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.
We 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).
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?”