A loosely-structured seminar discussion is the typical format of upper-level undergraduate courses as well as all graduate work (masters and doctoral level). The point of a seminar discussion is precisely that: to discuss. In the process of discussing, you are forced to clarify what you think by articulating your ideas in a clear and persuasive manner, and at the same time you learn from the wide array of perspectives and experiences that your peers bring into the conversation. The discussion may organically move to unexpected topics, but the main takeaway from a learning experience like this one is that all of your knowledge and resources are related—there is no such thing as a separation of academic subjects when you really approach a topic critically. Your familiarity with the assigned material, your own initiative in doing additional research, and your engagement with each other is what will make for an effective and enjoyable class.

Over the course of this semester, you’ve learned a lot about music, and classical music, especially—the principles of music, how music intersects with other aspects of human life and society, and professional careers in the music world:

  1. Principles of music, including how stylistic periods in music history are different from each other, ways that people experiment with or change audience expectations, and all the musical elements in between, including melody, harmony, texture, instrumentation, and form
  2. How music overlaps with other areas of knowledge and ways of knowing the world, including economics, politics, war, biology, aesthetics, gender, identity, and the soundscape
  3. Music professions: performers, composers, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and arts administrators

In this class, however, there isn’t a traditional final exam for you to demonstrate all of the material you’ve learned. That’s where this project comes in.

At the final exam, you will be given a piece of music to analyze together as a class, and you’ll do so by combining all of the kinds of analysis we’ve practiced this semester into one task: describing how five different individuals would react to the piece of music.

How to prepare

(1) Return to our previous experiences with analysis from earlier in the semester to re-familiarize yourself with the process of analysis:

  • Reflection 2 (Ethos of now)
  • In-class analysis of Franz Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade (F Mar 15 / W Mar 20)
  • Music criticism round table (F Mar 22 / W Mar 27)
  • Analysis Essay (due in class W May 8 / F May 1)
  • All the ways you know how to listen for and distinguish between details in a piece of music

(2) Return to our previous lessons on effective group work and the four roles that need to be fulfilled in any group. What role(s) do you gravitate towards? What strengths do you have?

What will happen at the exam?

How you complete this task as a class is entirely up to you — choosing your individuals (they can be anyone from any time period, place, or background, and they may be real or imaginary), when and how many times you listen to the piece as a class, how you divide the work among yourselves, how you come to decisions, how you resolve disagreements, what conclusions your analysis arrives at…

You may find it helpful to use the discussion space below on this blog post to plan or bounce ideas off of each other.


You’ll be graded for your thoughtful, teamwork-driven discussion participation and for the writing that you produce as a result of that discussion. Your grade will come equally from your discussion participation (50%) and your writing (50%).

grading: The discussion

If you do not participate in the discussion, do not contribute to the assigned topic, or are not present for any part of the discussion, you cannot earn points on this portion of your grade.

The better your contributions to the class discussion, the more points you will earn (and the more prepared you’ll be to produce a thoughtful piece of writing). You will be graded on the quality of your contributions to the class discussion, meaning that the answers to the following questions are “Yes”:

  • Are you prepared for the discussion? Have you read the assigned web pages? Have you done additional reading (as necessary) that allows you to have a reasonable baseline of knowledge about the topic?
  • Are you demonstrating knowledge (rather than ignorance) of the course material and technical vocabulary, and are you drawing from past discussions we’ve held in class and online?
  • Are you contributing to the class discussion in a meaningful way? Are you offering new insight that no one else has adding? Are your contributions compelling and interesting rather than vague, superficial, or cliché? Are you building upon what other people have said rather than ignoring them?

grading: Writing

The writing prompt will be distributed in class at the end of the discussion. It will ask you to reflect on your group’s ability to come up with meaningful musical analysis and to work as a group.

You will be graded on the quality of your writing, meaning that the answers to the following questions are “Yes”:

  • Does your writing draw upon the content of your class discussion in a meaningful and thoughtful way?
  • Does your writing demonstrating knowledge (rather than ignorance) of the course material and technical vocabulary?
  • Does your writing convey enthusiasm for the topic at hand, pay attention to details, and vividly capture the perspective of the artistic board of directors?

I look forward to being a fly on the wall for your discussion!

-Dr. J.

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