The theme of this essay is the moral content of the music of this era, from ca. 1955 (the time of the emergence of rock and roll) until ca. 1970. The principal question is whether this music is a positive moral force, and negative moral force, or a combination, that may vary from style to style and artist to artist. You need to consider not only the music and lyrics themselves, but also the onstage and offstage behavior of the artists and the music industry.
To assist you in pondering this theme, you need to conduct an interview with someone who experienced the music and the era firsthand, someone who remembers when the music first appeared. The “gold standard” would be a person who was born in the 1940’s (perhaps even earlier) and clearly recalls all the music and the times. At minimum, you need to interview someone born no later than 1958, who has some recollection of The Beatles coming to the US and appearing on television for the first time.
An interview subject who completely objects to popular music and thinks it’s all immoral — and almost certainly knows little or none of it — is not a good choice. Some who hates popular music — and almost certainly knows little or none of it — is also not a good choice. A person who is only familiar with or only likes some of the music is not necessarily a bad choice. Someone who grew up outside of North America and Western Europe and only knew the music (or some of it) from afar may often be a good choice. I note this because many international students (particularly from Asia) take this course and have had very interesting interviews with relatives or friends from their home countries.
I recognize that it is not always easy to find an age-appropriate interview subject for this assignment, but you need to make the effort. The point of this interview is to engage with someone with memories of the era. Many students have found it rewarding to interview an older relative or family friend and especially to share music with that person.
Preface your essay with a dictionary definition of “morality,” citing your source (since citation is the moral thing to do). Then begin your essay per se by stating your basic case regarding the moral content of the music we’ve shared in the era 1955-1970. Then proceed to the interview portion of the essay. First, provide a biography of your interviewee. Include basic life data, such as age, education, family information, occupation, hobbies, where the person has lived, and their musical background.
Inform your interviewee of the theme of this essay. Share at least six songs in different styles from at least three modules, These must be from no earlier than the year your interview subject was five years old. Share the lyrics; http://www.azlyrics.com is a good source. Tell your interviewee what you’ve learned of the artists and songs. You’re likely to have a better interview if you prepare questions in advance, but allow for more spontaneous follow-up. I recommend you record the interview for your own benefit, but that’s only the beginning. You need to summarize the interview and, following the summary, provide your own analysis of your interviewee’s views, adding your own analysis. Be sure that you include any disagreements you may have with your interview subject.
A really good template for the interview itself is the weekly interview in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. The url
http://www.nytimes.com/pages/magazine/index.html should get you to the magazine. Then scroll down to “Columns” and link to “Talk.” Note that the interview concludes with “Interview has been condensed and edited.” You should do this as well, followed by your analysis, including, of course, your own opinion on the morality theme
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