We began by introducing the students to the concept of using pictures to represent sound and sound being represented by pictures. This was a new concept for many students. The students began to realize that before the advent of digital recordings, the only way to preserve music was through using symbols for sound and/or passing them from person to person aurally.
Student #1We started by creating compositions based on pictures. We looked at how we could transform specific elements from a painting into specific sounds, and we used the musical vocabulary from previous years to be very exact when describing the sounds (for example, cannons in a civil war painting would be forte, staccato, and low-pitched). Then we chose instruments to represent those sounds, and we played a class composition based on the painting.
We then added structure to our compositions. Students had to create a simple piece in ABA form using pre-assigned small percussion instruments (bells, rhythm sticks, and sand blocks).
Kipling 6th ABA take 1
Students were given a template to use as a guide to writing their graphic scores, and they had to combine the element of time (choosing the order of play for the instruments as well as how to layer them, duration of sounds, and rhythm over a steady beat) to answer the question “How can we transform a picture into a musical composition featuring loud and soft sounds and short and long sounds?”
The students used their new skill of being able to transform sounds into pictures and pictures into sounds to bring a story to life. The students then created a soundtrack and tableaus for the story of Anansi the Spider. We chose this story because they were studying ancient African civilizations in social studies. Sixth grade was the only class where their music and academic content integrated into the same project (simultaneously).
We started our musical storytelling process by creating tableaus based on the emotion of the music, to get a sense of what mood or emotion music without words could communicate.
Students then had to take the concept of the tableau and apply it to the part of the story that was assigned to their group. As they were thinking about how to show the story in tableau, they were also thinking about what musical sounds to use. The had an organizer to help them plan.
[video width="260" height="116" m4v="http://www.portfoliodesignproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Anansi_tableaus.m4v"][/video]
Student #3Finally, students added instruments, composed a theme song for one of Anansi's sons, and put it together into a performance for the kindergarten class.