radio records and popular music


Based on your listening journal, analyze your musical consumption, paying attention to genres, particular artists, songs, and “channels” in addition to the ways that these things position themselves and its listeners—class, race, gender, distinct from or counter to what? Note the meaning suggested by combinations in your consumption patterns.

As with all good academic writing, you’ll be making claims. You will need a central claim that organizes and structures the entire essay, and sections and paragraphs should also be defined around claims.

Your claim will be based on your evaluation and analysis of a range of primary and secondary sources. The primary sources will depend on your topic, your claim, and your interests. But they will probably include such things as song lyrics, artists’ web pages, conversations with friends about music, descriptions of music videos, and so on. This list is not exhaustive; in fact, the list of potential primary sources is endless.

The secondary source(s) will come from the assigned course readings. You will use one of the writers as a sort of critical framework to help you make sense of your observations. This framework will show up in your paper in a moment where you probably say something like: “This type of response is characteristic of what Writer X calls Y. These moments are instances of ‘.…’ We see this type of Y in my friend Carl’s insistence that ‘….’”

We should try in our reading during the weeks leading up to Essay 1 to locate examples of this type of writing, of writers who use frameworks, or simply instances of how writers make use of secondary and primary sources to support a claim. Then we should use those examples as models, models that we use in our own essays.

As you’re working through the readings for the first couple of weeks, consider what ideas each author offers that might serve to frame a question you find interesting and that might serve to organize some ideas about your listening habits.

Copland: What is creativity? How do artists (and others) show or hide creativity?

Byrne: Where or how do you hear this music? What is the role of that space or technology?

Adorno: What is background music? How do you think as you listen? What’s wrong with pop?

Williams: What type of culture is your music? What role does it play in the culture?

Holt & Frith: What is the genre? What are the rules? Against whom?

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