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Music, Technology, Culture Sample Assignments

The following examples showcase the types of assignments students are asked to complete during the semester-long introductory music appreciation course led by Dr. Sharon Graf and Mr. Brian Pryor. Additional information on assignments can be found in the sample syllabus (PDF).

The book referenced in the assignments below is Thinking Musically: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture by Bonnie Wade (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009).

Week 5 Sample Assignments

Activity 1

Sharon Graf demonstrates the sound of the Didjeridu Many instruments make a sound that immediately evokes an image in our mind when we hear it played. For example, listen to CD track 1-18 (see figure 1.1a on page 4), a recording of the Didjeridu, and you will instantly start thinking of the Australian Outback and Crocodile Dundee. Listen and watch in daily life for THREE additional examples of instruments or types of music that quickly bring associated images to mind. What kinds of connections do you notice? How do advertisers (radio, TV, internet) use these associations to influence us? How might you use musical sound relations in your own advertisement or composition?

Activity 2
Apache flute from the South Dakota National Music Museum2583Pipestonecourtingfluterightside

Take a look at the University of South Dakota National MusicMuseum’s collection of Native American courting flutes. Examine each of the nine flutes carefully (these photos enlarge nicely by clicking on them). What are their similarities and differences? Pick THREE of the flutes and compare and contrast them in detail. What do you think the difference in sound might be? Look carefully and you will see that there is one flute (out of the nine total) that is constructed differently from the rest in terms of sound production. Which one is it? Why is it different?

Week 6 Sample Assignments

Activity 1

Complete Activity 3.1 on page 73, interviewing at least a few of your friends. Summarize the sense you get of each concept: “pulse,” “beat,” “count,” “feel,” “groove,” “rhythm” and “meter.” Where is there consensus and disagreement among you and your friends on musical perceptions about the flow of musical sound?

Activity 2

Watch this video on circuit bending and answer the following questions: Do you think the people featured in the clip could be called musicians—why or why not? Choose two examples from the video in which you think the “composition” incorporates organized time units. Give the minute:second mark on the clip for each event you write about, describing the “instrument,” the sound it makes, and the time pattern you hear. [For more about this art called “circuit bending” visit: and check out the Circuit Bending Reader.]

Activity 3

A student uses free software to complete an assignmentGo to Phil Tulga’s website, scroll down, and click on the Unifix Cube Drum Machine. Listen to different patterns by turning on one instrument at a time. Now turn different combinations of rhythms on and listen to the additive sound patterns that emerge. Which of the instrument sounds is your favorite and why? Click on the “Patterns” box on the bottom right, and select the “2:3:4 Ratio” pattern in the right hand box (12 Cubes). Why is this pattern called “2:3:4 Ratio?” Finally, which of the musical cultures described in Wade Chapter 3 does this machine approximate most closely, and why?

Syllabus (pdf)
Sample Lecture
Sample Grading Criteria