May 11, 2015: Music

"Imagination is Unleashed!" - (Karuna)

We are deep into our music and art connection with the fourth grade fictional stories unit.

Central Idea: Orchestrating a Fictional Story enhances the drama of the storytelling.
Is this true?  Let's consult an expert.

Leitmotifs - (Darth Wagner)
A "Leitmotif" is a musical motive that is associated with a person, place, thing, or idea, and is integral to the plot of a story.  Kids listened to the beginning notes of Siegfried's leitmotif from Wagner's epic opera, "Ring" cycle.  We paused the music for a second, and immediately kids started saying that it sounds like Star Wars.  It's true.  While we may be familiar with music being associated with a character or idea from modern cinema, this idea comes directly from Wagner's operas. 

We are approaching this concept from a few directions.

Music that tells a story-
Students listened to a piece of recorded music and they considered a few questions:
1. How many characters are in this story?
2. How do you know that they are different characters?
3. Is there conflict?
4. Is there resolution?

Listening notes

Fourth graders had some strong opinions of what the story was about.  They guessed that there were two characters.  One was softer, higher, happy, Major key, shy, alone, and probably a girl.  The other was deeper, more mystical, angry, evil, scary, and in a minor key.  Probably a man, they said.  They knew they were different because of the contrasting instruments, tune, and rhythms.

They heard some conflict and resolution during the piece, and had some fascinating ideas about the plot.  The man is looking for the girl?  When you hear them at the same time, maybe they're arguing?  Not in harmony?   There's resolution at the end because it ends higher.  Maybe the man is in love with the girl?  Is it "Little Red Riding Hood?"

The piece was Ravel's "Conversations of Beauty and the Beast." 

Retelling a story through Art & Music
We are now in the process of enhancing the drama of a story with visual art and music:

"Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak.

They are learning quite a few pieces from the Orff/Keetman "Music for Children" Volumes, and deciding which music should be associated with which person, place, thing, or idea in the story.  With some lyrics written by the students, some by me, and some with no lyrics at all, these pieces are a rich resource for exploring moods associated with some unusual modes.  (Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian, so far, if you know your modes)

Students created the lyrics for these rhythms as an overture.  They summarize the entire plot in four short sections!  Listen to this brief excerpt.. which part of the story do YOU think this belongs? 

Learning a body percussion rhythm through lyrics:
This rhythm piece is getting a melody makeover - a different melody composed by each class.
"What's a Rumpus?"  It happens after Max tames the Wild Things with the magic trick.  Here is a working version of one class's composition and arrangement. 
For those of us who would just rather read the notes, thank you very much:
The up and down contour of this chord progression suggests waves - could this be the music for Max's ocean voyage?

Learning a piece through lyric rhythms and melodic contour:
Mysterious!  Maybe this piece can be for Max's room's magical transformation?