Portland Community College Music Culture and Politics Prompts Essay

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Portland Community College


Write short essays answering your choice of three (3) questions from below. The goal of this assignment is to tie together overarching themes from the course; think holistically about the relationship between music, culture, and politics; and draw connections between the various movements, artists, and musical styles we studied. Read each question carefully and answer it in its entirety, making sure to provide diverse examples to indicate the breadth and depth of your knowledge.

Outside references are permitted but not required. You should focus your energies on the course readings, media, lectures, and discussions. The final sum of your three essays should be around six (6) pages. This is a guide, not a requirement; you will be graded according to the comprehensiveness of your answers.

Your writing should be well organized; written in clear, concise language; and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Exams should be typed, double-spaced, with 1" margins, and in a standard 12pt font such as Times New Roman. Include proper citations for any quotes or paraphrases of sources, including lecture notes.

Complete your essays and turn them in on bCourses by 12noon PST on Wednesday, December 16. This is the due date for both Monday and Friday sections. Late submission (including later on 12/16) will result in a 10-point deduction for each late day. Treat this assignment as you would an in-class final exam; if you are not there and on time, you miss the points.


Answer the following prompt in approximately two (2) pages:

1. Select either the Hendrix or Marie performances of the U.S. national anthem and analyze it in relation to our core course questions about U.S. American music and identity. What does the performance propose as U.S. American identity? What statements does the performance make about the definition of U.S. American music? Do you see the performance as an example of disidentification or not? Why so? If not, how would you theorize it? Make sure to analyze the sonic, visual, venue, audience, or other aesthetic elements of the performance to support your claims.

Answer your choice of one (1) of the following prompts in approximately two (2) pages:

2. In what ways has the music industry had a hand in defining who or what is “American”? How do race and gender factor into this? What about technology? Give a broad and comprehensive answer that reflects back on the course as a whole. Then offer two (2) examples of artists, genres, or pieces that illustrate your point. Please be specific in your historical and cultural detail as well as in your analysis of sonic elements of your examples.

3. What is migration and how has it shaped U.S. American music? Give a detailed definition of “migration” and the types of social, political, economic, etc. processes this term describes. Then, discuss how the concept of migration pertains to music in the U.S. Why or how has this impacted the creation or consumption of musical cultures? Are there particular historical moments when migration has been more impactful or has it been an important influence throughout U.S. musical history? Give two (2) musical examples that illuminate the meaning of the term and two different perspectives on how it relates to music. Please be specific in your historical and cultural detail as well as in your analysis of sonic elements of your examples.

Answer your choice of one (1) of the following prompts in approximately two (2) pages:

4. What is one tradition/style/genre we did not talk about in class but that you would like to see included? Why so? How does this tradition fit into the broader story of U.S. American music? How might it change the portrait of U.S. American music provided in this class? Why would it be useful to include in this course? Be specific about where in the flow of the course you would introduce this tradition, what other genres you would relate it to, what themes or concepts it illuminates, and an artist or piece you would use as an example for analysis.

5. What is your definition of “American music”? Why? Whatever your criteria, discuss how you came to your definition and the social and political stakes of your choice. Is it useful to define American music? Why or why not? What does talking about American music do or serve politically, beyond musical or intellectual concerns?

Rubric (110 points total):

Each essay

  • Answers all question components [10]
  • Conceptual, theoretical, and/or historical detail [10]
  • Music description and analysis [10]

Entire assignment

  • Comprehensiveness (demonstrates broad knowledge of multiple course themes, eras, and styles) [10]
  • Organization [5]
  • Free of spelling and grammatical errors [5]

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Explanation & Answer

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Music, Culture, and Politics Prompts








Prompt 1

Jimi Hendrix was an African American. He was an American singer, guitarist, and
songwriter. They regard him as one of the most influential guitarists in American popular
music history. The Rock and Rock Hall of Fame relate him as the greatest instrumentalist in
rock music history. He began playing guitar at fifteen. He was recruited in the American
Army in 1961 and was trained as a paratrooper and was later discharged honorably the
following year. Later he moved to Clarksville and started playing gigs on the chitlin' circuit,
which earned him a place in Isley Brothers and later Little Richard. He was inspired musically
by electric blues and American rock. He favored overdriven applications with high volume
and was instrumental in using the previously unwanted sounds caused by guitar amplifier
feedback. He was also instrumental in popularizing the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock,
and he was the first guitarist to use stereophonic phasing effects in music recordings. Hendrix
pioneered the use of the electronic sound source. He was also a recipient of several music
awards in his lifetime. Hendrix's performance of the U.S. national anthem was a protest and
that you can be patriotic to your country and at the same time hate the government in charge.
The guitar's vibrato bar is used to evoke fighter jets, combat, artillery, ambulance sirens, and
maybe street riots. At the same time, he played the national anthem version. The war was still
ravaging the world, and over thirty-five thousand troops had been killed. He had
experimented with the song over seventy times, building off the traditional melody. He
painted commercial corruption and patriotic pride. He used the key's anthem to show how
America was that he had experienced at Woodstock that weekend that the country could be
full of contradiction and have a community that had the capabilities of pulling together.



Hendrix's performance of the U.S. national anthem defined the U.S. American music
as social commentary. The Star-Spangled Banner at the Woodstock music fair was
transcendent political defiance and activism of anti-US. The anthem presentation was an
artistic expression that gave thoughtful engagement of the currents issues that face the
Americans today and immediate response to his immediate environm...

Just the thing I needed, saved me a lot of time.


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