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This is a Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody analytical activity and an Art Rock appreciation lesson

Subjects:

Language Arts, Music  

Grades:

9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Art Rock and the Bohemian Rhapsody
By – Silvio Catalin Stefan
Primary Subject – Music
Secondary Subjects – Language Arts
Grade Level – 9-12
  1. Description:
      This is an Art Rock appreciation and Bohemian Rhapsody analytical activity.
  2. Objectives for the student:
    • To be able to understand the sections of the Bohemian Rhapsody
    • To have a clear understanding of Art Rock
      • To make a clear distinction between Art Rock and Heavy Rock
      • To expose students to high quality music
  3. Resources and teacher preparation:
    • wikipedia.org
    • Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics (see below)
    • Worksheet (see below)
    • Music examples:
      • Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by Jethro Tull
      • Pictures at an Exhibition by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
      • Another Brick in the Wall and Money by Pink Floyd
      • The Beauty and the Beast by Nightwish
      • Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
  4. Review last lesson by asking:
    • What is harmony
    • How many chords do we know?
    • How can we create a chord in the root position?
  5. Announce the new lesson:
    • Students have their own worksheets with the information below:


Art Rock and Bohemian Rhapsody

Art Rock , also known as Progressive Rock , grew as an extension of the experimental work commenced by the Beatles in the late 1960s. Many bands felt that the current rock ideas were too narrow — rock was too basic and simple. They wanted to develop more complex ideas and work beyond the free chords of most songs. Other bands wished to show off their impressive techniques. All this coincided with a general interest in theme albums (albums on which all the songs had basically the same idea — either words, topics, or patterns) and the establishment of FM radio stations. FM could play longer tracks than normal commercial AM stations. Most of them were British, and art rock fell into three broad categories.
  1. Normal rock tracks with full orchestral backings (examples: Knights in White Satin by The Moody Blues)
  2. More complex tracks, often multi-movement works, similar to classical music, or even rock versions of classical pieces (music: Pictures at an Exhibition by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)
  3. Electronic music (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream)

Most of these groups were more interested in presenting non-commercial ideas than merely providing an accompaniment for dancing. The lyrics of the songs were usually poetic or had a deeper meaning than those of commercial rock. Often one idea or story would run through all the songs, unifying them. The new technology of synthesizers helped many bands create new and varied sounds.

Did you know that Pink Floyd is reputed to have the best live sound in rock?

Art Rock Artists

Moody Blues :

      The band frequently used orchestral backing. Their most famous song

Knights in White Satin

    was released in 1967 and re-released in 1972. It featured the London Festival Orchestra.

Genesis :

    Formed by Peter Gabriel, the group was well established by 1970 and their original songs frequently used synthesizers, complex ideas and poetic lyrics. When Peter Gabriel left in 1975, they became less experimental and much more commercial.

Jethro Tull :

      Led by singer Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull featured long instrumental sections and even reworked a version of Bach’s

Bouree from the Suite in E minor for Lute

    . Ian Anderson developed techniques such as singing and flutter tonguing into flute.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer :

      These were accomplished musicians who often performed their own versions of classical music, such as Musorgsky’s

Pictures at an Exhibition

      . In 1971. on tour, the group used over 36 tons of equipment and had the most elaborate stage acts.
      [Play a short excerpt from

Pictures at an Exhibition

    .]

Pink Floyd

      One of the most experimental of all art rock bands, they used organized sound, non-musical ideas and unusual time signature such as 7/4 on their most famous album

Dark Side of the Moon

      . This album begins and ends with the pre-recorded sound of a heartbeat. The song

Money

      from the same album has unusual 7-bar phrases.
      [Play a short excerpt from

Another Brick in the Wall

      and

Money

    .]

Art rock was so called because it was influenced by styles and characteristics of art or classical music. Critics of the styles claimed that art rock was pretentious and that rock did not need to be like classical music. However, in 1960s, art rock has maintained a strong following for almost three decades and is likely to continue to do so.

Bohemian Rhapsody

The song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is regarded as one of the classic art rock songs of all time. It is long, complex, and unusual. Listen to the song and follow the listening guide below. It hints at the possible story in the song:

SECTION           LISTENING                                                   STORY GUIDE
SECTION ONE          
Opening close harmony
(multi-tracking)
questioning reality
Middle main melody
solo singer
piano accompaniment
murder committed
End guitar improvisation  
SECTION TWO choir vs. solo singer generally
faster, use of multi-tracks
debate
SECTION THREE heavy metal, solo singer,
guitar riff, loud backbeat
anger, escape
SECTION FOUR Similar to Section One
gentler and slower, return of piano accompaniment
calmer, resigned

Bohemian Rhapsody Lyrics

      Is this the real life?

      Is this just fantasy?

      Caught in a landslide,

      No escape from reality.

      Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see,

      I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,

      Because I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low,

      Any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me.
      Mama, just killed a man,

      Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.

      Mama, life had just begun,

      But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

      Mama, oooh, didn’t mean to make you cry,

      If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,

      Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.
      Too late, my time has come,

      Sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time.

      Goodbye ev’rybody – I’ve got to go,

      Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

      Mama, oooh (anyway the wind blows), I don’t want to die,

      I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.
      I see a little silhouetto of a man,

      Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

      Thunderbolt and lightning – very, very fright’ning me.

      Gallileo (Gallileo),

      Gallileo (Gallileo),

      Gallileo Figaro – Magnifico!
      But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me.

      He’s just a poor boy from a poor family,

      Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

      Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
      Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)

      Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)

      Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)

      Will not let you go. (Let me go!) (Never!)

      Never let you go – (Let him go!)

      Never let me go – oooh

      No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

      (Oh, mama mia, mama mia.) Mama mia, let me go.

      Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.
      So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye.

      So you think you can love me and leave me to die.

      Oh, baby, can’t do this to me baby,

      Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

      Ooh yeah, ooh yeah,

      Nothing really matters, anyone can see,

      Nothing really matters,

      Nothing really matters to me.
      Any way the wind blows…

Worksheet Activity:

      Listen to the music and be aware of each section.
    1. Listen to Section One of Bohemian Rhapsody again. What are the most important sentences in this section?

      …………………………………………………………………………………………

      …………………………………………………………………………………………

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    2. What do you think the words of this section of the song are about?

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    3. Listen to Section Two. What is the significance of the words, “I’m just a poor boy” and “easy come, easy go?”

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      …………………………………………………………………………………………

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    4. What is the significance of the response of the choir singing “we will not let him go/let him go/we will not?”

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    5. How does the above add to the story outlined in Section Two?

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    6. Section Three features the solo singer again; why is the line “just gotta get right outta here” important? What could it signify?

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    7. How could Section Three add to your story so far?

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    8. Section four is similar to section one and is much calmer; why?

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    9. Look at your answers to the questions on each section of the song. Is there a logical story contained in the song? Is the music effective in conveying the song?

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