listening exercises

Music through the Ages Exploration Engages Students

This year, my students are exploring a different genre of music every month. Sometimes, it's a quick study. Sometimes it's just a case of listening to a CD or watching youtube and then discussing the music afterward. My student Namitha calls our exploration, "Music through the Ages". Last month, we explored the Classical period. Their comments on the music were colourful, ranging from "it sounds like someone's being chased" during Beethoven's 5th Symphony to "it sounds happy yet sad" for Mozart's Rondo alla Turk. The intermediate students have started to notice patterns that are similar to their pieces (sonata allegro form, anyone?).

This month, I've fast forwarded the timeline to the present for them to explore pop, rock and country. One student classified Carrie Underwood as "country", while the next day, one classified her as "pop". We listened to a couple of her songs and I asked them to tell me what madeJust a Dream more country than Cowboy Cassanova. A similar scenario happened with Taylor Swift.

(FYI: my students said it was the instrumentation and drum groove used that differentiated the styles).

After listening to The Beatles, I asked my student Tess what she thought of song and the style. "What am I supposed to say?" she asked me.

"The truth," I replied. "Did you like it? Love it? Hate it? Doesn't make you feel anything?"

She discovered that it doesn't make her feel anything and that it's a style she'll probably stay away from.

A few days later, I learned that young Gabe loves the 80s band Journey ("They're just cool!").

That's what it's all about for me, showing them what's out there. I hope by the end of the year, they will have a better idea of just how wide and diverse music is and along the way, find out what they would like to explore further (or avoid like the plague). If their active listening skills improve along the way as we discuss melody, timbre, rhythm, form and texture - all the better!

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