Collaborative “Genre” Exercise

Photo by Carol Rosegg for Rolling Stone

Since our current essay project asks you to become a “music critic” and consider why Qui Nguyen presents Vietgone (a Vietnam War-era story) in a seemingly anachronistic hip hop/rap style, we’ll need to think more closely about how his choice of musical genre reflects the broader themes of migration in the play. To do so, let’s get creative.

For this exercise, the class will be broken into four groups. As a group, you will be assigned a passage from Vietgone‘s “Music Cue 03,” Quang and Tong’s rap “I’ll Make it Home.” Then, you will be assigned a musical genre (options might include country, hair metal, jazz crooner, folk, grunge, disco, you get the idea). Your task will be to rewrite the passage, adapting it to the conventions of your assigned musical genre.

You’ll have to consider what stylistic conventions characterize your assigned genre and how they might be used to express the themes of migration and homesickness in “I’ll Make it Home.” You don’t necessarily have to rewrite the passage line by line (this would take too long). A representative verse and/or chorus will do—and you can define this in a way that makes sense for your genre.

After we share our adapted lyrics, we’ll move on to part two of the exercise. Here, you will compare and contrast your adapted lyrics and musical genre to the original lyrics and Nguyen’s chosen genre of hip hop. How would writing Vietgone in your assigned genre have changed the tone and representation of themes in the play? What does hip hop as a genre offer thematically that your assigned genre doesn’t? Use these reflections to collaboratively write a few sentences that make an argument about why Nguyen might have chosen to represent Vietgone in a hip hop style rather than in another genre.

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