Genre Challenge: Gamefied Points

A How-To-Guide for Writing Music Criticism:

Music criticism, according to the Oxford Companion to Music (a music reference book produced by the Oxford University Press) is defined as: “the intellectual activity of formulating judgments on the value and degree of excellence of individual works of music, or whole groups or genres.” Because interest in music has become so popular in the advancing technological world we live in today, music criticism has come to acquire the basic meanings of journalistic reporting, particularly on musical performances.

Winton Dean, an English musicologist of the 20th century, noted that music is especially difficult to criticize in relation to other art forms. Music is written in a language unique to its own kind. In other words, the musical note C, for instance, has no explicit relations to love, journey, peace, or other abstract notions or ideas that music works to portray. Additionally, music can be recreated and reinterpreted, making it a dynamic art form, rather than one that is static.

If you’ve never critiqued a piece or pieces of music before in your life, do not despair. I have broken it down for you:

First, consider these questions when critiquing music:

  1. What was your overall reaction to the performance?
  2. What was the strongest element of the performance?
  3. What was the weakest element of the performance?
  4. Was the event well-organized? Was there any element of the performance that detracted from your concentration or enhanced it?
  5. If the performance is vocal, how did the text correspond with the music? Did the music communicate the text effectively?
  6. If the performance was purely instrumental, what visual images and/or emotions might have been conveyed by the music? Did the music communicate effectively?
  7. If there was a conductor, did you feel the conductor communicated his or her interpretation of the music to the players and the audience?

Now, let me break it down for you even further, with eight easy steps to keep in mind as you are answering these questions:

1.     Decide what sort of music you’ll offer critiques on.

First, set parameters for yourself. What genres of music will you critique (Rock & Roll, Jazz, Folk, Metal, Hip-Hop, Pop)? All genres are open to criticism! While some online bloggers have “listening blogs” through which they listen to and critique a multiplicity of genres at once, others prefer to critique one specific genre at a time.

2.     Form an opinion before saying it out loud.

As you listen to a song or other piece of musical art, avoid expressing your opinion about it while you listen. You should refrain from doing so because your opinion on the piece may change multiple times before it ends. Wait until you have listened attentively before saying or writing/blogging about how you feel.

3.     Refrain from presenting yourself as an expert on musical techniques.

For those of you who aren’t musicians, you might find it hard to avoid pretending you are. If you want to refer to a professional musician’s skill or talent, make sure you do so in an opinionated manner. Rather than saying, “He’s not that good of a piano player,” you may want to say, “Personally, I like how Pianist 1 plays piano over Pianist 2.” This allows others to contest your opinions, and allows for further discussion.

4.     Use your knowledge of similar music.

Draw connections between musical groups, songs, musical genres, instrument sounds, etc. when you notice they exist. This will help validate your opinion in the eyes of others who might not be familiar with the particular music piece you are critiquing, but instead are familiar with alternative, similar pieces. Drawing these similarities will also boost your credibility in the music world, and prove you are generally knowledgeable about a particular genre/style/instrument/group.

5.     Do your homework.

Read other music reviews in the same genre you are critiquing. It might be helpful to get a second, third, and even fourth opinion from people who have done similar critiques in the past. Also, if you play an instrument that is prevalent in the genre you are critiquing in, play it on your own time! Producing and listening to your own music can help you to become even more familiar with the tone, pace, harmonic techniques and other existing aspects of the musical piece you are critiquing.

6.     Contact people, if possible!

Don’t be afraid to contact the musician of the piece you are critiquing, whether it is someone you have met before, or a complete stranger that lives on the other side of the country. Ask questions, conduct interviews, and find out information that may help you better critique the piece you are studying.

7.     Encourage others to discuss the music with you.

Generate open discussions with others in the music world. By talking out your opinions with people who understand how music is written and produced, you may notice and learn new things about a particular song, band, or performance. Open discussions allow for agreement and disagreement… but don’t be afraid, because both can be good!

8.     Recommend your favorites.

How does word and opinions about music spread? You! Recommend your favorite bands and songs to others, publish your criticisms, and get other people talking about your work and critiques. Word of mouth is what allows the world of music to exist, how connections among music-lovers are maintained, and how musical criticism stays alive!

 Examples of Music Criticism:



What’s On My Mind These Days? Always Something…

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the junior class going abroad. Me being only a sophomore, I have the luxury of sitting back and relaxing, while I watch the juniors encounter challenging decisions, one after another, about their upcoming semester. Where should they study abroad? Who should they go with? What classes can they take? Will they receive enough credits in a different country? How is the nightlife in whatever country they are planning on visiting? There are many decisions that must be made before a junior at the University of Michigan goes aboard. However, what is commonly overlooked when thinking of a student’s experience abroad is their experiences following shortly after. And by this, I mean summer jobs.

Being that junior students will have minimal time to apply and interview for summer jobs from an entirely different country, members of the junior class often start early in their search. There have been many times where I have sat down in the library to do homework, and have found myself sitting next to a junior filling out job applications. However, I have recently came to the realization that while October is a bit early to begin applying for summer jobs if you not a junior going abroad, my time to apply is actually not too far away. Come December/January, I know parents are going to start bugging me about the job search, to ensure I land a killer internship this summer.

Thinking about writing cover letters, filling out applications, writing thank you notes to potential employers for offering me an interview, and all other things related to writing and the “summer job search” is quite concerning. It is a huge job, one that I do not feel entirely prepared for. I have had two legitimate internships in the past… the first at a local magazine and the second at a local public relations firm. However, this summer I plan to work in New York City, which is somewhat of a bigger task, and a bigger deal, in terms of applications and interviews. One advantage I do have, however, is the work I have done this semester in my English 229 class, entitled Professional Writing. One assignment for this class was to pick two internships and write cover letters as if we were applying to them. I chose Viacom and Cosmopolitan Magazine, which I would definitely be interested in applying to for real. Writing cover letters, I have learned from this class, is a huge and time-consuming job, as they follow a particular formula, but I feel lucky to have had learned from a U of M professor how to write them professionally and correctly.

So, my time is approaching, just as the juniors time has already approached. I am not sure what is in store for me this summer, but I know that I will have to use writing skills to make it through. Wish me luck!


Remediation was the first problem, where to start is the second… (#techchallenge)

I would never categorize our remediation project as easy. In fact, I’d actually categorize it as just the opposite: difficult. However, difficult is not always a bad thing. In this case, the difficulty I am experiencing throughout the different steps of this project are actually teaching me most, second to writing and media, about the importance of decision-making. In transitioning from my repurposing to remediating project, I was unsure as to which medium form I wanted to use. I thought about creating a podcast, however, was unsure as to how I would organize my project in a way that wasn’t simply a script of my repurposing project. I also thought about creating an informational brochure on salsa, later realizing that the transformation from a magazine spread into a brochure would barely differ in terms of organization and appearance. All in all, I wanted to create a project that would enable me to guide my readers on a hypothetical journey across the world. I needed something more three-dimensional. That is when I finally came to a decision: a website. Websites offer interactivity, visuals, display themes, and most importantly, a virtual space for the organization and layout of my argument.

In beginning to design the storyboard for my remediation project, I am using PowerPoint to layout each and every page of my website. Although PowerPoint is limited in terms of its design features, font styles, header features, etc. in comparison to WordPress, it has allowed me to start at a more elementary phase and take baby steps toward the creation of a more complicated website. In creating my storyboard, I am getting a better sense of how my website is going to turn out. During the proposal stage of this project, I had a hypothetical image of my website lingering in my head: the colors I wanted to use, the themes I wanted to use, and the layout that I believed would work best in conveying my argument. However, because I am designing my storyboard on the computer rather than drawing it out, I am drawing upon the computer’s abilities and formatting features, rather than my own ideas. Therefore, I am learning, in actuality, and not just in my head, what the computer will and will not allow me to do, which fonts look best, which colors schemes look best, etc. The storyboard assignment is allowing my project to slowly come to life within reasonable parameters, which is exciting.

In conjunction with my decision to use WordPress, for my technology challenge, I have decided to commit to trying iMovie as the additional program that will aid my project. I don’t have a lot of experience with iMovie, and figured it would be a good program to create a “Lookbook” sort of feature for my website. I am picturing almost a running, continuous PowerPoint presentation of salsa images, ones that are visually appealing to online users. For instance, I could upload images of salsas with, for example, unique and atypical ingredients, salsa spread across lavish and fancy dishes, or even famous renditions of salsa prepared by famous chefs. I plan to create a short movie out of these images, which will offer a visually interactivity and a captivating way for users to “experience” salsa, rather than just read about it.

In downloading iMovie on my computer, I was able to learn a lot of basic information about the program in a short period of time. I put an old video I had downloaded on my computer years ago into the system, and was able to cut and chop up the video. I also taught myself about the transition features, which I noticed is similar to those in PowerPoint. There is also a microphone feature in iMovie, which would allow me to create a voiceover describing each image in my mini-salsa movie, if I wanted to. Lastly, I learned that I could also add text over the images of my movie, which would allow me to create captions describing them. I think iMovie will allow me to get creative with my website, adding video features of my own rather than simply posting videos on my website that were created by other people.



Technology Challenge: Exploring

I really enjoyed my experience on From my perspective, tutorial videos have always been an interesting and fun way of learning. As a Communications Studies major, my coursework often requires I watch “TedTalks,” or videos that consist of a researcher or knowledgeable person giving an informed speech on a particular topic to an actual audience. The tutorials I watched on reminded me of my experiences watching these “TedTalks,” in terms of the interactivity, images, charts, and voiceovers included in them. One thing I particularly liked about was how it was broken up into different video categories, including Business, 3D, Design, Photography, etc. This made the website easy to surf through and figure out, being that it was my first time on it. Additionally, each tutorial was broken up into sections, almost like chapters. The video would start out with an introductory clip/voiceover, and transition into its subsequent sections.

One particular tutorial that struck me was called “Photoshop Color Correction: Dark Color Cast” with Taz Tally. Photoshop is a technological application that I have always been interested in learning how to use. In fact, there have been times in my life where I wished I knew how to use it, for project or other academic purposes. That being said, this tutorial taught me more information in a short period of time than I ever thought I could learn from an online video. Particularly, the video featured a behind-the-scenes user navigating and working on Photoshop. You can see the mouse controlling different features of the program, such as shifting and creating color schemes through histograms, contrast and brightness buttons, and color tone removal scales. Personally, I am a visual person, and this was an easy way for me to learn about a very complicated program.

Another tutorial that stuck out to me was called “Google+ For Musicians and Bands” with Bobby Owsinski. This video was of particular interest to me because I love listening to and sharing music with others- it is a hobby of mine. The video outlines the ways in which Google+ is the “rising kid on the block” in terms of a social platform for up and coming musicians. It acts as a brief marketing tutorial for those who wish to grow their fan base online and connect with other musicians. Although I am in no way, shape, or form a skilled or talented musician, let alone part of a band, I do use the Internet for musical purposes. I am an avid user of various websites that connect me with those who listen to similar music to me. In the same way, I felt this tutorial gave me great insight into a Google platform that connects music-lovers across the world. It included images, brief, visual outlines, and a model, interactive computer screen that enabled me to learn about Google+ from the perspective of the music industry.

E-Portfolio Struggles

In beginning to think about my eportfolio, its design, its purpose, its audience, and everything related to this project, I am struggling. At first, I wanted to create an eportfolio that was centered on the idea of telling a story about my life. I planned to find a theme on WordPress that looked almost like a journal or even a notebook or looseleaf paper. I wanted to use my pieces about my childhood and how my passion for writing emerged at a very young age to tell a chronological story about my life and my identity as a writer. The more I surfed around on WordPress, and thought about this project, the more difficult I realized this wold be. Although my “Why I Write” essay is centered on a more chronological-based story of my life as a developing writer, my other pieces for this class are completely unrelated (they actually have to do with salsa, the food!). How was I going to tell a story about myself and my life as a writer through just one piece?

I then considered completely shifting the focus of my eportfolio, and giving it a more professional look. I realized I could use this portfolio as a basis for when I graduate college, and could keep adding my writing pieces to it to ultimately show to employers. This would be a good use of my time in the minor, wouldn’t it? After speaking with a friend in the minor who has completed the gateway course, however, she reassured me that her portfolio was not professionally-based. She said hers was personal, which made the assignment special and meaningful for her. She told me that creating a professional portfolio did not fit her writing pieces, as they were more so creative, which is how I feel about my pieces as well.

This then gave me the confidence to reconsider all of my options. I think I might scratch the “notebook/journal/story” idea, and try to find a happy-medium. I may choose a more general idea to center my portfolio on, such as my passion for writing on the whole, and title my portfolio “A girl with a passion” (or something along those lines). I have come to the conclusion that I definitely want to express my personal side through my blog. I guess I will worry about the professional aspect of my portfolio later in life!


Third Time’s a Charm

My repurposing project is finally coming along. I have taught myself to navigate through Microsoft Word’s project gallery, and am making my three-pronged spread on salsa (the food) look like a true magazine article. I added images from Flickr, which I never knew existed before this class. I’m finding relevant and high-quality pictures on the site, which is making my project really come to life. I am slowly figuring out that magazine writing is my passion, which is why I am really enjoying doing this project. This experience reminds me of my experience as a writer for Spoon University, an on-campus magazine I just started writing for this year. I write for the “food-for-thought” section, and the style, I am finding, is very similar (as is the topic of food, of course). I think I’m going to be proud of my repurposing project when I finally finish. They say third time’s a charm… and my third draft is the one that I feel most proud of thus far.Salsa

Solutions: Repurposing Project

My repurposing project is giving me more trouble than I thought it would. For this project, I am repurposing a research paper on salsa into a magazine spread. At first, I took bits and pieces of the research paper and modified my argument. The initial argument of my paper was how salsa has diversified into a food that has adapted to different cultures around the world. This argument, in my opinion, seemed a bit too “research-ey” for a magazine article. So, I changed the tone of the paper. As I wrote, I came up with a better idea: a guide to help housewives or chefs “spice up their life” in the kitchen. I offered a variety of recipes to add change and innovation into the same old routine meals they cook for their husbands and kids each and every day.

However, after completing my first draft, I felt my repurposed argument was all over the place. Did I want to offer readers with a history of salsa and explain how it became such a popular, versatile food? Did I want to offer tips in the kitchen/new ideas/new recipes for housewives who were bored with their elementary cooking skills? Did I want to talk about the different types of salsa (texture, spice levels, etc) that can me made? All of these arguments were in my repurposed paper, and I felt it was a bit scrambled.

After speaking with Professor Silver, she helped me come up with a solution: create a magazine spread on salsa, dividing it into separate parts. Each part would spotlight a particular argument I was trying to make. I now plan to break it up into three sections: “A Brief History,” “The International Cookbook” (containing international recipes and how each plays an important role in the cuisine of its country of origin), and a last section that will work as a guide to people who struggle in the kitchen, and whose skills are elementary (will show them how simple it is to make salsa!)

Stresses of the Real World

In my English 229: Professional Writing class, we are learning about what constitutes a “good” resume and cover letter. Personally, I have both a resume and cover letter that I actively update, and have been using for previous job experiences. However, when I got to class last week, we began work shopping our resumes, and I found that there were a lot of things in mine that were missing: GPA, a job objective, etc. I also realized my resume is not perfectly up-to-date, as I have had recent and relevant job and extracurricular experiences that I have yet to record. This assignment got me thinking: what makes for a great resume? My teacher stressed that if an employer has even the smallest reason to put you in the “no” pile, he or she will. How often should we be editing, checking over and updating our resume? Being that an employer spends barely any time looking at a resume before deciding if an employee is worthy of an interview, are cover letters more important than resumes?

This assignment also got me thinking about the concept of a cover letter. I’ve watched both my sister and brother go through the job application process following college graduation. My brother knew exactly what he wanted to do in life, and had no trouble sending out a cover letter that reflected his experiences, and desire to hone his skills, in the Computer Science field. On the contrary, my sister was more so all over the place. As a double major in Communication Studies and Family Science, she had various versions of her cover letter. What if I am unsure as to exactly what I want to do when I get out of college? Will I have to make several versions of the same cover letter just as my sister did? Will this make the application process even more difficult, or will this open more doors for more opportunity?

The real world stresses me out, and I am only a sophomore in college…

“Reading and Writing Without Authority”

I found this article to be extremely interesting. There are three key ideas that truly stood out to me that I would like to share. To start, this reading spotlighted a study that investigated how differences in authority are played out in the academic sphere. The first key idea I would like to point out is the contrast between the roles both subjects in the study took on. Specifically, Janet took on the role of an “outsider,” while Roger took on the role of an “insider.” Therefore, it was understood Roger had more confidence in his own authority, as it is assumed that authority generally increases with age. The different roles Janet and Roger took on influenced their reading and writing practices, which sparked my interest. Specifically, Roger was more aware that texts and knowledge claims are authored and negotiable. He was more in tuned to identifying, sorting and evaluating the claims made by various authors. On the other hand, Janet focused more on the search for facts, eliminating evidence of or the mention of an author’s role in shaping knowledge. It was interesting to see how the claims Roger was so tuned into, in Janet’s eyes, became facts.

The second point that stood out to me in the reading was how Janet and Rogers each went about handling controversy in the study. Roger, the subject in the study assumed to have more authority, used controversy as a starting point from which to develop his own positions and arguments. On the other hand, Janet aligned herself with one of the positions already set out for her. It was interesting to learn that Janet’s outsider point of view of her own authorship aligned with her “choosing a side” strategy in dealing with controversy. From an outside point of view, the author is viewed as a reporter rather than creator. On the other hand, from an insider point of view, people are more aware of and more confident in their authority, leaning more toward the creator side.

One last point that stood out to me in the article was one that I found particularly thought provoking. On page 515, the concept of personal authority being denied in school contexts is spoken about. Specifically, Janet’s behavior in the study conveys the degree to which such authority is denied in school settings. The reading speaks to how students are often expected to come into classrooms with a lot of knowledge and experience, as well as a strong commitment to, an information-transfer model of education. This model interests me. It leaves minimal room for hypothetical thinking, and proves the reasons for Janet’s “objective” interpretations of facts. I personally do not support this model. I believe a classroom setting should be open to interpretation, discussion and differing perspectives.

Too Soon For Graduate School?

I am currently taking English 225: Professional Writing. The class so far is extremely interesting. It has only met about three times, but I can tell it will be useful in the long run. We were recently given an assignment that I initially grappled with, and I would like to share my experience with you all. We were told to pick a graduate program at a particular university that we are interested in applying to, and answer the prompt to the essay question for that program’s application. At first, I had a difficult time choosing what university to look into. I pictured myself in 3 years, and where I plan on relocating once I graduate. New York City came to mind, as both my siblings moved there after college. In addition, New York is where I grew up, and I have always pictured myself coming back home after receiving my diploma at Michigan. To start, I found difficulty in which university to choose (NYU, Colombia University, etc.). I know nothing about the colleges so close to home because when I applied to undergrad, I wanted to leave the state and experience something new. No New York schools were on my list at the time.

I finally settled at Colombia University. After doing some research, I took interest in the Colombia Journalism School, and began answering the essay questions on the application. I then realized, however, that because I am only a sophomore in college, I do not (yet) have enough professional and academic experience to make a credible case for myself as to why I am qualified to study there as a graduate student. I voiced my concerns to my professor, who knows I am one of the only sophomores enrolled in the course (most students are juniors and seniors). She agreed that most of the experience I have is high school experience, which for the purposes of this assignment would not be useful on a graduate school application. Yes, I have had recent, relative experiences in college (and this past summer) that have strengthened my resume, however, I wanted more to talk about than solely this past year in college. As a result, my professor tailored the assignment to my situation, and helped me re-think my choice. She found a better program I could “apply” to: the Colombia Publishing 6 Week Intensive Summer Course. Because it is not a graduate school in itself that I was applying to, I was a more qualified candidate, and could write about my experiences in a more genuine and passionate way. I am crossing my fingers that by the time I need to apply to graduate school, wherever it may be, I will not run into the same problem. Thank god it was only a mock application!