Who needs classical music: Book review
Read Julian Johnson’s Who Needs Classical Music? Musical Choice and Cultural Value, about the place of classical music in contemporary society. Write a review of the book, addressing ALL of the following questions:
1. What are Johnson?s most important arguments?
2. In your opinion, is classical music still relevant to contemporary society, as Johnson
claims? Why or why not?
3. Regardless of your views on the previous question, are Johnson?s arguments effective in
making his case? To what extent? Why?
4. Think about the musical works and composers we have studied this semester. What
works and composers might, in your view, support or contradict Johnson?s arguments?
In your essay, you should draw on your experience learning about and listening to classical music this semester, and on your experience (or non-experience) with classical music prior to taking Music Humanities. For instance, how has taking Music Humanities altered or not altered your attitude towards classical music?
Owing to space constraints, you will naturally be unable to discuss every single one of Johnson?s arguments, and will be able to mention only a handful of the works or composers that you might like to mention. Be selective, and choose the issues and examples that matter most to you.
Feel free to adopt a personal tone in this essay, and draw on your own personal experiences, not just within the classroom. You may be as argumentative as you see fit, even polemical, as long as you make persuasive arguments yourself. You may exercise some freedom in the structure of your essay (i.e. you do not need to follow an orthodox ?academic? essay structure), but you must ensure that the structure is coherent and easily discernible to the reader. Be careful to strike a balance between critiquing Johnson?s arguments and demonstrating your own knowledge of the material we have studied in class this semester. (Consult some book reviews in The New Yorker magazine if you want some examples of how to strike this balance.)
The aim of this assignment is to encourage you to reconsider the music we have studied and think about its role in our culture today. Johnson?s book is intended to be a vehicle for stimulating your own thinking.
You should seek the advice of the instructor if you have any questions on how to proceed.
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