Writing about music What are the main difficulties writing about music?



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Writing about music

What are the main difficulties writing about music?

Studying and reading effectively so essays contain evidence and argument, not descriptions of emotional reactions to music.
What makes a good music essay?

Original thought supported by argument, evidence and clear writing.
Reading for essays

How much reading should I do for an essay?

It depends on the topic, but essays for first year, including ‘Exploring Western Music’, generally require at least three or four sources comprising books, book chapters and journal articles. Some second- and third-year units require double this number.
How much listening should I do for an essay?

It depends on the topic, but in addition to set listening, students should regularly listen to as much music as possible.
How much is the study of music about learning “the facts” of a period?

Not a lot. You need a chronology and a feel for when a particular epoch occurred, but understanding the meaning of a musical work from various vantage points, such as the analytical and social, are more important.
How useful is the Web for music essays?

For accessing the library and seeing music making on YouTube, the Internet is a good resource. Your lecturers for each subject will advise the extent to which the web should - or should not - be used to access resources, but no-one wants to see references to answers.com or Wikipedia in essays.
How should I deal with the situation when two scholars present conflicting interpretations of events?

Explain the differences and make up your own mind. This is critical thinking at its best.
Essay style

Can I write “I think” in my essays?

No. But you can write ‘I believe …’ or ‘It is my opinion that …’. But don’t overdo this informality.
Should I include biographical information about composers in my essays?

Not unless you are asked to do so. It usually is of no relevance whatsoever that Vivaldi had red hair or that Beethoven was deaf.
How many times do I need to edit and proofread my essay?

As often as it takes you to make it read smoothly. Friends make good proofreaders, too.
How can I cultivate a good writing style?

Read a lot and observe good writing in action. Also observe writing that you think is verbose and awkward and avoid such styles in your own work.
General

How should an essay be structured?

At the very least it needs an introduction, body, conclusion, footnotes and a references list.
Do I need to discuss examples from a musical score in my essay?

Not always. But if you are asked to illustrate your essay by using examples from a score, insert the relevant sections in the essay, provide a caption, a source in a footnote and explain in prose using bar numbers (not highlighter) why the excerpt is relevant. Also list the score in the References list at the end of your essay.
Why do some essays fail?

Usually because of disorganisation, bad expression and sheer laziness.
How should I deal with a bad result for an essay?

See your unit coordinator for help - and work harder.


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