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Approaching Music From a Critical PerspectiveWriter's Web
Content by Lauren Oddo
Adapted for Web by Kelsey Shields
(printable version here)

An effective analysis of a performance includes both informed personal feedback and objective inquiry. Be sure to have your concert notes, program notes, and information about your assignment available to you as you begin to write your critical response. Principally, and similar to any academic essay, your critical response essay must address the professor's specific assignment. If you have any questions about the assignment, it is important to clarify them with your professor.

A strong essay maintains a clear focus and a developed thesis. Check out analysis tips featured in University of Richmond's Writer's Web. These suggestions will guide you to generating a meaningful thesis statement. Typically, a strong thesis informs your reader about what topic you address in your essay, and why. Before you craft your thesis, study your concert notes, ask yourself questions about what captivated you during the concert, and what, if anything, was unexpected in the show. Some people find "free-writing" particularly helpful as they begin to form their ideas for a thesis statement. Once you have some ideas about some possible theses, formulate an outline. Outlining will help you develop an organized response, and will help you maintain a clear focus and direction within your essay. For additional guidance, follow Richmond's Writer's Web-- this writer's guide details how you may best create your outline.

In your critical reaction, avoid incorporating emotional discourse into your analysis. While music is a complex art that generates unique and passionate responses, Dr. Fillerup of the Richmond Department of Music suggests that musical content may be understood, or "heard" differently from one listener to another. The most effective writers will craft critical response in a manner that maintains objective analysis, while also including your personal impressions about the performance. In order to appropriately convey your impressions of a concert, be sure to support your impressions with specific examples from the concert. In addition, keep your comments consistent with your thesis, and stay away from digressions. Moreover, don't shy away from using technical vocabulary-- specific prose will add more clarity to your informed opinions.


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