Explore The New York Times Magazine’s annual music issue and create a multimedia piece that comments on the state of music today.
This lesson is from the New York Times.
Featured Article: “The Songs That Get Us Through It”
Every year, The New York Times Magazine publishes an issue all about music that explores the songs, artists and musical themes that capture our moment. As we head into a third year of the coronavirus pandemic, the headline for this year’s collection is “The Songs That Get Us Through It.” It includes 22 essays that touch on topics such as exhaustion, grief, community, mixed emotions and letting go.
In this lesson, you’ll choose one essay from the collection to read. Then, you’ll analyze what you think it says about music today. Finally, we’ll invite you to write your own essay, make an annotated playlist or create a piece of art to encapsulate one aspect of the musical landscape that you think is worth recognizing.
What are the songs from this past year that have helped you “get through it”?
Spend a few minutes scrolling through your music library, and then come up with a list of at least three songs. For this exercise, try to choose songs that are current or were made in the past year or so.
After you have your list, see if you can make any connections among the songs. Here are some questions to consider:
What topics do the lyrics touch on? Are they alike in any way?
What themes do these songs have in common? For example, a theme might be love, heartbreak, friendship, angst or growing up.
Are their sounds similar? If so, in what ways? How would you describe this sound?
Taking these songs together, what do you think they say about your life over the past year? What do they say about the world? What do they tell you about music now or where it might be headed?
If you are in a class, compile a list of some of the topics, themes and sounds students came up with. Does your class notice any commonalities? Can you sort them into any groups? You’ll use this as a jumping off point for one of the Going Further activities.
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Scroll through the entire article, which includes 22 essays. Each essay focuses on one theme (which you can see in the top left corner), one song or a set of songs (you can turn the music on or off by clicking the sound icon in the top right corner).
Choose one of the essays to read in its entirety (click “Read More” to unfurl the essay). Then, answer the following questions:
1. In a few sentences, summarize the essay in your own words. What are some of the key points the author makes?
2. The theme of this year’s music issue is “the songs that get us through it.” How does the song (or songs) featured in the essay you read relate to that theme?