Music Identity Assignment
Objective: To better understand how music reflects the personal and social identities of an individual or group.
Requirements: Write a 1500 words essay (roughly three-four pages) discussing a particular song or composition that you feel best expresses your personal and social identity. Include a link to a recording of the example along with your essay.
Music is a manifestation of the personal and social identities of an individual or group. The function of the music, the structure of it, the context in which it is performed, etc., all reflect the cultural environment that surrounds a musical performance and indicate significant values of the people who create it. Recognizing and understanding how music reflects the identity of a community is an important means of “getting to know” other people and how music expresses “who they are.”
I want to “get to know you” and discover what music says about “who you are.” (I assume that as music and non-music majors you consider music an important element of your life.) Undoubtedly, most of you listen to many kinds of music, i.e., classical, rock, rap, gamelan(?). Your task is to choose ONE example of music that you feel best expresses the many facets of YOU, i.e., your identity. This will prove more difficult than you think if you put some thought into it. Don’t tell me what music means to you, explain how the example you have chosen represents who you are.
For example, as an American, what one example would you choose to reflect your “American” identity? Does rap define who we are? Britney Spears? Norah Jones? Rage Against the Machine? Does the music of Mozart and Beethoven represent us, even though its origin is European? How about jazz? What kind of jazz? Which composer and from what era? Defining “American” identity through one example of music is impossible, yet in this class (and others) we only have time to focus on a few examples from countries often much larger than the USA and with histories much older than our meager 225+ years of existence as a nation. Yet, through just a few music examples the spiritual beliefs, political philosophies, attitudes, and activities of many aspects of life are revealed. We are able to learn something about the people of other cultures and gain a greater understanding of “who they are.”
So, ask yourself some questions: What music do I like to listen to? What music do I like to perform? Why? How does this music reflect me personally, my philosophy of life, my goals and desires, my spiritual beliefs, my personal history and life experiences? How does this example reflect my social identity, i.e., the friends I have, the organizations I belong to, the activities I participate in, etc.? Start with some of these questions and soon you’ll think of more. Then pick ONE example that says it all (or as much as it can) and tell me about it and why you picked it. I’m looking forward to “getting to know you” better.