History of the Blues (MUS 270) Fall 2015
Music Description and Reading Response Assignment
Assignment: This assignment consists of two related parts: 1) a music
description and comparison, and 2) a reading summary and response. Both are
Part I: Music Description and Comparison: Write a 1- to 2-page, detailed description
and comparison of one of the pair of songs listed below. Your description and
comparison should be as detailed as possible, but the details should be organized to
reflect their relevance to understanding the historical importance of the examples.
Song Pairs (choose one):
1. Bessie Smiths St. Louis Blues and Gus Cannons Jonestown Blues
2. Jimmie Rodgers Blue Yodel No. 1 (T is for Texas) and Blind Lemon
Jeffersons Black Snake Moan
3. Blind Willie Johnsons Nobodys Fault But Mine and Lonnie Johnsons
The details you observe should be guided by the following questions:
1. What instruments are used in the examples and how are they played?
2. What are the qualities of the singers voices and how are they used in conjunction
with the lyrics?
3. What is notable about the lyrics to the songs, and are there connections between
the lyrics and the music?
4. Do the songs dynamics and textures change throughout the songs?
5. How would you describe the songs tempos and rhythmic grooves? Are they
important elements to the songs?
6. Are there instrumental solos in the songs? What qualities are demonstrated during
those instrumental solos and how do they fit into the songs as a whole? If there are
no solos, does that seem to be an important part of the songs styles?
7. How are the songs organized? Are there contrasting sections or parts that repeat?
8. If there are videos or photographs of the performers, how do the performers act and
move on stage? How are they dressed? Are there connections between these visual
cues and the music?
9. What is the overall emotional affect of the songs and what are the most important
elements in creating that affect?
*Note: Do not organize your description by just going through these
questions one by one. Organize your response by the relevance of the details to your
song; some of these questions will yield interesting answers for your songs, and some