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PWR 2TN: Sound and Vision: The Rhetoric of Music Documentaries

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Fall 2021: Section 1 TTh 9:30AM-11:15AM, Section 2 11:30AM-1:15PM

Winter 2022: Section 1 TTh 9:30AM-11:15AM, Section 2 11:30AM-1:15PM

Spring 2022: TBD

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

“Don’t you wonder sometimes? About sound and vision.” – David Bowie

Film and music have been linked since the invention of moving pictures accompanied by organ music in theaters. But what does it mean when the film is all about the music, its creators, or musical events, or cultures?

This course introduces you to the rhetoric, history, and aesthetics of music documentaries by helping you to cultivate the research-based writing and speaking skills to investigate how music documentaries develop their claims about a musical artist’s creativity or place in musical history (i.e., Beyoncé: Homecoming). The influence of music documentaries is immense, as they reinforce or contest the attitudes and values of different communities and cultures (i.e., Woodstock, Rumble). You will learn in particular how arguments are created through narrative strategies and structures, and how music and the visual combine to make these arguments. We’ll consider, for example, how female artist’s stories get told versus male and we’ll ask how movements such as punk, folk, and Afrofuturism use music as social commentary.

The course will hone your oral rhetorical and presentation skills in the delivery of your ideas and research. Through your own in-depth research of one film, you will investigate how music documentaries’ rhetorical structures function in society as marketing tools, myth-making objects, political statements, and artworks that circulate ideas and ideologies. You may interrogate, for example, the ways archival footage is used to evoke feelings of nostalgia to propagate certain ideologies around 1960’s flower power or you might investigate the role music documentaries play in current theories and practices of recent social justice movements.

A background in film or music is in no way required or essential for this course.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) Your proposal must pose a researchable question, identify an initial set of possible sources, and reflect on what your study can contribute to the scholarly and public conversations on your subject. You will select a specific film, analyze its rhetorical moves, and take a position on what and how it is arguing for a particular ideology, creative greatness, social justice, etc. Examples include: how does the film Amy frame female debauchery as compared to males in the music industry, how does Homecoming represent black female empowerment; how does Gimme Shelter represent the end of the hippie ideology of the 1960.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) Through your investigation you will develop a well-researched, persuasive argument stemming from your proposal, that shows careful attention to style and writing technique. You will submit an outline, draft, receive feedback, revise and resubmit a final version.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) You will translate key arguments and evidence from your research project into a live oral presentation. You will be encouraged to persuasively and purposefully incorporate multiple media or supporting materials, such as props, graphics, videos or dynamic visuals.

Genre/Modes Project

(2-4 mins. spoken; 1-2 pages written) You will create a brief review of the film you are choosing to write your RBA on framing its argument and present it as a podcast, video, audio postcard, or song.