Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Writing About Your Relationship with American Music - An American Lit Assignment

How will you write about music? What do you need to say the songs that fill your earbuds and define your life?

I am asking you to write about music, because like writing poetry, writing about music for me has been a spiritual and social survival skill, and I want you to at least test this genre of prose for your personal life toolkit, making this more than just another assignment with a due date.

Surviving the strange emotions of love and adolescence with so many Beatles choruses carrying me through; putting myself to bed in elementary school with John Denver singing “Sunshine On My Shoulders” on the tiny personal turntable; watching and re-watching the movie American Graffiti with a special sentiment for the songs and especially for the DJ Wolfman Jack: performing Lennon and Jagger and Simon and McLean songs with my basement air-band The Rebellion; these and so many more primal memories remind me why popular music is not just the soundtrack of my mundane life, but the Holy Spirit choral lifeblood of a much more meaningful life.

What I want the would-be music critics in this class to get is permission to express how music has made and remade them as people, to place us inside the life stories that go with so many songs. While I am happy to entertain as much lyrical analysis as we had poetry analysis, I worry that if you only stay with the lyrics of your personal American songbook, we might miss on other aspects of how the music has infected our entire beings. 

For the deep-cuts, dedicated, and discerning music fans, writing about music, is not just like writing about literature. Good writing about music is a form of literature in itself that conveys an amazing depth of feelings, making music writing memorable on its own terms. Good writing about music possesses the power to turn others onto music that will also change their lives. 

There are long and winding stories that go with the songs so significantly, that for us as fans, the songs over time become inseparable from our stories associated with them. Perhaps this next blog will be an opportunity for you to weave your stories into our mental, emotional, and spiritual associations that go with particular songs. 

So in addition to the simple lyrics analysis, which remains welcome and comparable to the close reading we did with poems, allow this blog to be a testimony and a telling of your relationship with popular American music. Allow your imagination and passion to have fun with this, keeping in mind that the “professional” music writers invoked to inspire you felt led and called and even convicted to write about music. 

Perhaps you share some of that fandom passion on your own terms, or maybe just maybe, you can allow some of the creative passion from this section of the class to rub off on you and help you tell a story about music that might inspire your peers and your professor.  

Details -1000 words absolute minimum;
must be about American music, could be about a song, an album, a concert, a scene;
your writing genre could be personal reflection essay/personal memoir about music;
as long as American music is featured prominently, this could be a first-person non-fiction narrative; Writing about gospel-blues, Gaye, Dylan, Dead, sixties music, etc of course is encouraged, but only if you have passion for those artists covered; these ideas can show up for one of your blogs this semester or they can be incorporated into the blog portion of your mixtape final.
Putting this out there to share with other instructors who might want to do a similar assignment.

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