Blog Prompts

Below are selected prompts from the course Music and Scandal and our class blog, which students responded to once a week in preparation for class discussions.

Jean-Luc Nancy and Resonance

In his text, Listening, Nancy explores the relationship between hearing and listening. One of the main themes of this text is resonance, which Nancy contrasts with meaning.

He writes that, “perhaps it is necessary that sense not be content to make sense (or to be logos), but that it want also to resound” (6).

How to you understand Nancy’s conception of resonance? It is purely practical, purely philosophical, or maybe a combination of both?


Analyzing Beyoncé

This week we get into some real scandals. In order to explore some of Beyoncé’s work and familiarize ourselves with the concept of musical analysis, please comment analytically on a song of your choosing.

You will likely find Wingell’s text helpful in some ways when approaching your song. Remember to write about the music. Don’t just write around it. Try to go beyond simple observation and follow your own opinions about how the song works as a piece of music.

Aspects you may choose to explore could include:

Rhythm, form (especially repeated elements), melody, instrumentation, text, vocal style, tempo (i.e. speed), context, genre (e.g. pop, hip hop).


Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli

2) Respond with your impressions regarding Palestrina’s use of dissonance and consonance. (If you don’t have a good understanding of those terms, look them up in the Oxford Music Online database). What elements do you hear as dissonant, and what would Palestrina’s contemporaries have heard as dissonant? Did your understanding of dissonance change from one listening to another, or after reading the assigned texts?

3) Read through your classmates responses before our meeting on Tuesday morning.

For those of you unfamiliar with Renaissance music and distant historical context, this piece may seem very abstract. I encourage you to steer into the difficult parts of this assignment; you may find writing about your difficulties and brainstorming solutions to be a helpful exercise. If you have a technique for making distant and seemingly irrelevant topics feel important and relevant to you, please share.

N.B. – Both Naxos and Oxford online can be found through our library resources page in Sakai!


Coming to Terms with Wagner’s “Judaism in Music”

For your blog comment, address the value of the work as an historical document. You will likely find your initial reactions to be strongly against Wagner’s perspectives and the language he uses to express them. How do we get past our first reactions to a piece (of writing, music, etc.) to further consider it’s context and purpose? We can’t dismiss all historical or contemporary documents that we find offensive or irrelevant; we have to learn and practice ways to problematize and contextualize them.


Dvorak’s New World Identity

Do the readings for Tuesday, paying close attention to issues of identity as described by these two musicologists.

After a break of at least a few hours, listen to the entire symphony again and note whether your ideas of identity changed.

Write your blog post on this experience, noting how you ideas of identity changed (or not) and were influenced (or not) by extra contextual information, and share your understanding of Dvorak’s identity as portrayed in the “New World” Symphony.


Murder Onstage: Strauss’s Salome

1) Research the opera and its reception. Be prepared to speak about how it was received by contemporary critics and audiences.

2) Familiarize yourself with the plot and text of the opera.

3) Watch an excerpt from a 1992 production in London directed by Sir Peter Hall. Watch at least from 55″-1’13” (roughly the Dance of the Seven Veils and context). NSFW: there’s brief full-frontal female nudity.

4) Respond on the blog to which elements the critics found scandalous and offensive, and why. Did you find the same elements to be offensive or shocking?

Have fun with Salome!