Midterm Writing Assignment
American Popular Music
Prof. W. Smith
Due Date: see Canvas
Goal: Students will be able to identify AABA as a song form, the differences in instrumentation in sections of a song, and compare early 20th century songs in AABA form to songs recorded later in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Format: 350-500 words in length, double-spaced, in 12 pt Times New Roman font. There is no penalty for going marginally over the maximum word count, but points will be deducted for being under the minimum word count.
Assignment Part 1:
- Pick and listen to ONE of the following AABA songs discussed in Chapter 4 (you may NOT choose “I Got Rhythm”). Available choices: “Blue Skies”, “Another Op’nin, Another Show”, “Deed I Do”. Versions of these are available on YouTube and Spotify.
- Provide some background information on the song such as:
- the names of the composer, lyricist, and one performer
- the commercial success of that performer’s recording of the song
- how the song fits with the lyrical topics discussed in other Tin Pan Alley songs
- Then give a definition, in your own words, for AABA
- Describe the differences between AABA, strophic, and twelve-bar blues song forms.
- Discuss all the ways each A is different in your Chapter 4 song choice (a slight change in the melody? New instrumentation? How does the lyric change?)
- Discuss all the ways the B section is different, musically and/or lyrically, from the A sections (major key or minor key? Lyric topic changes? New instrumentation?).
Assignment Part 2:
- Find a later song that qualifies as being in AABA form, anything from the 1940s up to the present day. (Note that recent popular songs in verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus form qualify as AABA songs with each verse-chorus combination being an A section and the bridge, if there is one, being the B section).
- Provide the names of the performer, composer, lyricist, and the year of the song’s release (one version).
- Then describe the changes between the sections of this song in the same manner as with your Chapter 4 song choice.
Submission notes: Submit electronically through Canvas as a Word document.
- Use Chapters 1-5 of your textbook for definitions and background information.
- Cite your textbook and any other outside courses appropriately using MLA style format. You must use your textbook and may use additional sources if needed (but this is not required).
- Avoid open-source repository sources such as Wikipedia, coursehero.com, and genius.com.
- Have at least 80% of the paper be your own words rather than direct quotations.
- Include citations within the paper as well as a bibliography at the end.
General writing notes:
- Avoid first-person (use of “I”, “we”, “my”, “our”) and second-person (“you”, “your”, “you’re”) because this is a research essay. The tone should not be of a conversation or social media post but of a presentation.
- The purpose of a research essay is to gather information and present it in an organized way to make a point.
- Avoid just a dry list of facts.
- Avoid including opinions and reactions (“I liked the song because…” or “the song made me think this…” for example).
- Describe the songs specifically via the correct use of music terminology that has been defined in class. Avoid unspecific words like “smooth”, “mellow”, “flowy” and “vibe”.
- If you’re unsure that you’re using a musical term correctly, consult your notes, the textbook, the Canvas lecture materials, or your instructor. Do not include a musical term until you’re sure of its meaning. Otherwise, it can result in an unclear sentence that is just as confusing to the instructor as it is to the student.
- Describe the song sections in the most specific detail available.
- Example of a general description to be avoided: “The song is in a minor and major key.”
- Example of a specific description: “The A sections of the song are in the key of G major, but the key changes to G minor during the B section.”