Assignment

You are responsible for researching a particular record or album, presenting it to the class, and creating a page for it on our course website. There are not separate instructions for the content of the website (although I have posted some specific technical instructions); the page you create should reflect the research you do for your presentation. (Do note, though, that you must also work on the Timeline for the website during the unit in which you present; instructions are in the post about curating the website.)

You should think of your research as a cultural and musical history of the record/album. This can mean many things:

  • You can investigate the particulars of the recording process: who is represented on the recording? Who produced and engineered the recording? What interesting or innovative techniques were deployed in making the recording?
  • You can investigate the recording’s life as a commodity: How was the recording sold or distributed? Who was its audience?
  • You can look into the recording’s musical identity as part of a particular musical culture: What musical genre or style is represented on the recording? How does the music of the recording fit with other records or musical performances?
  • Does the recording represent a specific event? If so, what is the nature of that event, and how was it translated to the recording medium?

This list is not inclusive, and should only be taken as a starting point for your research. Further, you’ll need to tailor your research and your presentation to the particulars of your record/album. Not all these issues and questions are equally suitable for all of the recordings! Finally, make sure that your research and presentation are centered on the album. You might want to give us some information about the biography of the artist or the producer, but you should do so in a focused way that is clearly relevant to understanding the recording. (For instance, don’t tell us all about the lives of the Beatles before Revolver; just tell us what they were doing at the time in a way that helps to explain something about Revolver.) You might think of this as being somewhat along the lines of the 33-1/3 series of books.

Your presentation should be roughly 10 minutes in length, and you are encouraged to use any media that will help you to make an insightful point about the recording (playing music, of course, but also PowerPoint or other presentation software, film, etc.). You don’t need to turn in anything along with your presentation, but you’ll need to include citations when you create the webpage for the recording. Please feel free to contact me if you need help finding resources for your research; I have many suggestions!

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Here are the record/album assignments and presentation dates:

The Beatles, Revolver—Peter Hillinck (February 2)
Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet—Ellis Coan (February 4)
The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds—Matt Walker (February 11)
Wendy Carlos, Switched-On Bach—Jim Hurson (February 16)
Enrico Caruso, “Vesti la giubba”—Charlotte Scott (February 23)
Louis Armstrong, Hot 5s and 7s—Kevin Enderby (March 8)
Augustus Pablo and King Tubby, “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown”—Alec Custer (March 17)
Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (1981)—Tyler Caruso (March 22)
Morton Subotnik, Silver Apples of the Moon—Natalie Kucher (March 31)
Danger Mouse, The Grey Album—Evan Stack (April 5)
Cher, “Believe”—Maddie Fisher (April 7)
Solomon Linda, “Mbube”—Ian Hicks (April 19)
Francis Densmore, Songs of the Seminole Indians of Florida—Emma Rose Parker (April 26)