Faust the Opera

Writing About Music: Use “SHMeRF”!

Each time one writes about music, the circumstances vary, yet certain issues exist that must always be addressed. To remember these details,

look to SHMeRF! Each of your concert reports should address the elements of SHMeRF, which are:

Describe the performing forces: is it an orchestra or a single performer? What instruments are playing? Is there anything noteworthy about

the timbre of the instruments/voices? What is the quality of the sound: brash, tender, spiky, smooth, etc.? What about texture: is the piece

monophonic, polyphonic, or homophonic?

Does this piece seem to be in a key or is it atonal? If it appears to be tonal, is it mostly major (“happy”) or minor (“sad”)? Does the sound

of the harmony remind you of a specific type of music, such as jazz, blues, or rock? Does the harmony point to a specific era of music?

Describe the quality of the melody. Is it mostly conjunct or disjunct? Legato or staccato? What is its range of pitch or tessitura? What is

its range of dynamics? Is it sing-able or better suited for an instrument? Describe its mood/affect: how does it make you feel? How does it

evolve over time?

What is the tempo of the work? What is the prevalent meter? Does the meter change during the course of the piece? Are there any reoccurring

rhythmic patterns that unify the work? Does the composer utilize any unique rhythmic techniques, such as syncopation?

This can be difficult to ascertain with one hearing, but listen to the work as a whole. Do large sections repeat during the course of the

work? Can you identify them as smaller parts of the whole? Is the work in binary or ternary form? What about genre – is it a concerto,

sonata, symphony, lied, character piece, opera, etc.?

In discussing something as subjective as music, it is easy to slip into just stating your preferences. This is natural and important, but be

sure to support your assertions. Why do you like a particular work? What SHMeRF element wins your admiration? When in doubt, ask why and

then provide the answer. What does the composer do to create a certain sound? Eg. is the music “misty” or “atmospheric?” Why?

Titles of works should be italicized. Be sure to check spelling in the concert program! If you use a source, even if it’s only the concert

program, you must cite the source in your paper (parenthetical citations are okay).

General Information Re. Concert Reports

• In order to put the concepts we discuss in class into action, you will be required to attend and write about one musical performance

sponsored by either the Department of Music or the OSU Allied Arts program. Please check with OSU online resources to find concert dates and

times. I will try to provide you with this information as the semester progresses. Your concert reports are due no later than a week after the

event, and you must attach the event program to your report.
• Your report must be at least three pages (typed) in length. The text must be double-spaced and in a 12pt font (your name, date, course

number, etc. should be single-spaced). 1. The first paragraph should be an introduction to the event. Include basic information about the

performer(s) or ensemble, what music was performed, the types of instruments used, the setting or location, and the audience. 2. In the body of

the review, choose 3-4 selections (pieces) from the program and describe the music using the elements of music vocabulary discussed in class

and in your reading assignments (see SHMeRF outline). Describe your reactions to the music, as well. Did you enjoy the music being performed?

Why or why not? What aspects of the concert really pleased or touched you? Were there any aspects that bored you or that you did not like?

Why? How did the audience react? 3. For your conclusion, provide an evaluation of your experience as a whole. Did you enjoy the performance?

Why or why not? Would you recommend something similar to your friends? Why or why not? Did you re-evaluate some previous opinions about

music as a result of attending the event?