Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bringing Music to Life

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In my Catholic high school, we took one semester of Music and Art in the Western World, more commonly known as MAWW. Naturally, because it was a Catholic school and the Catholic Church initially paid for much of the western world’s art and music, most of what we studied was religious in nature.

Now, while I did not have any issues with the pieces covered, I knew I had missed a huge chunk of western music.

So, when we decided to incorporate music into our homeschooling, I felt at a loss. What did I really remember after all these years? How could I make it interesting, not killing all enthusiasm for the subject?

First, I decided that I was not going to make music a “subject.” I was going to find a way to make it part of our lives.

We had always had CDs in the player, and neighbors on their daily strolls would see us dancing around like fools. Still, I wanted to expose my family to more classical pieces than Tom Jones (O.K., he is a classic) and Madness. I purchased Best Classics 100 Volume 1 and 100 Best Baroque CD sets. We played the CDs at home and in the car, discussing which pieces were our favorites and which we wished we could skip. Naturally, we did not always agree on the pieces, so we would have to sit through something someone else loved, waiting for our favorite. This provided the opportunity to share what we liked about our favorites, which occasionally gave the others an appreciation for the piece.

Next, came across a treasure-trove of vinyl albums on our local FreeCycle list. I think we ended up with 30+ recordings, including classical, jazz, ballet, holiday, and more. We listened to the same piece led by different conductors and discussed the differences. We heard music we had never experienced and some we recognized from favorite films or even commercials.

Then I learned about Beethoven's Wig, sing-along versions of the classics. Some were so hilarious, they had us in tears! What I found fascinating was that my boys would only actively listen to the sing-along versions for months, while passively listening to the original versions simply because we left the CD playing, until they suddenly only wanted to listen to the original versions. In fact, my eldest is now learning some of the pieces with his piano instructor. (We gave our piano instructor the first Beethoven’s Wig CD, so he could discover the appeal for himself.)

For more resource ideas,
check out GHF’s Resource Review page.
For Christmas, we received Can You Hear It?, by William Lach, a Senior Editor at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The book and CD set includes 13 tracks matched with 13 works of art. For example, Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons - Winter I Allegro Non Molto is paired with Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s A Winter Landscape with Skaters and a Bird Trap. Questions include “Can you hear the first skater out on the ice, showing off in big loops and figure eights?” The explanation follows, “The solo violin plays the skater, using quick notes to show the gliding motion.” Wonderful! We sit together with the book in our laps, as we listen to the CD.

We also discovered Leonard Bernstein - Young People's Concerts / New York Philharmonic
on DVD. Leonard Bernstein was a modern composer (West Side Story), conductor, and general lover of music. Despite the early shows being in black and white (usually a death knell with modern children), we sit glued to the television when watching the concerts. Bernstein discusses all aspects of music: what does music mean, humor in music, folk songs, what is American music, sonata form, and so much more. Every point is enhanced with music. The audience participates. And Bernstein’s passion for music flows through each episode.

Music permeates our lives. We listen to it, discuss it, and see it in the world around us. We readily share our opinions (no shortage of opinions in our household), find a variety of music “dance-worthy,” and now have lives filled with music.

Article by Sarah J. Wilson

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