Louis Armstrong (“I’m Not Rough”) and one by Jelly Roll Morton

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MUSI 2120, Essay #1


In this essay, we would like you to use music analysis to concentrate on a pair of pieces; at the same time, we would like you to use analysis in the broader context of an argument. We have chosen two 12-bar blues examples: one by Louis Armstrong (“I’m Not Rough”) and one by Jelly Roll Morton (“Original Jelly Roll Blues”). Relying primarily on your analysis of musical sound, construct an argument that simultaneously acknowledges the music’s links to a common style (New Orleans jazz), while exploring how each example illustrates the aesthetic choices of its bandleader. Your argument must relate directly to the sound of the music. Please remember that while you may cite concepts from class (biography, style), your argument will be judged on its relationship to musical sound.

Please be sure that your music analysis describes short segments of each performance in detail. Cite specific examples with CD timings. Be specific in your writing by using the musical vocabulary introduced in class to articulate your points. (For a list of terms, see "Definitions" on the web site.)

A few helpful points:


  • This is not a research paper. It is possible to cite articles from outside the class, but your argument should be based primarily on your own observations and material presented in class.

  • If you cite a source--whether it's a page from the web site, an article in the reading, or some other resource--be sure to put it in quotation marks and cite the source. Failure to do so can be considered plagiarism, which is a serious offense against the Honor System.

  • When citing the class textbook, use in-text parenthetical notes, listing the source. For example: "According to the textbook [Chapter 8, p. 149], the melody for 'Mood Indigo' came from Barney Bigard." Or: "According to Albert Murray ["The Blues as Such," p. 74], blues musicians were professionals, not folk performers."


  • Make sure that the ideas behind your argument are clearly stated, and that the relationship of your argument to the pieces in question is clear.

  • Be sure to use paragraphs effectively. Each paragraph should have a point, and should normally not last long. A paper written in one or two long paragraphs informs us that the author does not know yet what he/she thinks.

  • Do not waste space with general opening paragraphs, or “summing-up” closing paragraphs. These will be counted as irrelevant to your essay.


  • Do not suggest in your argument that one kind of jazz is superior because it is compared to an example that is inferior. All the music chosen in this class is of superior quality.

  • Do not hinge your argument on the music's "greatness" or "brilliance." We are interested in more detail and more nuance than that.

  • Do not have your argument rely only on adjectives to describe the music. If you use words like “happy,” or “worried,” or “exuberant,” make sure that your adjectives are tied to musical detail.

Music Analysis

  • Students who make their argument without music analysis can expect to receive a lower grade (B as the best possible grade).

  • It is never a good idea to simply to follow a piece from beginning to end. Such a technique may seem to make sense, but all too often such a description fails to make any kind of point at all.

  • Do not base your argument directly on arguments or analysis presented in class or in the textbook. You may use this information as a guide, but use your own ears and your own mind to find specific ideas and musical moments that are interesting to you.


Your paper should have your name, your TA's name, and your discussion section (either the COD # or the time/place).


3 to 5 pages, double-spaced, with standard margins (no more than 1.25”). 800-1200 words.


The paper should be delivered to your TA at a time and place designated by your TA (e.g., physically into their mailbox or electronically into their Collab site), but in any case no later than Friday, 6 March, 2015 at 5 p.m. Papers turned in after that time (for whatever reason) can be penalized for counting as late.
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