Friday, October 2, 2015

Thursday's substitute Music teacher: Jason

Beloved Music teacher Josh is out this week, so I filled in for him on Thursday. Josh's pedagogical gifts and skills are different than my own, so I didn't dare attempt to deliver his curriculum. Instead, we ran our own version of Music class in homeroom. 

The embodiment of Spring works magic in a scene from Fantasia 2000

It started out with a viewing of the 1953 Disney short animated film Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. It's a fun short that traces the origins of the various orchestra sections to their prehistoric roots. It's stylized and fanciful, and even squeezes in a small bit of engineering (I didn't really understand how trumpets worked until I saw this film). Of course, being from 1953, there were also some caricatures and stereotypes to discuss as well. 

After that, we watched a couple of selections from Fantasia 2000. We started with the sequence Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky. It's a lovely piece of animation, and it's very dramatic. It's the final piece in the film, and it's a doozy. It instantly prompted conversations about the personification of Spring, and everyone jumped when (SPOILER ALERT) the volcano erupted. The sequence is intense, and it generated a lot of discussion afterward (and, despite my best efforts, during). We talked about volcanos, forest fires, and prairies, as well as the "story" of the piece. 

View it here (though be warned that this isn't a particularly high resolution version of it. If you have Netflix, it's currently streaming there. Even better, get the DVD or Blu-ray at the library!) 

Everyone seemed engaged and intrigued by the concept of Fantasia (take an existing piece of music and create a story that goes along with it), so we watched another of the pieces: Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi

Here's a clip of the climax of the piece, but it's better to seek out the full version (I couldn't find a copy online.) 

After marveling at how or why the creators of Fantasia 2000 came up with the idea to animate that particular piece of music with fanciful flying whales, I decided to try an experiment. Everyone got paper and pencils, and then I played them the audio of one of the segments that I hadn't shown them. While it played, I asked them to draw what they were picturing. What story would they tell while listening to this particular piece of music? We listened to it twice. 

Here's the audio without visuals. Listen to it! What do you picture? Play it a couple of times and sketch out what you visualize. Try it!

Well? What did you picture? It's bouncy and jaunty, and everyone in our class had a different vision to accompany it, from sword-fighting to clumsy crabs. 

Here's what the creators of Fantasia came up with: 

Listening to a piece of music can be a great way to create a piece of artwork, be it visual arts or a story. It's a method that we'll return to again later in the year. 

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