Musical Memories
Music is ubiquitous (it’s everywhere) and I bet you can remember what you were listening to when something significant happened—or, perhaps, hearing a specific song evokes an old memory or emotion. Music and experience, often, are inseparable.
Assignment: For this essay, you’ll interview someone from a different generation than you (i.e., someone older or younger) and ask him or her about the way(s) that music is connected to his or her identity and/or experiences. What can this person tell you about the role that music has played in his or her life? Your essay should be a snapshot in time (a significant musical event) or a more global experience (the importance of music during a particular era or historical event in someone’s life). These events could be personal (e.g., music that reminds someone of a happy or traumatic event) or more global (e.g., music that evokes memories of war, travel, a specific decade, etc.). Consider interviewing someone close to you with whom you might not be aware fully of his or her history or life events (e.g., a grandparent, a mentor, a long-time friend, etc.). My hope is that you’ll learn something about the importance of music in our lives while also learning something new about someone you already know.
Just like when you integrated song lyrics among your previous essays, integrating your interviewee’s words will be important. As before, quotes should be integrated and not floating. Also, your essay should read like, well, an essay. Please avoid including a transcript (i.e., verbatim Q&A). You are retelling your interviewee’s story from your perspective, so your essay should read like a narrative research essay rather than a newspaper interview (i.e., I asked, “. . .” and [Interviewee] said, “. . .” on repeat). Feel free to include physical descriptions (e.g., maybe your interviewee became emotional or smiled widely when telling a story). You will also need to include background or historical research if your interviewee discusses music from a particular time period, geographical location, culture, etc. If your interviewee discusses a specific artist, genre, or song, be sure to look up that reference and listen to it to get a fuller understanding. Do whatever is necessary to fully understand the story. If you get stuck after working with the secondary source materials, let me know and I can help you out.
Your essay will be 4-5 pages (at least 1500 words, not including your Cover Letter and Works Cited or References page) and entail further critical and analytical thought. This essay will require secondary sources to back up points made by your interviewee. You may use sources included in the materials throughout this class (keeping in mind that some materials in this class are more scholarly than others) as well as scholarly sources that you find in the library or online via the digital library, databases like, and various other sources like Rolling Stone or National Public Radio ( Please include at least two credible sources, properly cited within your essay and listed in a formal Works Cited or References page. Your paper should address each of the elements below:
- Background: You should include some background information: things like who you interviewed and why, how you know the interviewee, what made you choose this particular person, etc. This section should be short and will likely be part of your introduction.
- Your interviewee’s thoughts: Tell your audience about the details and information that emerged from your interview. This section should be the bulk of your essay. What did you learn from your interviewee? Tell his or her story.
- Reflection: What, if anything, have you learned about your interviewee, music, and, even, interviewing itself? What broader social forces and events have affected your interviewee’s life? Overall, what did you think of this interview experience? This section will likely be your conclusion. However, if you feel that your reflection is better suited for your Cover Letter, that’s perfectly fine.
Your essay should:
- Include a clear thesis or point.
- Explain who your interviewee is.
- Adequately discuss and describe your interviewee’s story.
- Integrate secondary sources and avoid floating quotes. L
o Avoid floating quotes: “Four years of college and plenty of knowledge / Have earned me this useless degree.” When I hear this lyric, I remember wondering what I could do with my English degree once I decided to forgo teaching high school English.
o Use integrated quote: When Princeton sings, “Four years of college and plenty of knowledge / Have earned me this useless degree,” I remember wondering what I could do with my English degree once I decided to forgo teaching high school English.
- Cite at least two sources (academic essays, newspaper articles, etc.) reinforcing or complicating what your interviewee had to say.
- Critically consider the implications of music as it relates to life experiences and memories.
- Include an introduction, body, and conclusion to structure the essay.
- Demonstrate your ability to use grammar, punctuation, and formatting suitable for college.
- Include a header (i.e., your last name and page number in the upper right corner of every page).
- Include a heading (i.e., your name, my name, the class, and the date on the upper left side of the first page of the essay)
- Use a standard font like Times New Roman in 12pt size.
- Double space your essay.
- Set line spacing at 0pt.
- Cite the sources where you obtained the lyrics (if you include lyrics).

Cover Letter: Along with this essay, please include a paragraph or two that will serve as a reflective cover letter. This is a letter to me directing my attention to specific portions of your essay and explaining your composing process. You may want to consider what worked well, what could have been more successful, what you’re most proud of, any unforeseen complications that arose while completing your project, or any remaining questions that you may have. This should be the first page of your essay.

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The role of music in the construction of identity, which is increasingly becoming an interesting topic in anthropology (for example), is a topic with enormous breadth and countless possibilities for investigation. This paper discusses the relationship between music and identity - both cultural and personal – as a tool for constructing the image of the world. It is argued that persons with different music styles have a different outlook on their lives, culture and identity. As a result, memories induced by listening to music vary from depression to excitement. Similarly, music can serve as a conduit for memory, some researchers have proven that people with Alzheimers remember much better when listening to music that meant something to them when they were younger. Music, other than being a product of a culture can also be an active participant in the creation of a specific culture. For example, the culture of the 50s, 60’s and 70’s – including the hippie movement – was closely linked with music which was associated with both political, cultural and social movements. Figures like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, John Lennon, the Doors, Credence Clearwater Revival all had a strong impact on the development of musical and social culture. It is worthy to remember the period of the Vietnam war when the hippie movement used music to fight war and...
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