Writing Assignments For Music Appreciation

Free Creative Writing Prompts #36: Music

The song that accompanied your first kiss. The big crescendo at the end of your favorite movie. Music has an uncanny ability to affect nearly everybody. And the way that this music hits everybody can be in a completely subjective and different way. These free creative writing prompts are about your experiences with music and your dreams and fantasies about how it could affect your life. I for one believe that music and writing are difficult to separate and that there are an unlimited amount of music resources that can help with your writing. Enjoy! 

Free Creative Writing Prompts: Music

1. What is the most beautiful piece of music you've ever listened to? Talk about how each part of the song made you feel and why it has stuck with you. Also, relate a story in which you share it with someone else and try to prove to them how great it is. 2. Write a story about a character (or draw from personal experience) in which the character creates some amazing. This can be with any instrument (including a vocal one). What kind of song is it and how does the character feel about making it?

3. Describe your best concert experience of all time. What was the band, who did you go with, and why has it stuck with you as being so fantastic? Go into extreme detail and feel free to make use of band lyrics.

4. Most people have a genre of music that just does not appeal to them. What is yours and why? Create a dialogue between two characters: one who loves that genre and one (like you) who hates it.

5. You have the esteemed pleasure of watching your son, daughter, niece, or nephew at his or her very first band concert. Talk about how it went, how cute it was seeing little kids do music, and how off-key they were :).

6. You are the lead singer in a brand-new chart topping band! How does it feel to be so famous for creating art? What is it like having so many fans and having to keep the band happy when egos begin to clash?

7. If you could be proficient in any one instrument what would it be and why? What would you do if you had immense talent in creating music with this instrument?

8. Have you ever had a piece of music change your life? What specifically changed you and why? If you haven't, just create a character or a piece of music that would cause such a thing to occur.

9. It's hard not to associate certain pieces of music with certain people and times in your life. Write a "High Fidelity"-esque autobiographical piece about five songs that will forever be linked with particular people, for better or for worse.

10. As of the writing of this article, the television show "American Idol" has made thousands of people try out for a spot on the show. Create a story in which you go to audition (after practicing heavily I'm sure) and detail your experience at the tryout. 

In addition to these ten prompts, you can listen to any song ever created and pull ideas from that. With websites like Pandora and LastFM, you can even discover new music based on your preferences for free. This is the perfect time to make music a part of your writing. I hope you enjoyed these free creative writing prompts and that your next piece of writing is as beautiful as a Mozart concerto! 

Bonus Prompt - You have assembled an all-star team of producers and recording artists to record the best music album ever. Who do you bring together and how does it go? 

Related Articles to Free Creative Writing Prompts about Music
Free Creative Writing Prompts from the Heart, Part 1
Free Creative Writing Prompts #2: Love
Creative Writing Exercises #2: Relaxation

Done with this page? Go back to Creative Writing Prompts. 

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.

Music Appreciation, Fall 2017

1a. Showbie Account - 1 point
All assignments are to be turned in to our SHOWBIE.COM accounts.
To create an account:
1)Go here: https://my.showbie.com/signup
2) Click I'm a Student
3) Enter your name, a user name (Your full name and a number)
4) Choose a password
5) Decide if you want my responses sent to you by email by entering an email or not
6) Click Sign Up
7) Enter the class code: BJKVJ
And that's it. You'll go to showbie.com (or the app if you'd like to download it onto your phone or tablet) and hand in all of your assignments there.
1b. Print Syllabus and Term Sheet, 1 point
Print out the syllabus and the terms sheet and present to me in class. Then keep in a folder as we'll use them often.
M/W Due: By 9/13
T/R Due: 9/7
2. Problematic Genre, 5 points
M/W Due to Showbie by: 9/18
T/R Due to Showbie by: 9/12

For this assignment, research a genre of music that you don't typically enjoy and/or downright loathe. Find a song that is respected within that genre's repertoire. Use Wikipedia or ask a friend/family member who likes that genre. Next, briefly research and note any relevant contextual features such as the artist’s background and cultural references within the song (where applicable). Also, make note of any unique musical features.  Then, using a few values below, make an argument of why some hypothetical listener might value this music. Be specific. Use the details in the music (sounds, cultural/social context, lyrics, etc.) and use that to support your argument. 
Values: social, cultural, historical, artistic, aesthetic, technical, physical, extramusical, commercial

3. Genre Evolution Assignment, 5 points
M/W Due to Showbie by 9/25
T/R Due to Showbie by: 9/19
Choose a genre of music (anything you are interested in exploring) and trace a chronological evolution of this genre across five performances that can be found on YouTube. The first performance should be that of a current artist. Focus on the unique musical characteristics (i.e. musical genomes) found in their performance. Explain the ways in which this music (words, sounds and/or context) is valuable. The second video should be a performance from the same genre that influenced the first artist. For this performance (and those that follow) compare and contrast the musical and contextual features. Work chronologically backwards until you have five performances. The layout should be as follows:

Genre: Rap
Modern Performance: Kenrick Lamar - youtube link here. Discussion here.
2nd performance name and YouTube link (something a bit older -say 5-10 years or so). Discussion.
3rd performance name and YouTube link (something older than the 2nd performance by another decade or so). Discussion.
4th performance name and YouTube link (etc.)
5th performance name and YouTube link - at this point you should have gone back to just about the roots of the genre you are discussing. 

4. "Micro" Music
​M/W Due to Showbie by: 10/2
T/R Due to Showbie by: 9/26
Choose any song. Listen to the song and find at least three VERY particular musical characteristics. Maybe there is something about the drum beat or the bass line. Maybe the direction of the singer's melody or the timbre of the guitar or lead vocal. Really focus in and find three particular musical characteristics (i.e. musical genomes). Once you've listed these, try and explain why you think the artist(s) chose to perform the sounds this way. In other words, how might they tie into the overall meaning of the musical performance?  

5. Continuum Examples, 5 points
​M/W Due to Showbie by 10/9
T/R Due to Showbie by: 10/3
List two songs for each of the continuums below. The first song should represent the left side of the continuum and the second song should be further towards the right side. 

1. Melodic: Quick to repeat - Supremely Inspired
(For example, can you tell that this melody is much quicker to begin recycling itself than this more imaginatively developed tune?)

2. Harmonic: Consonant - Dissonant
(Ex. The harmonies used in this song are more consonant than the harmonies employed in this more dissonant example.)                     
3. Rhythmic: Simple - Complex
(ex. The rhythmic approach to this song is simpler than this more complex rhythmic performance.)

4. Texture-Hierarchy: Monarchy - Democracy
​(ex. While there are many interesting parts occurring throughout this spectacular vocal performance, all of the parts serve ONE MAIN MELODY at all times. In contrast, listen how this artist leads us to moments/sections where there are MORE THAN ONE MAIN MELODY occurring simultaneously. Thus the first example is like servant all viewed in service to one main monarch and the second parallels how power is distributed in a democracy to more than one main ruler.)

​5. Texture - Density: Sparse - Dense
(ex. Here are two versions of the same song. The first is sparse with just two instruments and the second is dense with many timbres used to perform the same musical elements.)

6. Structure: Basic Repetition - Through-Composed
(ex. Can you hear how this first performance is organized using the basic repetition of sections in a somewhat predictable manner while this performance is purely through-composed [keeping us guessing]?)

6. Term Sheet, 5 points
M/W Due to Showbie by 10/16
T/R Due to Showbie by: 10/10
Complete a brief explanation of all of the terms on the term sheet (print out from first week of class - see above).
7. Quiz: Timbres and Continuums, 15 points
M/W In class: 10/18
T/R In class: 10/12

Test yourself until you can get the timbres here. I'll pull 10 of the clips directly from this video for the midterm.

Melodic: Quick to repeat - Supremely Inspired
Harmonic: Consonant - Dissonant
Rhythmic: Simple - Complex
Texture-Hierarchy: Monarchy - Democracy
Texture - Density: Sparse - Dense
Structure: Basic Repetition - Through-Composed
8. Analysis/Interpretation/Evaluation - Single Song
M/W Due to Showbie by 10/30
T/R Due to Showbie by: 10/24
Research the context of a song you enjoy. Next, analyze the lyrics and broad musical characteristics (sounds and techniques). Listen closer and locate more particular, possibly more unique musical sounds . Now take all of these analytical notes and mix them together. Using the most relevant and interesting details of your notes, write a 250-word essay (or so) interpreting the artistic choices made by the artist(s). Discuss a few lyrics, sounds, etc. and explain how these words/sounds support the artist's overall meaning. Lastly, in what ways do you find value in the performance you've chosen?  
9./10. Analysis/Interpretation/Evaluation #1 and #2, 10 points each 
Complete all three songs below. Use this link for assignment details. 
M/W Due to Showbie by 11/8
T/R Due to Showbie by: 11/2
1. Beyonce, ***Flawless ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. David Bowie, Life on Mars
3. Damien Rice, It Takes A Lot to Know a Man

M/W Due to Showbie by 12/3
T/R Due to Showbie by: 11/29
#1. Stabat Mater Dolorosa, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi - click and use this performance - lyrics and translation can be found here

#2. Alcanza Suite I. Vida Absurda y Bella, Fabian Almazan (use lyrics below)
Lyrics in Spanish: 
haz las preguntas  
rompe tu preludio y 
di - me 
como es que yo soy 
del origen de esa 
gran explosión 

vive esta vida 

Tan absurda y bella 
haz las preguntas 

rompe tu preludio y 
abre los ojos 

haz las preguntas 

Respirando el mundo 
Vive esta vida 
tan absurda, bella y 
bre - ve 
Entre los sueños es que 
un amor que nos exige 

English Title: Absurd and Beautiful Life 
ask every question, 
tear apart your prelude, 
tell - me 
how it is that I 
came to be from such a 
grand burst of light. 

live up this life, 

so absurd and awesome. 
ask every question. 

break apart your prelude, 
open your eyes, 

Asking all the questions, 

Breathing in this world, 
Live up this life, 
so absurd, so great so 
short - lived. 
Between our dreams is when we 
that great love that asks us all to 
live now.

#3. Lazaretto, Jack White

11. Final, 15 points
M/W In class: 12/13
T/R In class: 12/12
The Final is simply completing an analysis/evaluation narrative in class. The purpose of this final is for you to demonstrate an ability to listen to and discuss music critically. Using the musical, extramusical and contextual aspects of the following performances, interpret the composer’s work in as detailed and specific a vocabulary as possible. Remember to always make connections between sounds, words, titles, context, etc. In all cases, an understanding of “why” the composer made specific choices is imperative. An understanding of the history and terms we’ve discussed is essential here. 

12. Garageband, 5 points
Done in class. Details on syllabus.

13. In-Class Song, 5 points
Done in class. Details discussed in class. See YouTube channel for examples.

Extra credit 
can do up to 15 total points of extra credit.

7 points: attend a concert at Philadelphia Orchestra, Curtis Institute or Symphony in C (you can go to two for double points.)

After you attend either the concert, I want you to focus on the following points in a typed review. (Must be typed.) Also, you must staple a ticket stub or program book to the paper. 

1) What was the environment like? How is this different than more “popular” concerts you might have attended? Why do you think the environment is like this? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Explain.

2) What was it like listening to the music included in this performance? Again, how is the musical experience different than what you are used to listening to (if at all)? Do you see this kind of event as some form of alternative musical entertainment than a more typical rock-type of concert? Explain.

3) What specifically was the music “like”? Describe as much as you can remember. What will you remember most about the music that was performed in a year from now?

4) How was your experience getting to the performance? Was anything different than what you are used to? Did you see any new places or confront any new experiences?

Once you’ve done this, staple the ticket stub or program and you are set.

acceptable venues for 
extra credit concert - 
click logo for information

An A/I/E for any of the songs above
​would be worth one point each. you can do up to 8 points total.

missed in-class project/participation points

 Make-up points for missed in-class projects (not extra credit) 

1. Watch this one-hour long documentary and write a 250 word summary of what you learned. Include terms, historical facts and other significant musical concepts. 

2. Watch this one-hour long music documentary and write a 250-word summary of what you have learned. Include terms, historical facts and other significant musical concepts.
If you only miss just one day of the "Class Song" project, complete only the first assignment. If you miss two days, complete both projects. If you missed any day of the Garageband project, you'll need to do it during open lab time or in the school library.

I. First, watch this Harmony episode of the Howard Goodall documentary "How Music Works" and then fill out the pdf worksheet below. Print and bring in to me by the final class.
File Size: 256 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

II. View one episode (any episode) of "Project Song" from the following link: http://www.npr.org/series/15668524/project-song. Discuss three concepts (at least three or four sentences each) from the video focusing on things you found interesting, informative, confusing, or just simply worth mentioning. Print out and bring to me by the final class

Monday/Wednesday Syllabus

File Size: 80 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Tuesday/Thursday Syllabus

File Size: 81 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

File Size: 9 kb
File Type: docx
Download File

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