Listening Assignment One – Superheroes by The Script (Essay Sample)
Listening Assignment #1
For this assignment you will analyze a song of your choosing. I recommend picking something you like and are already familiar with, as this assignment will push you to interrogate how you listen to this song and hopefully provoke some insights into why you like it. Please type your responses for each of the sections underlined below in a separate document; include the heading above each response section. Everything except the final argument may be organized as bullet-point responses. I will be grading your final paper and will use the separate observation sheet to refer to when I have questions or need clarifications about one of your points in the essay.
The final argument should be at least 4 pages in length and no more than 5 pages (double spaced, 12-point font). Please include the name of your song and the artist/band at the top of your paper.
• Use musical vocabulary to describe your listening experience
• Generate an interpretation concerning the text-music relationship in your selected song
Before Listening: The Text
Read through the lyrics of your chosen song before listening. What is the mood or narrative conveyed by the text? What word(s) or phrase(s) do you find particularly expressive or important to the overall meaning of the text? Are there any patterns or repetitions? Important moments of contrast? Clear formal structure? References to other texts or songs?
First Pass: Observing Musical Elements
Describe each of the following elements in the song you chose. (You may do this for one section of the song or for the song as whole):
• melody (What is the contour like? Are there clear melodic phrases? Does the melody repeat at any point? Is there a clear melodic climax or peak?)
• accompaniment (What is going on in the accompaniment? What instruments are playing? What are they doing? Is there any interaction between accompaniment and melody?)
• rhythm (Is there a clear sense of meter? How does the rhythm in the accompaniment relate to the rhythm of the melody [echoes it, competes with it, overwhelms it, underlies it, etc.])
• tempo (Does the tempo fit the emotions expressed in the text? How?)
• texture (Does the song maintain the same texture throughout or do different sections shift between different textures? What are these textures? Which instrument(s) [the voice is an instrument!] carry the melody, and does this change over the course of the song?)
Second Pass: Describing the Voice
Listen carefully to how the singer articulates the words they are singing. Answer at least 3 of the questions below.
• Does their timbre or style of singing change when they sing certain words (i.e. is there a kind of text painting happening)? • Do they add melismas on key phrases or syllables?
• Do they articulate a break between sections of the text (i.e. verse and chorus) with a change in vocal style?
• Does the vocal line take up any of the melodies or rhythms from the instrumental accompaniment?
• Is the vocal line always singing the melody?
Third Pass: Emotional Response
In this final pass, note how the observations you have listed in the above sections affect your emotional or imaginative response to the song. In other words, how does the music make you feel? Does it provoke images, stories, memories? Does it have any bodily effect on you (i.e. tapping your feet, dancing, etc.)? In what context do you most enjoy listening to this music?
Generate an Interpretation
Now you are ready to construct an interpretation, answering the following question: How are the text and music related to one another in this song?
Here are some questions to help you get started with framing your response: Does the music reflect the meaning of the text? If so, how—does it have moments in which it reflects the literal meaning of the words? Does it reflect the overall mood of the text? If it doesn’t reflect the meaning of the text, how are they unrelated? Are they expressing contrasting affects, complimentary ones? Is the text clearly discernable throughout the performance or are there times when the musical elements seem to overwhelm the text? Is there a clear sense of whether it is the music or the text that is “in charge,” i.e. the primary focus? Are they in relative balance?
As you can see, this is a very broad set of questions with quite a bit of room for you to generate your own approach to the prompt. You need not answer every one of the generative questions I listed above in your response, but you should answer at least some of them. Be sure to use your observational evidence from the previous sections in your argument and to include time stamps as a form of citation for specific moments in the song, e.g. (0:37), (2:31), etc.
Subject and Section
July 25, 2020
Listening Assignment One – Superheroes by The Script
Before Listening: The Text
1 Overall Mood or Narrative of the Text
1 The overall mood of the text is inspirational. The song provides a symbolic narrative about how one’s failures in life makes them stronger.
2 What word(s) or phrase(s) do you find particularly expressive or important to the overall meaning of the text?
2 I find the chorus as most emotionally expressive part of the song.
1 “When you've been fighting for it all your life, you've been struggling to make things right that's how a superhero learns to fly” (00:55).
3 Are there any patterns or repetitions? Important moments of contrast?
3 Yes, the chorus and pre-chorus are all repeated. I believe these sections are very important to emphasize the overall narrative.
First Pass: Observing Musical Elements
1 Melody (What is the contour like? Are there clear melodic phrases? Does the melody repeat at any point? Is there a clear melodic climax or peak?)
1 The overall melody of this song is polyphonic. Although there is no clear melodic climax, the melody repeats in distinct cycles.
2 Accompaniment (What is going on in the accompaniment? What instruments are playing? What are they doing? Is there any interaction between accompaniment and melody?)
2 The instruments included in the accompaniment include bass guitar, keyboards, lead guitar, drums, and vocals.
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