#3 Defining Art (March 21)

ASSIGNMENT:  Reflective/Analytical Essay

VALUE: 150 points

LENGTH: 2-3+ pages
FORMAT:  hard copy OR email attachment

DUE:  Tuesday, March 21, 2017; 9:30 am


Identify three performers or acts that are related to each other by their place in the development of a style or genre. (You may also choose to use a single performer/band/act.) Each should represent one of the three stages of the development of an art form/genre/style — experimentation, conventionalization, and mannerism.

  • How does each fit into these stages and how does one lead to another?
  • Which musical or lyrical elements stay consistent and which change?
  • How does one build upon the previous?
  • Is this evolution “internal” or “external”? (Influenced by other musicians, the industry)
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of all.

Additional ideas to consider or not to consider…

  • Does experimental = artistic?
  • Does popular = shallow?
  • Can popular music be more artistic than experimental?
  • Does your status as culturally and intellectually elite make you more or less qualified to define the value of art? Does it affect your perspective?
  • Can bands/acts/performers start commercial and move to experimental within the same genre, or do they create a new genre/style by doing so?
  • Which of the three “states of art” contributes most to the development of an art form?

This paper should be more than simply a stream-of-consciousness opinion paper. You should analyze musical examples to back up your position.


In the broadest sense, you should provide a citation when you use someone else’s analysis or opinion. A statement like “Adele is a British singer born in 1988” does not require a citation; it is common knowledge. On the other hand, if you read an article where the author states, “Adele, a British singer born in 1988, is the 21st century iteration of 1970-80s singer-songwriters such as Paul Simon and Billy Joel, both of whom took their aesthetic cues from Bob Dylan’s work in the first half of the 1960s,” then you must provide a citation. And just to confuse the issue, if that statement is YOUR analysis, you must then go on to back up that analysis with additional facts (with citations) or through your own musical analysis that substantiates the claim.

You should feel free to use the style guide with which you are most familiar. Most work in the humanities uses MLA or Chicago, but the most important element of any paper is that you are consistent.