Music Traditions of Africa

Essay One: Traditional Music in Africa


In this writing assignment you will synthesize what you have learned up to this point about a selected traditional music culture into a 2500 word essay (about 10 pages double spaced). Writing a successful essay will involve drawing on the various perspectives you have used in forming your understanding of your selected music, including any assigned/suggested readings, lectures, or audio-visual materials. Particular skills to be developed in this assignment include: revising lecture notes, referencing published/scholarly works, collecting data, paraphrasing versus direct quotation, use of Chicago style referencing, understanding current ethnomusicological theory and methodology, noticing similarities and differences between other African musics, or being able to contextualize the complex nature of “tradition” in modern African social life.

Before writing the essay, it is important to revise any notes you may have taken from the required and suggested readings, or class discussions. Throughout the essay you must reference statements of fact about the music culture that you have accumulated from readings, lectures, or class discussions.

Once you have revisited your research materials, you will write an essay that evaluates the music culture’s soundscape. Demonstrate your knowledge of the tradition by referring to specific quotes and ideas from the authors of the articles/books, which should be properly referenced by the author’s last name and page number (Author, page#) – here is an example: (Seeger, 20). For this paper you will need a bibliography at the end that lists your sources of information. Please format this according to Chicago style referencing. The Chicago style guide may be found in the “Course Reserves” folder on Blackboard. Papers should be at least 2500 words (about 10 pages double spaced), but no more than 3000. You can approach the presentation of your materials in a number of ways. For example, consider using Shelemay’s Soundscape model of sound, setting, significance as a way to structure your writing.

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A Note on Analytical Writing:
As an essay prepared for an upper level undergraduate class I expect that your paper will be analytical. This means that you will present a coherent THESIS that expresses an argument that you will unpack in the body of your paper. As a result, your paper will need to go beyond simply describing the music culture that forms the basis of your topic to evaluating it in light of the established literature. This also means that successful papers will need to built upon information derived primarily from scholarly sources, and that you are able to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the academic sources related to your topic. Failing to do so will result in a low grade for the assignment.

Your paper should be typed with your name, course number, and Essay One at the top.