Professor James Willey
   

Examples of Writing (in Music) Gone Wrong

All of these examples have been invented, although they are inspired by actual student writing.

PROBLEMS IN ORGANIZATION:
 

As I said earlier, the minor seventh, an interval which I will discuss in a subsequent paragraph, is very important   to the motivic organization of Bernstein's music, probably reflecting the influence of Aaron Copland, who, as I said in a previous paragraph, was a friend as early as the 1930s, a period which I will discuss later.
SOLUTION:
Before writing your essay, outline your points, reflecting the order of the argument or discussion you are composing.  Make sure that  words indicating time and order work together logically.
 
PAPERS THAT LACK FOCUS:
 
And in measure 502 we have a tonic chord in root position followed by a dominant chord in first inversion followed by another tonic chord in root position which leads to a subdominant chord which in turn is used to modulate to the key of the submediant with an interesting passing tone in the soprano which leads to the third of a chord which concludes the piece.
SOLUTION:
 
Think about each paragraph as a "mini-essay."  Rather than throwing quantities of information and description at your reader, make interesting points with what you have to say.  Review your essay paragraph by paragraph.  Does each convey something significant to your reader? (Cut whatever doesn't.)  Do all the paragraphs tie together to make the main argument of your essay?
EXCESSIVE COLLOQUIALITY:
 
(Concerning Arnold Schoenberg's Op, 11, No. 1.)  Arnie really hit the big time with his first published smasheroo piano tune with its eye-popping O14 trichordal heart-wrenchers.
 
SOLUTION:
 
Writers choose words and phrases that demonstrate respect for both their audience and their subject matter, or they risk losing their readers' respect.  Expressions that sound amusing in conversation can sound juvenile or absurd in writing.  Strive for language that is lively, yet elegant, following established models of writing about music.  See Formal and Informal Writing in The Guide.