musicology 68 beatles

Musicology 68:

The Beatles Winter, 2020

Professor Upton

PART I (50%): Listening Guide Prepare a listening guide to ONE of these six following Beatles albums (UK versions):

• Rubber Soul (December 1965)

• Revolver (August 1966)

• Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (May 1967)

• Magical Mystery Tour (November 1967)

• Abbey Road (September 1969)

• Let It Be (May 1970)

Your listening guide will provide an overview of the album as a whole, and discussions of at least three songs from the album. Two of the songs must be songs NOT played or discussed in lecture or in section, while at least one song can be a song played/discussed in lecture and/or section (you may discuss additional songs so long as you meet the requirement of discussing two songs not discussed in lecture and/or section). Use course material – historical, musicological, etc. – to narrate your understanding of the album. Your overview of the album can include information on the composition and recording of the songs, but the larger focus should be your overall impressions of the album. You may also compare any of the songs to other music, from the past or the present. Remember, this is an exam, not a term paper: in preparing and writing it, you should draw on materials from the second five weeks of class, including readings, lecture notes, listening, videos, discussion sections, and the weekly online writing questions. You do not have to do any additional research for this exam, but if you want to include additional information, make sure to footnote your sources. Some questions to ask yourself when choosing a focus for your exam include: What do you think is interesting about this album, what stands out to you? How are the Beatles addressing their audience? How are the Beatles responding to other music they know? What emotions or 2 ideas do you hear the songs conveying? What (if anything) do you think the Beatles are saying about themselves with this album? How does this album relate (or not) to the Beatles’ earlier work? How does the album cover relate to the listening experience? What do you think a listener in the 1960s would have thought about this album? What do you think about the album as a listener in 2019, and how does that compare with what you think listeners in the 1960s would have heard? (You don’t have to answer all these questions in your essay, but it is worth thinking about them as you prepare to write.) The songs you choose will give you the opportunity to provide evidence for your overview of the album. Your discussion of each song must include specific musical details, as we have been discussing them in class. You do not have to account for every element for each song! Instead, think about what particular musical element(s) contribute to your impression and understanding of the song. Musical elements include: Things composers play with: Meter & Rhythm; Melody; Harmony; Instrumentation (including voices); Texture; Form; Lyrics/language (see slides, Week 1 Class 1; as well as the document Musical Terms Glossary “Things To Listen For” on the Course Info page of our CCLE webpages. Things performers play with: Composer instructions; Training and skill; Timbre (sound characteristics); Expression (tempo, dynamics, phrasing); Re-arrangement (for covers, especially forces); Recording techniques (see slides Week 1 Class 1) And things Listeners play with: Paratexts; existing knowledge (about musicians, other music, etc); Listening contexts (see slides Week 2 Class 1) You may of course discuss the lyrics of songs, but make sure to consider purely musical elements as well. Additionally, your framework for interpreting/understanding the album and its songs can be based on concepts you know from outside this class, from other classes or fields of study that seem appropriate, including (but not limited to) gender, sexuality, masculinity/ femininity, race, class, nation (US and/or UK), consumerism, music industry politics, teenage identity, etc. but it is not necessary to include material from outside this course. Part I: 3-5 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins. For other formatting questions, ask your TA.

PART II (50%): 2 Essays (25% each) Write an essay for each of the following prompts. Each essay will be worth 25% of your Final grade.

1. The Beatles made four live-action films (A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Help! (1965), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), and Let It Be in 1970) as well as numerous promotional videos for individual songs. They also “appeared” as animated characters in the film Yellow Submarine (1968). How were the Beatles, as a group and as individuals, presented to their audience in these films? How were their presentations similar or different from one film or video to another? How might the audience’s perceptions of the Beatles’ characters and interactions influence the listening experience, the way their music was heard? Would audience perceptions be similar or different between the 1960s and today? (You may also consider Beatles performances on television that we have seen, but focus primarily on the films.)

2. Throughout their recording career, The Beatles were influenced by twentieth-century trends in the visual arts as well as trends in both popular and experimental music. First, discuss the ways in which the Beatles’ album covers used Modern art in creating paratexts for the listeners’ experience. Then, discuss the ways in which the Beatles adapted surrealist techniques of collage, montage, juxtaposition and non-sequitur, and distortion, as well as techniques from avant garde musical composition, in their music. Choose and discuss at least three songs. PART II: The two essays TOGETHER should be 3-5 pages long. Double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins. For other formatting questions, ask your TA.

EXTRA CREDIT (5 points max. Answer one or the other, but not both): Who is your favorite Beatle? Why? —OR—Which is your favorite Beatle song? Why?

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