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This lesson is on music that tells a story




5, 6  

   Music that Tells a Story
by Linda D. Jackson
Grades 5 & 6

Materials:  CDs

a. James Taylor – New Moon Shine (“Frozen Man,” track 5)

b. Schubert – Die Erlkoenig

c. Tchaikovsky – Overture 1812 (last 3 minutes)

1. Tell students you have a challenge for them. Tell them who James Taylor is, and that you’re going to play one of his tunes. Their job is to try and figure out what the song’s story is about (the story is about a man who was shipwrecked and frozen in ice, coming back to life 100 years later). Distribute copies of the lyrics of “Frozen Man,” keeping them face down, so students don’t get a sneak peek at the words. Play “Frozen Man,” and have students follow along (this WILL hold their interest!).

2. After the song ends, get ideas on what the story is. (Most of my students said “cool” and “weird” and “awesome.”)

3. After discussion, tell the kids you’re going to let them hear a piece of music that has a story – but in another language. Give them the background on “die Erlkoenig” and introduce text/tone painting. Play the CD and point out the areas of tone painting (horses’ hooves, tense right-hand part in piano), and the singer’s job of switching roles between father and son. Have students guess where vocal roles change from father to son. Discuss and clarify the story’s ending.

4. Finally, tell students you’ve saved the ultimate test for last. Figuring out a song/story with no words at all. Again, help them out a bit by giving them some history on the Russian Army’s struggle to overcome Napoleon’s forces on the battlefield. Play the CD of Overture 1812 and ask them what they thought the “mood” of the piece was overall (hopefully, you’ll hear responses like ‘victory’ or ‘they beat the bad guys and they’re happy about it,’ etc.). You may want to repeat the listening selection; students are very familiar with the theme and may be more interested in singing along than listening. Get them to concentrate on the church bells and cannons and what they mean.

Bring it all together at the end by reiterating about tone/text painting, and how music can tell a story just as well (or better sometimes) without words as with.

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