Academic Subjects

How to write Musical Links Investigations (MLI) in IB Music

This is your chance to show another side of your creativity besides music! (As if the class doesn’t require you to demonstrate enough creativity already?) Whether you are making a website, infographic, or a magazine article, an MLI will showcase your knowledge of analyzing music in depth. 

1. Choose two significantly different musical cultures

This is the most important part of your MLI. If you choose musical cultures that are too similar, it will ruin your entire work. The safe bet is to choose from cultures that are geographically distant. For example, Asia and Europe. Another tip is to choose musical cultures and genres that have existed before the use of CDs. In our modern-day, different musical cultures have spread across the globe and influenced one another. The older the genre, the more distinct a musical culture is to that area!

I personally chose to compare Japanese Minyo (work songs) and Javanese Gamelan (the spellings are really similar, but I promise they are very different!). Although they are both in Asia, I found out through research that they didn’t influence each other’s musical cultures. 

2. Research the key characteristics of each musical culture

Each musical culture and genre can be defined by a few characteristics. For example, jazz is known for its swing, syncopation, and improvisation. Find two to five characteristics of your musical cultures. If two or more characteristics match between your two cultures, then great you can move onto step 3! If not, go back to step 1 until you find distinct musical cultures that are similar in some ways. The more similarities between your musical cultures, the easier time you will have in the steps to come. 

For my MLI I focused on how both cultures had elements of heterophony, ostinato, and pentatonicism. I went in-depth for the first two elements, and just glossed over pentatonicism at the end. 

3. Find examples that include the key characteristics

This is the stage of trial and error! It took me a while to find songs that had all of the characteristics I was looking for! This is why you want to find as many similarities between the cultures as possible. 

A resource I used to find recordings was the Smithsonian Folkways Recording. It has recordings of music from all over the world, making it perfect for an MLI! This was a great starting point to find songs that fit what I was looking for. 

4. Start analyzing

It is time to start analyzing your pieces and talk about how they are similar/different. I would not spend many words introducing the cultures, the important part is your musical analysis.

If you managed to find sheet music for your examples, use them to highlight your arguments. If not, transcribe them yourself! Both of my musical cultures did not use Western notation, so I had to transcribe sections that I wanted to use to support my claims. Not only would it deepen your understanding, but it will also show engagement in your work. 

5. Create your MLI

This is when you can become as creative as you wish. I personally chose a magazine article because I thought I would convey my ideas best through text and visuals. A good tool to write your MLI is Canva because it is so versatile and makes it visually appealing!

I hope you enjoyed my “Liszt” of tips! Good luck with your MLI!


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