links

Early (“Psycho Killer,” 1977) rec. 1978

Later (“Take Me to the River,” from Stop Making Sense)


In this interview he suggests that there are buttons are performing musician can press that will trigger predictable emotional reactions in an audience.  Does knowing that and using those tricks take away from the spontaneity or authenticity of the moment?  Levitin/Byrne discussion

More background on scientist/musician Daniel Levitin.  (PBS News Hour segment)


Question 2 (two pages)

What information is useful in appreciating a particular piece of music?  Define what you mean by appreciation.   Specify the different kinds of information that might be significant – the experience of listening (the music IS the information); technical explanation of the processes (sonata form) or musical materials (scales, harmony, rhythm, meter, etc.), historical context, publically known intentions of the creators.  Discuss the special case (really the usual case!) of lyrics the lyrics as information IN the music; the information in the lyrics; the outside information (context) that one can bring in to interpret the lyrics.  

Specifically mention your experience of listening to at least one of the four main classical pieces covered in class, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album, your lyrics project, and some of the types of meaning in music covered in lecture.


The purpose of this assignment is to prompt you to reflect on the many pieces of music presented in class in the course of the semester, demonstrating that you heard the music and thought about it.   


A+ = engaging, vivid, personal; a novel or surprising creative approach

A = well-organized and thorough; unique personal observations; a good mix of big ideas and supporting details

B = good content but not well-organized or with several incorrect uses of music terminology

C = too short; lacking in personal points of view; few details, few works named; many incorrect uses of music terminology

D = poor writing obscures whatever point you are trying to make; not internally consistent (self-contradictory) but at least some evidence that you did listen and think!

F = much better for your average than a zero.


DC Meckler

May 2009

MUS 202 music appreciation