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Taking Notes During PerformancesWriter's Web
Content by Lauren Oddo
Adapted for Web by Kelsey Shields
(printable version here)

In order to write an informative and accurate reaction essay, you must record descriptions about the performance, your experience throughout the concert, and your personal reactions to various aspects of the show. Be sure to jot down any questions you may have formed while you attended the performance, and note what the performers did throughout their show. Observations about the performance include detailed assessments of the stage arrangement, the various instruments that were employed and how the instrumentation shifted the timbre of the pieces.

Also important to note are the musicians' body language and their interpretation of the pieces (i.e. how performers feature their repertoire's melodic, rhythmic and dynamic components). In your notes, address personal questions that the performance may have inspired. For instance, if you do not know which percussive instrument was played in a piece, record it-- after the concert, you may look it up online or ask your professor about it in class.

Following traditional concert etiquette, cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices are not permitted in concert. Be sure to bring a pen and a small pad of paper so you may record your observations. When you arrive at the concert hall, remember to grab a program, as well. The program (see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Program Index for some examples of concert programs) will provide additional information about the performer (s), and will be a valuable resource as you write your reaction essay.

Below is an example of student notes recorded during a schola performance. Notice that most of these notes are incomplete sentences, and are mostly observations and questions about the performance. Appropriate grammar and eloquence sentence structure are not key to generating effective notes. Rather, the most important aspect of note taking is ensuring that your concert records will be useful to you as you begin craft your reaction essay.

stage arranged = conductor/instrumentalists/schola
the small group of instrumentalists were professionals- one is my teacher!
the collaboration was important b.c. the piece is a musical tale
dancers physically embodied what the singers sung
elaborate costumes
inst. group plays melodies that contrast the song's text/the scenes the dancers depict
tonal piece-- but composed in contemporary period
social implications?
remember: lyrics in program- use!!
irony in the narrative? i think depicts mod. society
rhetorical devices in the text-- alliteration


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