MUHL 286 – Critical Thinking About Music
“Composing Identities”: Cultural Interpretation Paper
Select one of the pieces below to write a ca. 1000 word essay on.
Exoticism in Early French Modernism
C. Debussy, “La Soirée dans Grenada,” Estampes, I (ca. 1903).
M. Ravel, Chansons madécasses, “Aoua!” (1925-26).
L. Boulanger, Vieille prière bouddhique (1914-1917).
Inventing Traditions: North American Modernism
Colin McPhee, Balinese Ceremonial Music (1941) [pick one movement to focus on].
Henry Cowell, The Banshee (1925).
Ruth Crawford Seeger, Chants for Women’s Chorus (1930) [pick one “song”/setting to focus on]
William Grant Still, Afro-American Symphony (1930), III.
Post Modern Exoticism
Any of the post-1945 pieces/composers discussed in Corbett reading (but only ONE piece or
movement/scene from larger work). WARNING: You may not simply summarize Corbett‟s
argument, but must formulate an interpretation in dialogue with his, e.g. an interpretation that
extends, elaborates, builds-on, or critiques his ideas.
1. Briefly situate the piece within the music-historical contexts discussed in the
readings/lectures/sections. In which modernist aesthetic/musical trend or cultural topic does your
piece fit? Explain.
2. Discuss how your work engages issues of exoticism and/or cultural identity (racial, ethnic,
national). First, you must formulate a specific argument or thesis about the cultural resonance
of your selected work: what cultural message, statement or perspective does the piece musically
construct or suggest? Second, consider how specifically exotic or culturally marked materials are
evoked? Provide at least one specific musical example.
3. For the conclusion of your essay, consider a larger research question or project that your
piece/topic suggests. How would you develop your paper into a longer research paper? You must
provide at least one further research question/topic.
Content, accuracy, clarity, presentation (grammar, spelling) count.
Use Times 12 font and double-space throughout (this includes the space between paragraphs!).
Use standard margin settings.
NUMBER PAGES and STAPLE at top left-hand corner. Musical examples may be included in
the text OR in an appendix at the end of the paper, clearly indicated with example