Crafting Concept Albums: Big Tales, Small Grooves, and the Art of Musical Narrative

Instructor: Tiffany Naiman
Spring 2020, Weds. 9:30-12:20
4 Units

Cultures all around the world tell the stories of their history, beliefs, and identities through song.  The Greeks set their epic tales of love, life, and death to music, Renaissance composers followed suit, and popular music artists do the same today.  In this hybrid workshop-seminar, students will explore musical narratives by analyzing seminal concept albums and then producing their own single-story album through written lyrics. Students will examine how artists use craft elements such as setting, characters, and plot, cover art, and musical form and instrumentation, then apply that learning in their own productions. Creating music, beats, soundscapes, and artwork will be encouraged, but the final project need only be a cycle of recorded, spoken song lyrics.  We’ll focus in particular on narratives of race, class, gender, and sexuality and their social implications as we examine works from artists across musical genres—from classic and punk rock artists such as Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Green Day; to hip-hop, pop, and EDM performers such as Beyoncé, Lupe Fiasco, Janelle Monáe, Daft Punk, and Kendrick Lamar. Students will work in groups to choose genre, develop a sense of place and time, select narrative structures, and craft lyrics. No prior experience in music or creative writing is required.