Assignment details: 1200 words/Double spaced paper.

Proposition: Sounds are organized into music by people; thus music is a form of humanly organized sound.

The baseline assertion that helps us begin to distinguish between music sound and a great many other types of organized sound is that music is a human phenomenon: it is a form of “humanly organized sound” (Blacking 1973). There is no doubt that many animals express themselves and even communicate using organized systems of sound that have music-like qualities. It may even be true that some animals (e.g., whales, dolphins) conceptualize certain types of sounds they create in ways that are closely akin to how people conceptualize music. Research suggestive of such possibilities already exists, and it is likely that future research will even be more revealing.

For our present purposes, however, it is proposed that music, understood as such, is essentially a human invention. It is something that people either make, hear or assign to other kinds of sounds. Birds and whales did not “sing” until human beings saw fit to label their distinctive forms of vocalization with that musical term (which, again, is not necessarily to say that they do not have a well-defined concept of what they are doing when we say they are singing- a good subject for research, speculation and debate). Moreover, birds and whales do not necessarily “make music” any more than pigs do, but the “songs” of birds and whales seem to have been more amenable to musical interpretation by people than the grunts of pigs (see also Nettl 2006:23).

In short, returning to a point made earlier, any and all sounds have the potential to be employed and heard as musical sounds. However, only when a human being uses a given sound for musical purposes, or perceives or describes that sound in musical terms, does the sound actually enter into the domain of “music”. Once again, it is not what a sound is per se, but rather what people make of it, that is the main criterion.


****Think about Bakan’s proposition in the passage above for exploring World Music. State whether you agree or disagree with it. Write a position paper (1200 words/Double spaced). detailing what it is you agreed with (or disagreed) with in the proposition and explain why (Be specific).

Everything you state in a declarative way needs to have proof. In other words, refrain from mere conjecture or assertion. You must cite sources to support your position and conclusions! Include your list of works cited at the end of your paper.  Do not submit as a separate document.

Please follow MLA Format guidelines.


All papers must begin with a thesis statement-Papers without a clear thesis statement will automatically be deducted one letter grade.

The Thesis statement should be concise and to the point. Aside from stating the proposition you agree or disagree with, a thesis statement should be 2-3 sentences that distill your position. The analysis or evidence in support of your Thesis statement will make up the body of your paper. You may write in first person.

Structure your thesis statement as the answer to a question.

Example: “I disagree with Michael Bakan’s third proposition (reiterate the proposition here) for the following reasons.”

Your paper should clearly break down into three (but not necessarily proportional) sections.

Tell me what you’re going to say. (Thesis statement)  This is your first paragraph and it shouldn’t be overly long.  It should clearly identify and reiterate which of Bakan’s propositions you are going to discuss and what your position is with respect to it (agreement or disagreement and why). Briefly outline what you intend to discuss to prove your point. This should also set up the body of the paper to follow.

Say it. (The body of your paper).  This is the the largest section of your paper where you provided detailed explanations of your reasoning.  The body of the paper is also where you will include citations of published authorities on the subject to substantiate and lend credibility to your stated thesis.

Tell me what you just said. (Summary conclusion).  Again, this should not be overly long. If it is then that’s likely because you did not adequately explain yourself in the body of the paper.

The following two links may prove helpful in getting started constructing your thesis statement:



Length: 1200 words minimum length. (Double-spaced, 12 point font). Papers that are at all deficient in length (even one word) will be deducted one letter grade. In essence, don’t just do (or write) the bare minimum.  Write until you have clearly explained your position or addressed problematic issues raised by the proposition.  This length requirement refers to the body of your paper. Not the title, your name, or the list of sources.

Thesis statement: Papers missing a thesis statement or with a nominal thesis statement that does not clearly state the proposition, your agreement or disagreement with it, and what you intend to discuss to prove your point, will be deducted one letter grade.

Cited Sources: Your paper should have 4 cited sources  Wikipedia cannot be a cited source for the paper. Your text cannot be a cited source. Papers with less than four valid sources for citation will be deducted one letter grade.  These are to be included at the end of the paper.

You are required to clearly state which one of Bakan’s propositions you are agreeing or disagreeing with but you don’t have to treat it as a quote that needs a citation. I want you to look beyond your textbook for ideas to support your position.

No plagiarism please.

Percentage of cited material: Your paper can contain no more than 20% cited material. Any more than 20% is, I feel, contrary to the intent of the paper which is YOUR original thought. Papers with between 21%-30% non-original material will be deducted two letter grades. Papers with more than 30% will receive a zero automatically.  It’s very easy to avoid this pitfall: Don’t copy and paste.

Content: No mere assertion. All statements need to be supported. i.e. “I feel this way about x and here are the reasons why”.

Style: For this assignment you are tasked with writing in an academic manner or “style”.  What this doesn’t mean is using big words, excess jargon or run-on sentences.  What academic writing means to me is being very clear and exacting with what you are stating and the conclusions you draw from your reasoning. If you make judgments about something in academic writing, there is an expectation that you will support your opinion by referencing what a published author has previously written about the subject.  This lends validity to your conclusions and elevates them above the level of mere conjecture or assertion.  By properly citing the work of other authors it shows that you have read related literature, understood the ideas, and have integrated these issues and varying perspectives into your writing.

Spelling: Spelling counts. Don’t rely solely on spell check. Make sure you proofread carefully.

Syntax: Basically this refers to sentence structure. Along with spelling, if a sentence doesn’t make sense or if I have to work hard to figure out what you are trying to say, then you will be graded down for it or possibly receive a zero.  Non-idiomatic writing falls into this category.

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