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Music 1A: Successful Listening Assignments

As we near the end of the term, some of the challenges on the listening assignments increase. As we have discussed in class, there are many more composers to consider and, as a result, many more pieces. Some of the questions become a bit more sophisticated — as they should later in the term — and more and more go beyond asking for answers that you can just “look up in the book.”

It is OK to be confused. It is OK to need help. It is OK to have to review the text more carefully, and even to have to look up older concepts in order to make effective comparisons of the old and the new. And, above all, it is OK to ask me for help if you aren’t sure you understand the question or if you just want feedback on your work. (Obviously, you can’t do that at the very last minute before the work is done.)

On assignment #7, a few students got off track. Rather than carefully considering material in the book and the listening outlines and asking me for help when things may have seemed complex or confusing, it looks like some of you tried other approaches that did not work as well, including the following.

  • Usuing uncredited quotations from the book or from outside sources, in quite a few cases used in ways that suggest to the reader that you may not understand the material you quoted. You may have included material irrelevant to the question, focused on different aspects of the example, or included complex and sophisticated concepts whose expression was not consistent with the rest of your answers. This is not acceptable. It is, of course, fine to consult lots of sources in your efforts to understand things, but then you must demonstrate your understanding of this material by producing an answer in your own words. (It is never OK to present an answer in the words of another without crediting the source of those words — and on these assignments answers in your own words are required.)
  • Leaving some items blank or indicating that you did not understand the question is generally not a good option. It is OK — and normal! — to not understand every question. The most productive way to deal with that is to first try to figure it out on your own, but to then contact me for help and clarification! I can usually help you figure out how to make sense of complex material, but only if you let me know that you need assistance.
  • Presenting a very involved answer to a different question than the one posed on the assignment will not work. If I ask about, say, nationalism in an example and you write a lot about tempo and dynamics and instruments and other things, unless you can show a clear connection to the main topic of nationalism it may look like you either didn’t understand the question or were hoping that writing a lot would make up for not addressing the main point. (In fact, some of the best answers are short and to the point.)

As we finish up the final couple of listening assignments (and as you optionally resubmit one of the earlier assignments), take this as an opportunity to do your best work. Dig into the subjects and the questions with plenty of time to complete the work… and to ask me for help if you are confused! (Yes, I do answer email on weekends!)

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