The Avid Listener

August 4, 2016

Integrating The Avid Listener into the Classroom: Common Core English Language Arts Standards

Feature essays at The Avid Listener can serve two primary functions in the classroom: as informational texts about music history and music in culture, and as exemplars of good writing for general audiences. Essays are brief, well crafted, and carefully edited. They introduce new ideas (such as hip-hop diplomacy) alongside creative takes on more traditional musico-historical narratives (such as the history of music notation, or the politics behind G. F. Handel’s oratorios). Each essay concludes with discussion questions; asking students to read the essays and engage with these questions is perhaps the easiest way to integrate Avid Listener essays into the classroom. But we also recognize that (1) classroom activities are more likely to appeal to school administrators if they can be linked to current educational standards, and (2) music educators are under increasing pressure to support language arts and math educational standards in music classrooms.

To facilitate the integration of The Avid Listener into high-school level curricula, we have developed a brief list of suggested exercises that use our essays to meet specific Common Core English Language Arts standards. We have chosen standards from grade levels 9/10 and 11/12 that can be adjusted to meet grade-level expectations. The activities can easily be adapted to a number of Common Core standards.

The handout is available for download here. Let us know what you think!

Integrating the Avid Listener into the Classroom: College Edition

Dedicated to the idea that music criticism can be both literate and fun to read, The Avid Listener features weekly essays about popular, world, and Western art music written by rising scholars from all over the United States and abroad. This ever-updating accompaniment to Norton’s renowned music list gives readers the skills to analyze and discuss some of their favorite tunes while learning about practicing musicians, the industry, and new trends. With The Avid Listener, students discover how to listen broadly and deeply, to approach music with a curious spirit and a sense of adventure.

Some of our most popular topics include modes of listening (avid, structural, spiritualdistracted, and religious); hip-hop and cultural diplomacy; Ruth Crawford Seeger and the question of gendered music; film music; musical notation; authenticity and interpretationthe musical canon; music and public mourning; songwriting and recording; and video game music. We will post frequent (often monthly) digests to facilitate site navigation by topic. Each digest also includes a list of upcoming essays so instructors can plan lessons and assignments in advance.

Instructors can integrate The Avid Listener into their music history and appreciation courses in a variety of ways. Click here to download Integrating The Avid Listener into the Classroom.

July 27, 2016

The Avid Listener Digest, August 2016

To help readers navigate the growing list of essays published on The Avid Listener, we've created a downloadable "digest." In it, you'll find links to all our content, organized by category. Check it out, and stay tuned for exciting new essays later this month!

Download The Avid Listener Digest August 2016

May 23, 2016

What’s a Girl Gotta Do to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Alexandra Apolloni (UCLA Center for the Study of Women, Los Angeles, CA)

Each year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (henceforth Rock Hall) announces a new list of inductees: artists that are deemed worthy of commemoration—and canonization—as rock greats. And in 2016, none of the inductees were women.

The underrepresentation of women in Rock Hall is nothing new:­ of 259 musicians, bands, and music industry luminaries who have been inducted since 1986, a mere 42 are women, or even groups that include women.

Maybe this is unsurprising. Rock and roll is, after all, a man’s game, right? Not so! Women have always been involved in rock and roll—and the notable but few women who have made it into the rock hall are a testament to that. Those women include Rhythm and Blues pioneers Ruth Brown and Lavern Baker; iconic performers Aretha Franklin and Madonna; and songwriters Carole King, Cynthia Weill, and Ellie Greenwich, to name a few. But Rock Hall inductees are disproportionately male. And the reason why becomes clear when we ask one particular question: what do Rock Hall inductees do in rock and roll?

Continue reading "What’s a Girl Gotta Do to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?" »

May 16, 2016

Hearing with Your Eyes: Science Fiction Television and Hearing the Unseen

Reba A. Wissner (Montclair State University)

Hearing the unseen through non-diegetic music is nothing new to film. Although John Williams made the technique famous in his scores for Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977), it dates back to horror films of the 1930s and radio dramas of the 1940s. Early radio plays were dubbed “The Theater of the Mind” because listeners had to visualize what was happening. In a radio horror series such as Suspense, it was conventional for the scary thing to be heard through music before it was heard through words. But the evocation of terror and dread through music didn’t start with radio, film, or television. Known as ombra, this type of music came from opera of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, usually in scenes where supernatural or mythical beings appear and are musically dramatized.


The beginning of the “Wolf’s Glen Scene” from Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz (1821). Samiel, the huntsman who casts magic bullets, speaks rather than sings in this scene. His music is first introduced in the overture.


Continue reading "Hearing with Your Eyes: Science Fiction Television and Hearing the Unseen" »

Dedicated to the idea that music criticism can be literate and fun to read, The Avid Listener fosters weekly discussions between scholars and novices alike.

Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

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A History of Western Music

J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca

The Enjoyment of Music

Kristine Forney, Andrew Dell’Antonio, and Joseph Machlis