Writing the Music Essay

Personal essays, narrative profiles, review-essays—music lends itself to many forms of nonfiction. Let’s spend a day with music essays. Tell a story. Use characters, dialogue, scenes. Examine the music’s sound as much as you like, but embed that in narrative nonfiction. That’s the sort of music-essay we’ll talk about. You can profile an overlooked band. Write an essay about a single concert, a certain tour. Or tell the story of your favorite album, why you prefer records to mp3s, or how music fits into your life. All subjects and musical styles are welcome!

For class, bring in a short piece of music writing to workshop if you’d like. Bring a favorite song on an iPod/etc, the name of a favorite album, and one music-related image. We’ll discuss the music writing genre, how an essay compares to an article, and discuss some published essays. Then we’ll listen to music and do a writing exercise from a musician’s photo. Bop saxophonist Charlie Parker provides our class motto: “They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”

Aaron Gilbreath is an essayist whose attention constantly returns to music. He’s written about music for The New York Times, Paris Review and Brick and wrote the musical appendix to The Oxford Companion to Sweets. His self-published book This Is: Essays on Jazz will come out soon.

$20 for members $35 for non-members

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