Music 784: Twentieth-Century Music I
Guidelines for Paper and Oral Presentation

These guidelines are intended to help you prepare your papers and oral reports better. You do not have to follow them exactly, but what you do may well be judged by the criteria described here.


Many resources are available to help you learn about the subjects of your reports. These include:

1. The Internet. Use search engines, particularly google, to help locate information about the composer. Biographies, lists of works, and special web sites devoted to the composer may be found.

2. Biographies. Almost all of the composers listed have had biographies written about them, and many of these can be found in the Queens College Music Library or other libraries (see the bibliography for this course). Sometimes the composer will be included in a book focused on a group of composers, such as The New Grove: Twentieth-Century French Masters. These books are preferable to survey textbooks, which only cover the composers in the most superficial way.

3. Writings by the composer. Many of these composers have written extensive books or articles about their music or their ideas about music, such as Arthur Honegger's Je suis compositeur ("I am a composer"). If a composer has written such books, you should be aware of them in preparing your report.

4. CD and recording liner notes. Many CDs or other recordings of the composer's music will contain a short biography and program notes about the pieces recorded. You should study this information and refer to it in your discussion.

5. Study of scores. Much information, of course, can be obtained from the music itself. You need to discuss in detail at least one work that you have studied with the score, and much of what you may wish to say about the music can be inferred directly.


Your paper should contain all the following items. They do not have to be the headings of different sections, but each of these items should be included in the paper. In order to facilitate your presentation, it is suggested that you photocopy the most important of these items to distribute to members of the class on the date of your presentation.

1. Biography. Include a short (1-2 page) discussion of the composer's life. Where and when did he or she live? Who were his or her teachers or principal influences? What is his/her reputation and importance among his or her professional peers? Did he/she remain in one place or move around during his/her active life as a composer?

2. List of works. Include a list of works, or if he/she is very prolific, a list of his/her most important or influential works. Can these be categorized into different periods or styles? How did the style change throughout his/her life?

3. Influence or effect on his or her time. Did this person have a large impact on music in his or her time, or were they relatively obscure? What is the status of the composer at present?

4. Description and analysis of at least two works. While you should study at least one or two works in detail with the score, you can learn quite a lot about the music simply by listening carefully. Describe the music. What is it similar to? Do you agree with what others have written about it? This is not intended to be a "formal" analysis of the music, such as what you may do in an analysis class, although you may go into as much detail as you wish. This is the most important part of the paper. Description is more important than evaluation, and both of those are more important than judgments.

Other Suggestions

1. Unless you know them personally, like a member of your family, do not refer to your composer by his or her first name. Use either the last name or both first and last names (this gets cumbersome if used repeatedly). Do not use nicknames.

2. Write about events that happened in the past in the past tense. Do not say things like "in 1928, he goes to Berlin." You can refer to things happening at the present time or in the future in the present or future tenses, but the number of times this will happen is small.

3. Number your pages. Do not use wide margins; there is no extra credit for making the paper appear longer than it should.

4. Titles of works should be italicized or underlined.