Analysing and comparing music – start with what you know

Greetings IB DP Music Students!

For those in the southern hemisphere, I hope you are preparing for exams or preparing to conclude a successful academic year. For those in the northern hemisphere, I hope that your academic year is off to a good start. Regardless of where you are in the world, my goal is to provide you with some helpful insights into the DP Music class. I share my expertise as a pianist, DP Music teacher, and as a DP Music examiner. I am very interested in your opinion in terms of the content of this blog, so if you have suggestions for posts, I very much would like to hear your ideas.

I would like to open my discussion concerning your Approaches to Learning. (Before you stop reading, please give me a few more seconds of your time.) Where ever you are in your DP journey (just starting, half-way completed, or almost done!), it is important that you know your self as a learner. The conversation today will focus on thinking skills.

Two fundamental thinking skills in DP Music are analysis and synthesis of music. Your success on your Extended Essay (whether you selected music or a different subject), Musical Links Investigation, and the Listening Paper all directly correlate to your ability to analyse and synthesise. The trick (in my opinion) is to start with music that you know.

For example, in the Musical Links Investigation, you have the opportunity to select music that you know. If you only know music from one musical culture, start with one song. If you know songs from multiple cultures, then pick one song from each culture that you know well. For example, perhaps you know the song ‘Blurred Lines’.

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke – retrieved on 15 September 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyDUC1LUXSU

This song (or a similar song) could easily be used for a Musical Links Investigation or an Extended Essay in music. When you begin analysing a song, start with what you know. In Blurred Lines, you could start by establishing the metre (4/4) and then move to the form (verse/chorus = strophic). Once you felt comfortable with the general form, you could then start counting measures to establish phrase lengths (4-measure phrases with 16 measures in a section). Once you have the basic details outlined, you could then select a song that has similar links, but also is from a different musical culture.

I believe an interesting paring would be Blurred Lines with ‘1234 get on the dance floor’.
1234 – get on the dance floor – Chennai Express – retrieved on 15 September 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNZNgyCd6zc
I will discuss this song in my next post.

For those students who are preparing for their November exams – good luck!

The skill set for the listening paper is the same as the musical links, but the listening paper does require you to think on your feet within a set time frame.

I will address listening paper section C in my next post.

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