In Ms. Gilbert’s room, the students listened for details in the music and how the composer chose specific devices to create a desired effect, and then they applied the same techniques to their writing.
What does voice mean in writing? Why do writers write and composer compose? How does music create mood? How can we make the ordinary extraordinary? These are the questions students started with.
Students wrote about their trip to school. They listened to Ms. Hall play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star on the glockenspiel and imagined that the song represented their first draft. They then listened to Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle by Mozart, and brainstormed all the ways Mozart embellished and expanded the original theme, and they translated those compositional techniques into writing techniques to embellish and enrich their stories.
Students listened to Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Woodwind Quintet and used each movement as inspiration for one of the six parts of a story (introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion) to construct their own creative narrative. They then set it in a six-panel comic, which was very challenging!
We finished up the year by exploring the instruments of the orchestra, their different timbres (or voices), and how they all contribute to making different kinds of music.
We started by figuring out how to classify instruments and what makes an instrument belong to a certain instrument family. Students were given a random small percussion instrument, and they had to get themselves into 3 groups of like instruments WITHOUT TALKING. Then students discussed why they grouped themselves into those groups and what their instruments had in common.
Over the course of four weeks, we explored in more depth the individual instrument families of the orchestra. Students got to choose which instrument represented their voice (and make an instrument family tree). They compared and contrasted different instruments in different families to find similarities and differences. They got to create instruments in different families to experience how the sound was made (straw oboes, shoe box guitars, pop bottle flutes).
We finished up the end of the year by creating a multi-layered percussion ensemble composition. Students created an ostinato, played a melody on the glockenspiel, and accompaniment on small percussion instruments of their choice. They had to use the different timbres of the instruments to express their voice.