Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The last two weeks of fifth grade music where we listen to and play along with fifth grade compositions are always one of the high points of my year. The kids who have completed their composition project get to here their music played back on the big screen while they and their fellow composers are encouraged to "sweeten" the sound by playing along live. This is followed by an aesthetic evaluation of each piece by the other students.
One of the limitations of the Orff approach is that it doesn't always give students a chance to apply the musical skills they are developing through play. As they leave Third Street I want the fifth graders have some knowledge of how what they've learned fits with the traditional musical skills they will need in middle school and beyond.
This week third graders learned about canons, which are also called "rounds." This is where everybody performs the same melody line, but in staggered starts, to produce a richer, more textural sound, that also contains a bit a challenge. "Row Row Row Your Boat," and "Frere Jacques" are probably the best know examples. Canon's a great way to teach kids to focus on part singing, harmony, and, most importantly, sight reading. And as the kids discovered canons can include movement, instrumental music, singing or all three. The canon I like to use, "Come Let Us Gather," is a good one for musicians at this stage as it not only contains a run of all the notes we have learned so far, but has a Thanksgiving theme that hopefully put everyone in a holiday mood. The kids rocked on it!
The last weeks in fifth grade music we have continued to work on our composition projects, adding two more parts -- a color part which provided a splash of musical contrast and and a drum part which holds the whole piece together. As always our existing melody is an excellent source of inspiration when it comes to rhythmic and melodic ideas. The French holiday tune, "Pat-a-pan" which the kids are using the frame drums to perform in the picture above, illustrated the use of drums and color to accompany melody -- and hopefully put everybody in a holiday mood.
Homework: Finish your compositions!
Here's the second line of "Ode to Joy." Notice that it is almost the same as the first -- and as you will see, it is exactly the same as the last.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
We had a enough of a break in this weather for Culture Day to come off beautifully. Congratulations to Frances Okwu and all the teachers, parents and kids that made the day such a fun event. The ensembles contributed three songs to the performance, excerpts of which can be seen in the video above. Thanks to Aiden's mom for providing us with some nice video from her I phone. Good job everyone!
This week in Third Grade Music we looked at ways to take a simple piece, like "Tune of the Buffens," which the ensemble will be performing at Culture Day, and extended by using different variations. In this case focused primarily of accompanying the melody with a drone and playing in parallel thirds (easier to see on the xylophone). In the process the kids learned that the goal in developing variations on a musical theme always has two part -- a practical side, which in this case was extended a short piece of music to make it more suitable for dancing, and an aesthetic one, which focuses on making the music more interesting and beautiful.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Hi ensemble players -- I apologize for getting this up a bit later than I'd hoped. Fortunately most of you have been playing it well in practice. As you know "Andean Tune" is one of two songs we will be playing Recorder ensemble will be playing on Saturday at Culture Day, so study up and practice, practice, practice!
For the last couple of weeks in 5th grade music we have been working on original compositions. The goal here is for every student to write a composition for 3 voices and a percussion line. Last week we began with a short melody and this week we focused on adding a bass part called a bourdun and a variation in the melody. They say that music holds our attention because it almost always gives us what we expect, but every once in a while surprises us. I have to say I am almost continually surprised by these kids. Examples of their work will be forthcoming shortly!
This week in anticipation of Halloween the kids learned the scary old standard, "Skin and Bones," not only singing it, but playing it on recorder. Like an earlier call and response song we did, "Little Johnny Brown", it turns out that "Skin and Bones" makes use of the minor pentatonic, which is also at the heart of most blues music. Learning a song for Halloween also gave us an excuse to talk about holiday music general, a timely topic since several of the classes wish to learn a winter holiday song. Can it be almost November already?
Happy Halloween everyone!