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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Music Hath Charms

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Alice Folkart
Posted on: 11 September 2011
Posted on: 15 February 2015
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Exercise: In 400 words or less, create a scene in which you describe some kind of music and the effect it has on a listener or listeners.

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In William Congreve's 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, a character says, ?Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.? (often misquoted as 'savage beast') It's still true. We play a lullaby to put a baby to sleep and a suitor woos his beloved with a serenade. But music can also wake the savage beast within us. Soldiers march off to war to stirring patriotic music. Somber music is played at a traditional funeral, but in New Orleans, a dixieland jazz band sets a lively pace returning from the cemetery. Acid rock, house, hip hop, reggae, or rap can turn an arena into a writhing sea of sweaty bodies. Opera buffs swoon over an aria. Swinging big bands were the sound track to the heartaches and homecomings of WWII.

Music mirrors our culture and society and is a way to travel back in time. Listen to Mozart or Bach, and you are in a different world for a while. Show us a character appreciating, or hating, or being stirred by music, and describe that music so that we will know why the character reacts as he does. The music can be from any place or anywhere—harpsichord, jungle drums, a shepherd's flute, or a one-stringed Chinese banjo.

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Exercise: In 400 words or less, create a scene in which you describe some kind of music and the effect it has on a listener or listeners.

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In your critique, consider whether the description of the music will help the reader to 'hear' it. Does the author's description make us understand why the character reacts as he/she does? What tools of the writing craft does the author use to evoke the sounds of music—language, pacing, repetition, rhythm, or perhaps comparison to senses other than hearing.


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