We started studying the foundations of rock and roll by looking at the blues. Students listened to and sung a 12-bar-blues song and learned about famous blues musicians. We then transitioned into early rock music from the 1950s. The students listened to different songs and pieces and practiced analyzing them using the different aspects of listening such as timbre, orchestration, and tempo. The students were then guided on the process of creating a tune using current pop songs as an example. After analyzing several examples, the students were separated into groups and allowed time to work on creating a melody with lyrics. Each group was given a graphic organizer to help them create their compositions as they worked in their groups. The students presented their final compositions at the Middle School Assembly in the spring of 2013.
Since we knew we eventually wanted students to do a fairly sophisticated group composition, we started by having them do a very simple composition activity: they had to each make a sound and motion to represent themselves, and then they had to put those sounds and motions together into a short composition with a beginning, middle, and end.
Students then got into their project groups and started working. They had many elements to come up with. They started with lyrics, then added rhythm or a melody, and finally, added choreography. They soon discovered just how complicated it was to put all the elements together!
The big idea was that students would find a way to express their voice using the parameters of early rock and roll, but that they could add their own elements (including elements of contemporary music like hip-hop). Students performed their compositions for the spring assembly. Some went well, and some didn’t, but students learned a lot about what it means to write, prepare, and perform one’s own music, and the journal reflections showed that. In the video below, students decided to use a “remix” as a way to bridge the old into the new.