Department of English

University of Toronto

CCR199H1F - L0191

CCR199H1F L0191 M3-5
First Year Seminar: Writing About Music
Professor Paul Downes
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Office Location:
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 731

Brief Description of Course: How do we describe music in words? What figures of speech do writers employ to convey the force or the beauty of musical compositions? What makes for a successful or effective piece of critical or creative writing about music? This course will try to answer these questions (and others) by looking at a wide range of essays, stories and poems that celebrate, evaluate, theorize, or otherwise attempt to translate the impact of classical, jazz and popular musical performances. The course will prioritize twentieth- and twenty-first century writers and composers and may include excerpts from The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, Absolutely on Music, by Haruki Murakami, But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer, Wire's Pink Flag by Wilson Neate, How Music Works by David Byrne and selections of journalistic music reviews. Students are not required to have musical expertise, but an interest in writing about music (as a critic, reviewer, scholar or fan) would be an asset.

Required Reading: Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise; Simon Frith, “What is Bad Music?”; Whitney Balliet, A Journal of Jazz.

First Three Authors/Texts: Ross, Frith, Balliet.

Method of Instruction: Lecture/discussion.

Method of Evaluation: 3-5 short writing assignments; participation.

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