Notes on Listening Quizzes

As stated in class on Thursday, the first listening quiz of the semester will be Monday, September 12th. In general, listening quizzes happen at the beginning of class. All listening covered in class prior to the quiz will be fair game.

What to Expect:

  • Arrive on time with a writing implement. I will provide the quiz paper.
  • The quiz will consist of 3 excerpts. Each listening excerpt will be played twice with an interval of about 90 seconds between. I will say something like, “This is listening example 1, the first time through.”
  • Listening excerpts won’t necessarily start from the beginning of the recording. Get used to listening to the entirety of it.
  • For each example, name the track, its genre, and write a brief paragraph about its context.

How to study:

Apart from the notes (yes, I’m talking to you, Music AOC’s), some other defining features might help you as you prepare for quizzes throughout the semester. Listen for how a piece of music might accomplish its purpose in ritual. Here are some categories for working through what you are hearing:

Pitch: melody (aka “tune” of a piece) and melodic contour (i.e. how it rises and falls), dissonance  (“tension”), consonance (“release”).

Instrumental Texture: vocal timbre (male, female, rounded, gravelly, falsetto, nasally, etc.), instrumentation (thus far: hurdy gurdy, harmonium, bag-pipes, tabla, tambourine. This list will get larger), arrangement (solo voice, monophonic chorus, drone), form (responsorial, antiphonal, unison, etc. Especially applies to Music AOC’s.)

Duration: tempo, rhythm, meter (or lack thereof)

Context: ritual (if known), other qualities that might induce ecstatic reactions.

If you can isolate some of the above characteristics, identification and description will be easy. For non-musicians, I expect a greater emphasis on subjective response, context, and interpretation than musical features. However, to satisfactorily pass this quiz, you must make an effort.

Group study is the best way to prepare for a listening quiz (and to learn material that is outside your primary subject area in general). Talking aloud about what you are hearing and expanding your working vocabulary for music will help.

Non-music AOC’s might want to consult the Music Dictionaries at Oxford Music Online.


About kgoldschmitt
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at New College of Florida, music scholar for hire.

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