Writing about/in Music

Writing about/in Music

“Music is similar to language. Expressions like musical idiom or musical accent are not metaphors. But music is not language. Its similarity to language points to its innermost nature, but also toward something vague. The person who takes music literally as language will be led astray by it. Music is similar to language in that it is a temporal succession of articulated souns that are more than just sound.”
~~Theodor Adorno

Musicians and music scholars write for audiences within the discipline, in other words for people with specialized knowledge and an understanding of the technical language. Particular writing styles and approaches are accepted within the discipline. These include orthographic conventions such as rules for italicization and quotation (in relation to the titles of musical works) and systems for indicating musical pitch, scale degree, chord names, and key or tonal area. Writing about music also requires a command of the technical terminology and processes associated with musical analysis and interpretation. Finally, to write about something that is more than just sound—that is purportedly its own language—in yet another language requires a unique approach.

But music is a field of inquiry that non-specialists feel an affinity for and an attachment to. Music writing, therefore, also involves writing for people who do not play an instrument, cannot read music, or do not have a grasp of the technical language yet still feel an investment in music. Enthusiasts who may or may not have specialized training also write about music. In fact, the music department offers a number of courses for non-majors in which writing plays a key role.

Finally, as professionals, musicians provide promotional and personal pieces for performance organizations and venues, including biographies, resumes, and press releases.

Each of these forms of writing presents a different set of challenges. With the support of a grant from the Writing Across the Curriculum group, I have collected samples of writing as a music professional and writing about music. I have also created guidelines and tutorials. Together, these sources should be useful to students in music courses at Bridgewater State University.

Available Documents

This is still under construction...

Writing as a Music Professional

  • Resume (general)
  • Resume (singer)
  • Program notes

Writing about Music

  • Example analytical paper