March 16, 2015: Music

Blue was a Quiet Color.

The field trip to hear members of the String section of the Oregon Symphony went very well.  Unfortunately I was not able to go.  Our 5th grade Chinese students were hosting their Capstone brothers and sisters from China that week.  They were here to experience a few days in the life of a TIS student, including all specialist classes.  Instead of asking a substitute to teach my 5th grade music class, we all thought it would serve the visitors better if I stayed at school to teach. We moved, danced together, and sang and created a beautiful piece about a feather.  Lovely.

The 2nd graders reported that the concert used music to help tell stories!  What a perfect segue to our next weeks in music.  We too are beginning to tell stories, but in our case we are composing our own music.

I'm sure you remember that we already composed and notated a poem.  Here's an example of a student's composition, notated on the treble clef using quarter notes, eighth notes, quarter rests, and a tone set limited to C pentatonic.

Our next step in our composition journey is to use icons that represent 4-beat rhythms.  Some of the rhythms are syncopated, and beyond the scope of 2nd grade music.  However we can say all sorts of complex rhythms before we notate them.  These are the cards the kids chose and sequenced into a nonsense story:  Please ask your child how to say each of these cards.  Each one has a unique rhythm. 

Once they have their sequence, we then play them on various percussion instruments and finally add some improvised melodies.  Many layers, sonically complex, and very fun.

Taking these composition skills, we began composing music to accompany a story by Kathryn Otoshi called "One." The story addresses the issue of bullying in a beautiful and inclusive way.  Using the text and descriptions of each color character, our composers will create music, movement and sounds that help tell the story of how bystanders and the target learned to say "NO" when they encounter bullying.

The story involves Red, a color that picks on another color, Blue, but no one stands up and says "NO" in front of Red.  When Red is mean in the story, he gets bigger and louder when no one speaks up. 

I added another perspective, which is that when some people are mean, it might be in a quiet way.  A way that no one else around can hear.  Something like, "You better not play with Elsa at recess.  If you do, I'm not going to invite you to my birthday party."  That moment is when many little second grade hands go up, each resonating deeply with the story, each wanting to tell about something that like that that has happened to them personally.

Someone is trying to stop you or someone else from having fun?  You can take a stand and say, "NO."  If that doesn't stop them, it's time to tell an adult to make sure that it stops.

Peter Musselman
Music Specialist