MUS 210 Final assignment (no final examination) 


1. Select five songs and one album that can be used to summarize the history of popular music since 1950.  Explain your choices in detail and describe what currents are reflected in your examples, with an emphasis on musical traits.  Briefly criticize your list, mentioning what is left out or in what ways it is imbalanced.  You may reuse and refine the song assessments that you have created during the course for this final project.  Personal statements of taste are strongly encouraged, but this is not to be a simply a list of your five favorite songs.


Your selection of five songs may be organized in any way, as long as you explain your reasons for choosing that approach.  You could follow a chronological approach, choosing a song or so from each decade, or you could choose five different genres.  You could examine how songs are used in terms of social function -- dance music, protest songs, artistic expression or experimentation and so on.  In all cases, relate your examples to their place in the historical development of popular music.  Describe the musical traits of each of your examples in terms of how those musical traits make it representative of its genre or historical period.  Charts and bullet points can be effective ways of presenting some information, but any charts or bullet points should be embedded in a traditional essay form.  Connect the discussions of your five selections with an interpretive framework; don't just turn in five unrelated essays on five different songs (as in the homework we've been doing during the course).


In choosing an album, please avoid soundtracks, greatest hits collections and other compilations.  Consider the album as either a unified artistic expression or a snapshot of the evolution of an artist or group at a particular moment in time.  Comment on the stylistic and emotional range of the album.  Relate musical elements and lyrics to their underlying genres and relate to genres to larger social trends.  Use the album as a springboard for a discussion of its wider social and music context.  It is a symbol of something to somebody.


Grading: individual song descriptions 10 pts; album 20 pts; 30 pts, integration/interpretation (100 pts total)


2.  [Revised]  Describe several examples of how music reflects society and social structures and conditions; did music play a role in changing or creating those conditions?  Draw on the textbook for your evidence and examples with specific citations.  (A social structure could be anything from a corporation, such as a record label, to laws, such as civil rights legislation, to social classifications like race and gender.)  Grading: 20 pts. 


David Meckler

July 2009


Histories of Popular Music and Rock (MUS 210) main webpage


Caņada College