Questions We Can Help You To Answer

Paper Instructions:

Your task:

Imagine you are a music critic covering the 1824 premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Your task is to write a review of the piece that will judge its overall success. As a critic, you have a specialized knowledge of music (think of the vocabulary you learned in unit one), but your readers will expect things explained in clear, easily comprehended language. Your focus should be on the music, though you may include some details about the quality of the performance itself if you feel they are particularly relevant.

Some things to think about: 

Good music critics will identify what they believe to be the composer's goal and then render a verdict on the composer s success. In doing so, they will naturally discuss the musical work within its context, namely the norms and conventions of contemporary musical life.

As an imaginary music critic of the early nineteenth century, you have an intimate knowledge of these norms and conventions (which you've, at least in reality, absorbed both through Kelly's chapter and the accompanying source documents). Thus your review should judge the work as described above, but your arguments must be supported by good reasoning and evidence (i.e. data). For example:

I didn't care for the third movement of the sonata. There was just something off. 

Audiences, expecting a third movement in typical ternary form, instead heard constantly developing themes that did not correspond to any recognizable structure. Although the composer made an admirable attempt at working outside expectations with a through-composed structure, the density of themes rendered the movement difficult to follow on one listening. 

Notice how the first example gives an opinion with no support, and would be useless to a reader. The second example demonstrates an awareness of conventions (here expressed as audience expectation), identifies departures from those conventions, and then gives an overall evaluation that accords with and is supported by the analysis. These examples should also make it clear that the success of your review depends on both your musical evaluations and clear, organized, and well-reasoned prose.

Some more things to think about: 

A review can address many things from the quality of performance to the musical work itself. In fact, much nineteenth-century criticism focused specifically on musical works as new contributions that should be evaluated apart from their realization in performance. And the premiere of a work was often then opportunity to evaluate its success or failure as a piece of music. (Think of it as something more like a book review rather than a review of a theater performance.)  

When you write your own review, you have a similar range of possibilities. Your review is short, so I’m not expecting you to address everything—performance quality, musical work, etc.—but please don’t feel you need to limit yourself to discussing execution of the work at the premiere: the work itself is fair game, too. 

In past semesters, students have asked about the creative side of this assignment, specifically whether you can construct details concerning the performance at the premiere given that we don’t have a detailed record of what exactly happened that evening. The answer is yes, as long as your inventions are historically sound. That is, there’s a difference between saying “the trumpets sounded strange” (an “invented” detail) versus saying the trumpets sounded strange because of the music’s obvious difficulty (and you’d expand a bit there) or the obvious lack of rehearsal. In the latter case, I’m tying the invented observation to actual historical details we know about the premiere of the Ninth. 

Finally, I’ll reiterate what I've already stated above: remember that much of Beethoven’s music seemed unusual or was challenging for audiences in the 1820s. That is to say that there was something unconventional or unexpected about the musical work itself. As a hypothetical nineteenth-century critic, you have a keen sense of what was conventional (and as a twenty-first-century IAH student, you’ve read a lot about musical conventions—symphonic structure, sonata form, instrumentation, etc.) and it is from that prospective that you can say X is new or Y is striking or Z doesn’t make sense. So again, you’re being creative, but your observations should always be tied back to the historical context you know about from your reading and listening. 

The details:


723 Words  2 Pages

Questions We Can Help You To Answer

Paper Instructions:


  1. What are the similarities between the messages in Let America… and Talkin’ Loud…?
  2. Why is Brown’s work a part of our cultural mainstream while Hughes’ is not? That is, what role does music play in our social and political culture?
  3. What other popular music represents the viewpoint of a minority group? (I’m not just talking about racial minorities. Think in terms of political, social, religious, and lifestyle groups, etc.) How has this music impacted our society as a whole (please include an example)?
94 Words  1 Pages

  • Should Music Programs on the Internet Be Outlawed?
  •             There are a lot of music programs on the Internet nowadays that most people use for personal interests. Since the Internet was introduced in 1958, many musicians are able to promote their songs all over the world (Stair & Renolds 343). Music fans can access their preferred journal anytime through the Internet. Downloading of music through the Internet is quick and takes a short time. The Internet user can also send music to many friends using computers at a short time. Music programs on the Internet should not be outlawed because they have many advantages to the interested parties (Stair & Renolds 343).

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