May 1-4, 2012; Aaron Copland


Once again it’s been a one-lesson-plan-fits-all kind of week.  It makes for easy lesson planning, but boy, am I tired of it and happy to move on by the end of the week.  This week I caught everyone up on our composer for the last quarter: Aaron Copland. After warming up and reviewing the Star Spangled Banner, (last week’s lesson), we begin our study of Aaron Copland with an animation. After viewing the video I asked the students a series of questions to solidify any information they may have acquired.  As it turned out, they were paying attention and able to answer most of my questions.  I have to say, I like very much.  I enjoy creating the animations, and they really hold the students’ attention. If you’ve watched the animation and can think of any questions I should have asked, please comment. Questions 1. ” Who is this?”  I ask this while pointing to my animated Bach.  The video is paused and all of the characters are visible on the screen.  The students identify Bach, Tchaikovsky, Haydn and Copland in succession.  It’s a quick way of reminding them who we’ve studied through the year.  We didn’t study Michael Jackson….I just threw him in there because a couple of students created him for their own animation, and I knew he’d be a hit. 2.  “Where is Aaron Copland from?  (America). 3.  “When did he live and compose?”  (The 20th century, also known as the 1900’s). 4.”Copland was born in 1900 and died in 1990.  How long did he live? ”  (Even the first graders can figure that one out). 5.  “For what does one receive an Academy Award?”  (Some facet of movie making; best actor, best director etc.  In his case, best musical score). 6.  “What did Aaron Copland do with his Oscar?”  (Used it as a doorstop.  This generated some discussion about humility, and never being too impressed with yourself.  My favorite Copland quote is “Nobody is a nobody.”) 7.  “What can you tell me about Aaron Copland’s music?”  (A lot of it was based on American folk tunes, he wrote some ballets and he wrote the music for two movies). Since my animated Aaron Copland suggested that we learn to sing “Simple Gifts, that was our next step. This is a Shaker song, but since we live not too far from Amish country I explained the Shakers by comparing them to the Amish.  Although the two denominations are quite different, both adopted a simple lifestyle. I taught it by rote, phrase by phrase.  By the way, there’s a nice little Orff arrangement of this in MusicK-8 vol. 1 #4. There was also a lot of information about Copland in that issue. ‘Tis a gift to be simple.  ‘Tis a gift to be free. “Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight. When true simplicity is gained to bow and to bend we shant be ashamed.  To turn, turn will be our delight ’til by turning, turning we come ’round right. Once the students learned the song we listened to Appalachian Spring.  This is a great piece for studying Theme and Variation.  I told the students that they would hear “Simple Gifts” played by a clarinet.  (Theme).  Then they would hear it four more times, but each time something would have changed. (Change is a basic meaning for variation).  I gold them when each variation began.  Their job was to figure out what changed. Theme – Clarinet Variation #1 – played by an oboe in a different key. Variation #2 – played by strings in canon at a slower tempo. Variation #3 – played by brass at a faster tempo. Variation #4 – played by the whole orchestra at a slow tempo. Actually, I’m not sure whether augmenting and diminishing the rhythm is constitutes a tempo change or not, but that’s what it sounds like to them.  They actually are able to hear all of the above and we summed it up like this: There are changes in instrumentation, tempo, dynamics and pitch. (Key changes). We listened to it one more time, and this time I verbally labeled everything that was happening. Next week we will review “Simple Gifts” and then play a game that I have on my iPad called “iPuzzle Songs”.  The app rearranges the phrases of various pieces of music and the students have to put them back into the correct order.  “Simple Gifts” just happens to be one of the songs in the game.  More about that next time. Thanks for reading!  :0)

Jane Rivera, May 4, 2012, All Rights Reserved


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