music history

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!

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.


“Romantic Music” Musings

I bet you thought I was going to muse about sappy love songs. Nope. Not here. The Romantic Period (circa 1825 – 1900) saw an increase in nationalism and exoticism in the arts, as well as the themes of unrestrained passion, unrequited love, redemption and flights of fancy.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to and playing Romantic music. It is so easy to get caught up in the swelling melody that gathers speed and volume until it reaches its climax. I love the strurm und drang and rubato, which exemplify turbulent emotions. After the storm, there’s always a moment (or several), in which we are teased. We think we’re at the end of the song, but the composer sends us off into another direction. Then, there’s the penultimate chord. Musicians are taught to push to it and then savour the dissonance. Make the audience crave the resolution.

Frederic Chopin captured the nationalistic flair of his native Poland along with tender and searing melodies. Franz Lizst gave us fiery and brilliant passages that amazed audiences. Johannes Brahms showed us the angst-ridden and frustrated side of romance. You can learn about the music of these Romantic composers and many more at these sites:


© 2006, Musespeak™, Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Friday Fun Link #6

I stumbled upon A Passion for Jazz when I was searching for a good “How to use a Fake Book” recourse. There is a concise history of jazz as well as handy “cheat sheets”. The chord chart is extremely helpful! Here’s the site:


© Musespeak, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. All rights reserved.