Descriptive and Evaluative Essay

Write a five page (1,250-1,500-word) on either topic #1, or on topic 2A, 2B, or 2C, below.The best papers for this project will include not only an expository component, but willmake use of the best relevant scholarship in order to enhance whatever argument youressay is making.1. Write a descriptive and evaluative essay on a song by Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, orBillie Holiday (except “Strange Fruit”), recorded in the years before 1945. You may to write 1about two songs released as two sides of a record originally released as a “single.” In that case,your essay should consider both songs, devoting appropriate space to each one. Your aim is to 2describe what it is you hear and to evaluate the song as a performance work by concentrating onthe characteristics outlined in this prompt. Focus on a commercially released recording availableto the public in the United States during this period. Describe the artist’s singing style and assessit comparatively to other songs she recorded around the same time. Describe the singing and theaccompanying music as clearly, vividly, and precisely as you can. What’s your reaction to theartist’s singing style? How does this particular record help you understand audience tastes duringthis period? Can you relate this song to an aspect of social thought? Does the “social” import ofthe song operate solely on the song’s narrative or rhetorical plane? Or does it “enact,” as it were,a socio-utopian set of values or concerns on a sonic, aesthetic, symbolic, or other dimension? BeThe reference page of your essay on a song must include full discographical data, e.g.: Holiday, Bill. 1 “Strange Fruit.” Billie Holiday And Her Orchestra. Frank Newton, trumpet; Tab Smith, soprano, alto sax; Kenneth Hollon, Stanley Payne, tenor sax; Sonny White, piano; Jimmy McLin, guitar; John Williams, bass; Eddie Dougherty, drums; Billie Holiday, vocals. Commodore 526. Rec. New York City, April 20, 1939.This means that you would be writing, e.g., about both sides of Commodore 526, including “Fine and 2 Mellow.”specific. Write about instrumentalists and their solos, if any. Consider these questions in light ofcomparable records made during that year.2. Write about character, place, or time in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. By choosing tofocus on one of these aspects of the play, your aim as a writer is to discuss your topic in such amanner as to give the reader insight into the play as a whole.a. When thinking about character, consider such features as the individual’s nature,training, disposition, age, fortune in life, sense of morality, the trajectory of the actionthe character takes during the play, how and in what manner does the character expresshim or herself in speech, and how the character fares at the end of the play.b. Considerations of time might include the setting of a discrete action, or of the playas a whole. Other considerations include the relationship between past, present, andfuture as expressed by the action, a character, or by the play generally; theappropriateness of the action in terms of the historical time period in which that action isset; how the characters or the play express the relationship between public life andprivate life; or the relationship between time and circumstances.c. A discussion of place will take into account size of both the theatrical and thefictional space within which the action takes place, that is, the fact of the stage and theportrayal of the play’s fictional lifeworld, including questions of micro and macro space;issues of distance, urban versus rural settings, whether the play treats place as revered orunimportant; how the play shows the relationship between place and the ownership ofplace; and what bearing, if any, the materiality of the place has on the action of the play.

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