MSC 1003 - Music in Civilization

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Welcome to our first special assignment. This is your opportunity to flex your interpretive muscles a little bit and apply what we've learned to a new piece of music.

The essay prompt

On the main page, you've got an audio clip and your essay question. I'll reproduce the prompt here:

Below you will find an audio clip that you have probably never heard before. Use the ideas we have studied to make some guesses about this music. You can speculate on whether it is Medieval or Renaissance, and whether it is sacred or secular. You can apply any of the musical vocabulary we've learned, and identify any instruments you might hear. If you think it sounds like one of the composers we listened to, feel free to guess who wrote it.

Try to explain why you are making the choices you are making. Minimum length is a decent paragraph (maybe 50 words), max length is a single double-spaced page (250 words).

Basic tips

You don't have to talk about everything in the prompt. Those are just suggestions. Really you can write whatever you think is interesting, as long as it engages what we've been talking about in class.

It does not matter if your English is not perfect. I don't grade on grammar or spelling. Just try to tell me something in your own words, and I will try hard to understand what you are saying.

You don't actually have to be right in order to get an A! As long as you show that you are listening and thinking, I will give your answer some points. I usually tend to just skip over misguided bits if the rest of your answer is good.

Ruling things out generates more content. One easy way to expand your answer is to say "I know it is not X because Y."

Use the documents page and playlists

This is the perfect time to make use of the documents page, which is like a table of contents for the class. That way you can quickly dip into past units and look for useful information for your answer.

Also, the Medieval and Renaissance playlists will be useful for comparing the music we already know about to this new track.

Not a research assignment

What I'm looking for here is evidence that you are applying our class materials to the new track. The more you talk about your own thoughts, the better.

The point is NOT to definitively ID the track (to say "this is such-and-such piece by so-and-so.") That's not really what I'm looking for.

So I would encourage you to avoid doing internet research on your track. If you still feel compelled to look stuff up, try to acknowledge this in the flow of the text. (Write something like "wikipedia says...")

You can lose a lot of points if you copy-and-paste material from the internet without giving credit, or copy-and-paste with just a few words changed around. That is not college-level work, and the results tend to be crappy and incoherent. Remember that I want to see you think, not copy.

And, as I mentioned in the syllabus, I am aware of the popularity of "homework help" sites like chegg that will do your homework assignments for you in exchange for money. Don't do it, you'll get an F for the semester.

Finally, this is not a group project. You can consult with your classmates if you want, but please write your own answer. Be aware that the questions are not all the same, and different people have different tracks.

Using the web interface

You can always email me a word file, google doc, or pdf if you want. That's, like, the "old-fashioned" way to do it.

However, I've also provided you with a big box that you can type your answer into. This is the same kind of interface I use to create the site content, so it should be reliable. As you work, remember to click "save draft" periodically. Once you are done you should click "submit to professor Smey."

As a little bonus for using the web interface, I'll let you go back and tweak your content even after you've clicked "submit." When I finally get around to reading your answer I will check a box that locks it and makes it stop allowing edits.


This will get a "regular" grade, from A to F. I think it will end up being 5% of your final grade.

It it really not that big of a deal! If you have digested the material carefully you could write a great answer in 20-30 minutes or so. If you are less confident you might want to devote some extra time to reviewing the different units.

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