Essential Question - “How does music support the evolution of your personal identity?”
In order to understand connections between identity and music, the class must also explore attributes of music itself. In the previous section students created an initial list of music they think reflects their self-identity while discussing identity categories and attributes. The goal of this section is for students to understand how music supports the various aspects of identity but also assists in its evolution.
Using the songs generated during discussion in Section 1, students will create a list of genres of music that are directly related to the individuals to the class. Once the class feels that the list is accurate, the facilitator should note which genres are missing and help expand the list to any missing genres that the broader age group demographic would listen to. The list will likely not remain static over the course of the unit as students’ understanding broadens and discussion becomes more inclusive towards previously rejected genres.
The next step is to explore how the list of identity attributes generated in Section 1 can be associated with particular genres. This process will likely expand the original list of identity as students discuss how music crosses the boundaries of the three scopes of identity: personal, projected, and perceived. As music has the inherent ability to freely cross these areas of scope, students need to understand that a single genre must, by definition, contain attributes necessary to have a meaningful experience across diverse identity structures.
Should the class believe that a genre of music is isolated to a particular identity category, take the opportunity to focus in on that genre, forcing students to analyze what separates that genre for a singular purpose. Does country music only associate with “rednecks” or “hillbillies?” Is rap isolated to an African-American demographic? If time permits, I would highly suggest an exploration of spoken word/rap in non-western cultures as a means to break down ethnic/socio-economic preconceptions about this particular genre. As discussion drills deeper into the potential associations, a visible web of interconnected attributes and how they support a wider array of identities than initially considered should become clear.
What genres of music are associated with the identity variables defined in class?
Can the same genre be associated with differing, or outright opposing, identity attributes?
Do we associate genres of music with specific emotions? Can these genres contain conflicting emotions?
Literary tie-in: American Born Chinese
This activity serves two purposes: first is to engage students in a discussion around how music is associated with cultural, both ethnic and socio-economic, identity. Secondly, students will examine how the music has the ability to transcend unique identifiers and associations supporting a broad range of commonly experienced situations.
American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, chronicles a journey of self-discovery by its main character Jin Wang. One of our first books used in the seminar, it explores cultural identity through the lens of a Chinese-American youth struggling to find his own identity as he navigates middle and high school. I will guess that most, if not all, of the students participating in this curriculum unit had some sort of cultural identity as a cornerstone of their initial
identity profile in Section 1. Cultural or ethnic associations are the primary and most common means youth create identity. If not explicitly discussed previously, this is an opportunity for your class to discuss culture and how it is used as a means to create identity.
The graphic novel’s narrative develops over what initially appear to be three distinct story threads separated by rotating chapters that become interwoven into a single narrative as the arcs progress. These three sub-divisions of the story focus on how the main character wishes to
their identity and how they feel they are
based on non-negotiable identity attributes. By discussing each of these seemingly independent threads in conjunction with the greater narrative discussion should enable the introduction of these topics in relation to a
Having looked at other graphic novels, the idea of producing a thematic soundtrack is becoming common. In small groups, students will create a soundtrack for the graphic novel. Each chapter can only have one or two songs. Characters may have more than one song if details in the novel support the music choices. Groups should be separated to prevent accidental usage of the same music selections in order to provide sufficient diversity in material for discussion.
How does your song choice reflect the theme of each chapter?
What details from the graphic novel support your song choices that reflect a character’s identity?
How do different group’s choices in music reflect the same source material?
Can we change how we identify ourselves?
The purpose of this activity is to have students document connections between music and unique events in their life, develop and understanding that these events have common threads across the class, and gain insight into how another’s musical connection may significantly differ without impacting the meaning of the event itself.
Over the course of the story, Jin Wang experiences many common life events associated with adolescence including fitting into a new school, navigating personal relationships between relatives and friends, a first love and its corresponding rejection. Students in your class should be able to relate to most, if not all of these experiences. Through discussion of the graphic novel, if not already considered, students should expand upon their own profile to including any cultural attributes they feel are relevant while looking over their playlist and cross-referencing those songs they feel are unique identifiers of their cultural self-identity.
One thing that you as the educator must be aware of is that students may relive or react to previous life events of a tragic nature. It is encouraged to reiterate that these items journaled for the curriculum unit will remain private between you and the student. Should a student wish to journal about an event and not share with you make it explicitly clear that it is acceptable for them to do so separately.
What events in the graphic novel have you experienced or can relate to on a personal level? How did these events shape your self-identity?
What kinds of music do you listen to when experiencing a particular emotion and can that music be used to support any other emotions?
What life events have you personally experienced in which music was an important role? How did that music influence the event and impact your self-identity as a result?