Music 85 Projects
Music of Today

Spring, 2007
Dartmouth College

(This project is for the Senior music majors taking Music 85)

In consultation with the instructor, each  Music 8 student will pick a specific composer or creative artist to work on over the course of the term.

Music 85 students are asked to do an in-depth, term-length project focussing on the work of this local composer. This composer may be at Dartmouth, or someone in the area
(or perhaps someone you know from a different place). It needs to be someone with whom you can interact personally, interview, have access to materials, etc. This composer should not be a student, and should be someone who has made a significant enough contribution that their work rewards 10 weeks of study. A number of Dartmouth faculty composers have all agreed to participate.

You are asked to produce a kind of "study" of this composer, which should consist of the following sections:

The general format of this should be a serious, "publishable" contribution to the body of knowledge about this composer, and understanding of their work. Although it can make use of secondary sources, this is intended as a "primary source" project. You should work directly with their work, and themselves.

The goal is to make a website for each of these projects, and have these websites live at Dartmouth. I want there to be  little emphasis (preferably none) on web-design, and most of the emphasis (preferably all) on content. It would be fine, for example, to just have a series of .pdf files. However, since we will intend these for the web, score examples, other media, would be nice to include.

The project should take place in three stages: preliminary design and plan; resources and progress report; final project. All three will be presented in class. One of the intentions is for the entire class to get a sense of how this kind of project might be done, as well as to experience (together) some of the possible problems and pitfalls involved in working "on" a living artist.

The main goals of this project are two:
  1. to give you, the student, an experience of doing primary research, and to help you understand something important about the music of today by becoming deeply familiar with one composer's work
  2. to try to accomplish something for a purpose slightly different than a typical student project. If this project is done well, its proper place will be in "the world" at large. If done with care and vigor, these will, hopefully, make a real impact.

Critical Introduction: A bio-musical introduction to this composer and hisr work. As much of this as possible should be non-duplicative of published, readily known facts. Focus on putting this composer in their historical and artistic context, giving the reader a sense of their artistic development, tracing the trajectory of their work and ideas. We don't really care where they went to high school, if it's not relevant. This is about their work and their contributions as a composer.

(Avoid as much as possible "PR" language,  journalistic/reviewer jargon. Be: clear, elegant, terse, specific, factual, insightful. Try to avoid being [promotional, flowery, hyperbolic, vague, subjective]).

In-depth discussion of a specific piece or group of pieces: Take one work, or set of works, and analyse, describe, contextualize it as much as possible. Model this after a good analytical article in an academic journal, not a journalistic source. You may analyse the piece(s) from any number of perspectives, with any methodological/theoretical/historical toolset you like. However you do it, you should be acquainted with similar examples of that kind of analysis discussion (you will need to present some of your models during the class). This should be a "publishable" article on this piece or set of pieces. Your intent is to shed as much light on the piece(s) as possible, in as much depth and technical/artistic detail as you can. Don't review them, or introduce them to a lay audience

Interview: This should be a highly pre-informed, in-depth, well-edited, musically and intellectually considered interview with the person. It should add a significant component to our knowledge of himr and hisr work. Research it thoroughly: you should know all that is possible to know first, and then ask the artist to elaborate. Have specific, interesting questions which will elucidate illuminating responses.

Interview questions shouldn't be too general (that puts the interviewee in a kind of vague position). Set up questions with an assumption that you and the artist are already at a high-level of discourse about the work. For example: "In the piece XXXXX you use a technique that you used in piece YYYYY, but it seems slightly different in the latter piece. Can you tell me about how you changed things, what made you do things differently?".

Edit it scrupulously: take out all the "well...", "like...", "uh...", and have people speak in complete, articulate sentences. A good interview should read like a good article. Use some of the interviews with composers that have been published in journals like MusicWorks, MusikTexte, Perspectives of New Music, and so on as your models. Do several interviews, and edit them together. Space them out so that you can learn more about things hse said in a previous interview, and pursue them in the next.

Catalog of works: This should be the most straighforward part of the project. With the assistance of the composer, who probably has something like this, make an annotated catalog of their works, suitable for something like, say, WikiPedia, that lists as many works (pieces, articles, software, artwork, other forms), their resources (instrumentation, software platform, etc.), and availability (how others might hear/see/learn-about them. The idea is to take what already exists, add to it as needed, organize it, and annotate it for others. Most composers keep lists of their own works, and have all this kind of information in various ways and pieces. Your job is to make a kind of "accessibility" document for this composer. If one wants to learn as much as possible about hisr work, your catalog will help.