Department of Philosophy and Music
IMPORTANT: You must complete the Essay Quiz on D2L before turning in your essay. Completing
the quiz well in advance of the due date will help you meet the requirements of the essay assignment
and turn in a clean, well-edited copy.
The quiz is located under Quizzes Essay Preparation Quiz on D2L.
It is worth 5% of your final grade.
Formatting: Essays are to be six to eight typed, double-spaced pages (1500-2000 words) with a complete
bibliography and discography at the end. A discography is a list of sound recordings discussed in the essay.
Long quotations must be indented and single-spaced.
Use 12-point font, no extra spaces between paragraphs, and number your pages.
Put your full name, student number, and professor’s name on your assignment in the top right-hand corner of
the first page.
Number your pages on the bottom right-hand corner
No cover page required.
Due: March 23, 2021 by 11:59 pm.
Where to Submit: The “Essay” folder under the Assignments section of Brightspace. Only .doc, .docx,
or .pdf files will be graded. Do not submit essays over email. No hard copies are required.
A sample rubric is posted on D2L.
Answer the following question in your essay.
1. Popular music routinely confronts a variety of important social issues. Choose one of these topics for your
essay. You may choose to expand on an issue discussed explicitly in class. For example:
• Economic class
• Politics and social justice
*Do not choose authenticity as a topic; it is too difficult to write about and generally results in poor
Or you may look into related topics, including:
• Copyright and ownership
• Music, commerce, and advertising
• Sexuality and sexual identity
• Disability/Mental health/Addiction
• Age and aging
Create a strong thesis statement on your chosen topic, and develop an argument defending that thesis
throughout your essay.
Investigate this issue at length: how does popular music address, challenge, and change our thinking on
the issue? Who are the participants in this discourse? What are the power dynamics inherent in the relationship
between musicians, the music industry, and listeners? How can that power balance shift in one direction
It’s important to remember that music can either reflect a particular subject position on any given topic, or
it can construct a subject position. That is, music may be written in response to an event or paradigm shift;
music can also work to create that shift itself. Your job is to demonstrate music’s role in our thinking
about your chosen topic.
You will choose one musical example to analyze at length. Examples should be limited geographically to
North America and Britain, to stay within the confines of the course. Examine how the example illustrates
the argument of the essay, using terminology from class. What instrumentation do performers use? What
textures, timbres, forms, harmonies, rhythms, and other musical gestures further a listener’s understanding
of the topic at hand?
Your essay should present a clear picture of the social issue you have researched, connecting musical performance,
audience reception, performer intent, and an analysis of the music’s role in our understanding
of the issue.
*All papers must contain musical analysis based on the terms used in class. This analysis must be incorporated
into the paper, not separate, and can include video analysis. Analysis should occupy approximately 15-
20% of your paper. (1-2 pages)*
*Essays must be based on scholarly research, and must include at least two peer-reviewed sources, plus three
other (e.g., journalistic) sources.*
SOURCES: You must have at least two peer-reviewed sources, plus three other reliable sources (e.g.,
newspapers, magazines, music criticism websites, documentaries, artist interviews, and official artist
The *two* peer-reviewed sources must come from our library. No need to Google these! They are
available when you sign into the library site with your Ryerson ID.
The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Oxford Music Online
Other sources may be found through the library website. Look for music articles there in journals such as
Ethnomusicology, Popular Music, Popular Music and Society, Media, Culture & Society, Black Music Research
Journal. In addition, searching electronic databases such as JSTOR with your topic may reveal other
Some other suggestions
Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Ed. John Shepherd. ML 102 P66C66 2003.
Encyclopedia of World Pop Music, 1980-2001. Stan Jeffries. ML 102.P66J44 2003.
Encyclopedia of Canadian Rock, Pop and Folk Music. Rick Jackson. ML 102 P66J34 1994.
Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul. Irwin Stambler. ML 102 P66S8 1986b.
For recordings, you may use any online source with the recording identification available (this includes
streaming sites – YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc., as well as lyric sites like Genius). You may also discuss
the musical materials of a live performance. *Recordings analyzed in class or listed on your listening
lists are not permitted for discussion in your paper.*
See also the Research Help page on the Ryerson library website. The Music Research Guide offers helpful
tips on searching for peer-reviewed electronic journals.
Other Sources: Decolonizing Research
Peer-review is a colonial construction, designed to facilitate knowledge transmission and gate-keeping among
those with social and intellectual power. In an effort to decolonize learning, this essay assignment requires
only two peer-reviewed sources. You may use more if you want to, but I encourage you to look at other authoritative
sources on popular music for your three remaining: newspapers, magazines, websites, zines, etc.
Often such sources are subject to robust fact-checking, and as such are reliable, but are not subject to the
same hierarchically based gate-keeping that defines academia.
Please contact me if you have questions about the legitimacy of sources. This is not an invitation to a freefor-
all on unreliable web sources; use your critical thinking skills to assess the content you encounter, and
cross-check with other sources wherever possible.
Additional ideas for what to explore are available in the essay research video tutorial.
Students are expected to use reference materials in the library or available through the library website (books,
journals, encyclopedias, recordings). You may use more than one article or entry from a peer-reviewed
source to count towards your two peer-reviewed sources (such as two entries from the Grove Dictionary of
Music). Reliable online sources, such as the official website for an artist, may be consulted for the additional
three sources. Official biographies or non-peer-reviewed magazine articles or books on popular music in general
are also acceptable secondary sources. Authors must be cited in all websites used, and proper bibliographic
format used. Use of Wikipedia is prohibited. Students should use a minimum of two peer-reviewed
written sources in addition to other sources and recordings, and must cite all directly or indirectly quoted and
paraphrased material, including the prof’s notes or lectures.
Essays with citations, bibliographies, and discographies that do not meet the format of the 17th edition of the
Chicago Manual of Style will lose 10%. Bibliographies and discographies must be single-spaced, with second
and subsequent lines of each entry indented and all punctuation in the correct place. Either author-date
format or footnotes may be used for in-text citations. You may put your bibliography and discography on the
There will be no exceptions to this rule. Misplaced punctuation, misnumbered citations, and other minor mistakes
will be grounds for losing the full 10%. The library has reference guides on reserve, or check the Chicago
quick guide online for assistance in citing sources:
Essays that do not use the minimum two peer-reviewed sources and three additional sources will lose 5% per
It is possible to lose a total of 25% of the essay grade with a combination of no peer-reviewed sources and/or
an incorrectly formatted bibliography or citations. Please take care in all of your citation practices.
The course readings and class notes will not be counted as one of the two required written research sources.
Late essays will be penalized at a rate of 5% per day for the first week after the due date, counted from 11:59
pm each day. Submissions must include all attachments: essay, bibliography, discography, and appendices. A
grade of “0” will be permanently assigned to missing essays or tests after one week. Exemptions from the
penalty will only be granted with appropriate written documentation and in person consultation with the professor
within one week of the submission deadline.