Comparative Essay Paper Instructions
The two papers for this course will consist of compare-and-contrast essays of three typed pages
each. Use double space and the default margins in Microsoft Word, Pages, or Open Office.
After turning in your first essay, you will receive feedback from me and have the opportunity to
compose a re-write. You will receive two grades for the essay that will be averaged together; a
grade for the first drafting of your essay and the re-write. If you are happy with your grade on
the first draft, you can opt to skip the re-write and use the draft grade for the final essay grade.
Your second essay will be turned in one time without a re-write.
Because the essays are only three pages long, you will need to limit yourself to a small number
of points that you consider most important or noteworthy.
Below is the organization you are required to follow for your essay.
In the introduction, include a frame of reference, grounds for comparison, and your thesis.
Frame of reference:
Place your essay into some sort of context for the reader. The frame of
reference is up to you, the writer. You may choose to make the frame of reference the broader historical context (i.e. the Romantic period), a problem to be solved (i.e. the technical difficulties present in Richard Strauss’ works), a philosophy (i.e. postmodernism), a question (i.e. what are the differences between European and American orchestras?), or biographical information (i.e. that Brahms and Bruckner both lived in Vienna at the same time). Choose a frame of reference that you think most applies to your thesis.
Grounds for comparison: In other words, what is the rationale for the subject matter of your comparative essay? You need to show to your audience that the subject matter is not arbitrary.
Provide a justification.
Thesis: The thesis statement flows naturally from your grounds for comparison. In a
comparative essay, the thesis must show how A and B, the subject matter you are comparing and contrasting, relate. A common way to show a relationship between A and B, when emphasizing the contrasts, is to begin with Whereas.
Whereas the modernists of the early 20th century valued high art more than and low art, postmodernism broke down this clean-cut distinction and saw artistic value relative to each individual person’s perspective.
There are three main ways to organize a comparative essay.
Subject by subject: You cover all of subject A (multiple paragraphs) then all of subject B (multiple paragraphs).
Point by point: You cover both of your subjects, A and B, together in each paragraph. Each paragraph has a point that compares and contrasts both subjects. If you like, more than one point per paragraph may be used.
Here is where this type of essay can get fun! In a lens comparison, you view B
through the “lens” of A, spending more time on subject B than subject A. A is the colored glasses through which you evaluate B. Usually in a lens comparison, time is an important factor, in which earlier ideas provide the framework for understanding later ideas. So, this works well if A fall chronologically earlier than B. This could be used successfully in several the essays listed below.
As in any argumentative essay, be sure to link or relate all of your points back to your original thesis statement.
When linking points between A and B, compare-and-contrast transition words are helpful, such as; however, on the contrary, on the other hand, conversely, in the same way, in like manner, in similar fashion, and so forth.
I recommend googling “compare and contrast transition words” for more ideas.
Use at least three sources in total for each essay.
When including sources, you may follow the Chicago Manual of Style (common in music history
and theory) or the APA style (common in music education).
Each essay will be graded out of 100 pts. In consideration for total points, the essays will be evaluated as follows:
1) Successfully utilizing the format outlined in this handout
2) The quality of your thesis statement
3) The organization of your thoughts
4) The content of your writing
5) Grammar and punctuation
6) The sophistication of your syntax
7) Your choice of vocabulary
8) Your clarity of expression
9) How the above parts fit together to create a successful whole Essays (pick any two)
1) Compare-and-contrast the conducting styles of Fritz Reiner (1888-1963) with Gustavo
Dudamel (b. 1981). You can compare their conducting of the same symphonic work or discuss
their overall conducting styles. You can find examples of their conducting all over YouTube.
2) Compare-and-contrast the first movement of a string quartet by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-
1809) with the first movement of a string quartet by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
3) Compare-and-contrast the playing styles of these two Russian cellists playing the Variations
on a Rococo Theme by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
4) Compare-and-contrast I. Mondestrunken (https://youtu.be/O5DNxRG2-ow) and 8. Nacht
(https://youtu.be/u6LyYdSQQAQ ) from Pierre Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg with Mysteries of
the Macabre by György Ligeti. https://youtu.be/sFFpzip-SZk
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