Sample Syllabus

Course Title: Me and My Playlist or If I Were A Beat

Course Description

Listening to music - what we listen to, where we listen, how we listen, who we listen with, and how we purchase and consume music - represents who we are, what is our past, and how we are moving toward the future. These choices are a reflection of how we want to live our life, what are our values are and dreams for the future. This has tremendous implications for the pursuit of Asian American identity and if one is so inclined, the pursuit of community.

In this class we will take the form of the playlist as the way that we guide our listening and how it provides us with a focused experience in reflection, whether or not we are listening intently or just “cruising”. We will reflect on our playlists by writing short commentary on why we made our choices and how we wish to share our listening. The culmination of the process will be a collection of our playlists and reflections into a sonic journal.

We will also to learn how to inform our reflections on music through engaging with the work of musicians and ethnomusicologists who reflect and interpret music-making by Asian Americans in the context of communities including the influence of the Asian American Consciousness Movement. A particular subfocus is looking at the influence of African American culture on Asian American music making.

Required Texts

Wong, Deborah Speak It Louder: Asian Americans Making Music (Routledge 2004)

Wang, Oliver Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area Duke University Press 2015

Omatsu, Glenn and Louie, Steve ed. Asian Americans: The Movement in the Moment UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press 2001

Thompson, Ahmir “Questlove” Greenman, Ben Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove Grand Central Publishing; 1st edition (June 18, 2013)

Guiding questions

  1. How do playlists provide insight into not only our listening habits but our individual and shared identities?
  2. How can playlists or that matter listening in general be a vehicle for building relationships and community?
  3. How will I pursue my own listening path beyond this course?

Course Objectives

  1. Students will reflect on their own and each other’s choices as a means to uncover/discover layers of individual and shared identity
  2. Students will be exposed to examples of how Asian Americans use music to make communities and to form identities.
  3. Students will learn how to program musical choices and create commentary to background said choices as a means to develop critical writing and research skills.


Grading breakdown

30%     Participation in class

5% ATTENDANCE is mandatory and tardiness is not permitted. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class. However, emergencies happen. If you cannot attend class for an emergency, you MUST contact me. Absences do not excuse late assignments.

10% PARTICIPATION is expected from each student and will be part of the final grade. No passive participation, everyone is expected to verbally and creatively contribute during each class session! Keep current on course changes, announcements, and emails. Be prepared to come to class having critically and closely read, watched, viewed, and listened to all course materials.

15% CLASS ACTIVITIES will consist of group projects, verbal presentations, debates, and other elements to pursue multiple ways of learning.


There will be seven two-page writing assignments:

Three audio (Spotify, I-tunes, Amazon Music) and one video (youtube) ANNOTATED playlists. Each playlist will include:

  • A list of ten songs
  • 140 character explanation for each song of why you are choosing this song/track.
  • A one page commentary addressing how the list relates to themes in the lectures, reading, and listening assignments.

Three response papers to listening assignments. Each paper should:

  • Document your reaction to each track assigned
  • Connect your reaction to the lectures and/readings


Listening Portfolio: Write a 15 page essay weaving in your Audio and Video Playlists and addressing this prompt:

How do my listening choices:

  • Express my identity?
  • Reflect and impact my relationships?
  • Shape my world and others’?
  • Make my future?

For the complete syllabus including course outline please click here 



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