Carmen's Composition

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Life of a Happy Music Teacher

This is the goal: to be put out of a job.  These guys did it!  After learning the song Leatherwing Bat, these amazing second graders of mine spent time coming up with several options for a bordun pattern on the xylophone that would 1) fit within a 4/4 meter, 2) use a half note, and use the two pitches E and B.  They shared all of their solutions and chose one that felt and sounded natural when they played it.  Then, using the notes EGAB, they explored many options of rhythmic patterns that would be a nice compliment to the bordun.  After thorough discussion and many shared opinions about which type of instrument (metal or wood) should play each part and WHY, they made up their mind.  The metals are playing EGAB because the ring sounds cool and represents a bat flying up.  The woods are playing the bordun, which is nice and percussive.  Many students took turns being the director whose job was to start the ensemble by "counting off" to the appropriate meter.  They decided how many times to play before singing.  
Music class is not just about "singing songs" and "having fun".  Of course, we do those things!  We KNOW how to have fun.  But we are going deep, and we want a beautiful blend of skill, knowledge, creativity, and independent dependence ("I'll take care of my part, but WE bring the music to life).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Brave, Bright Start to 2017-2018!

Some of Clow's fourth graders volunteer to sing portions of "Yonder Come Day" for the camera!  We are talking about the importance of a safe, supportive environment in our music room where everyone is encouraged to take risks.  Taking risks is the only way to grow was a musician, and these kids are off to a GREAT start!


Friday, February 3, 2017


Our first graders at Clow and Fry have been busy composing their own melody using three notes- "SOL", "LA", AND "MI"!  We notated each child's melody into an amazing program called Noteflight during class (and a student created the drum beat!).  All students helped label the "solfege" syllables, which is a system we use to help students understand the relationships between musical pitches.  This is a clip of 1BK singing 1MK's song for the FIRST time!  The goal: perseverance and learning how to follow/sing a three note melody.  For the first time, I was proud of them for their perseverance.  These guys are reading music better than I could at their age!

He's Not Going to Let ANYONE Turn Him Around!

There is nothing I'd rather be doing right now than what I'm doing.  I have the fine privilege of introducing students to the world through the lens of music, AND I get to show them how they can change it through music.  Music class is not just about singing songs or playing instruments- it's about connecting musical elements to the people and cultures they originated from to gain a better understanding of the WHY's of music.  WHY was "Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" so powerful during the mid 1900's?  It's simple form, catchy melodic and rhythm patterns, and powerful words made it accessible and singable to everyone during a very hard time in our counrty.  WHY is it in a minor key?  The minor key perfectly shows the atmosphere, emotions, and the hardships of the people singing it.  WHY is improvisation significant to this genre of music (listen to the singers improvise in the second video at minute 2:55)?  Because folk music, regardless of it's origin, is the PEOPLE's music.  It's expressive.  It's accessible.  It's leaves room for the voice of the average person to take part of the experience.  It's casual character leaves room for the unplanned, spontaneous creation of music.  Listen to Clow's 5th grader Mathis use his newly learned A minor scale to express himself in "Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around".  Improvisation is composition in real-time.  There is no correcting "mistakes".  It requires boldness and courage- so way to go, Mathis!

Mathis' Improvisation Using an A Minor Scale

"Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around"

Compare: Major Key vs. Minor Key.  #justnotthesamefeel

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Sweet Josephine"

Many of you have asked to be able to hear "Sweet Josephine", my new song for our little baby girl!  So, I am sharing it with you here!  CLICK-> SWEET JOSEPHINE

Here is a listening guide as well :)  Remember what we discussed: songwriting is made much easier and more successful when their is a clear FORM.  Form is simply how each SECTION flows from one to the other.  Starting in kindergarten, we've been learning about A and B sections.  In 4th Grade, we add the C section when we talk about Rondo form.  Look at the layout of sections for "Sweet Josephine"!

A Intro (guitar)
A Verse 1 (+Mr. Henry's voice)
A Interlude (+piano)
A Verse 2 (+Josephine's heartbeat)
B Chorus
A Verse 3 (+Djembe, +Cello, +Viola)
B Chorus x2 (+French Horn)
C Bridge (+Bass Drum, +Cymbals, +World Percussion, +Vocal Harmony, +Violin, +Trombone)
B Chorus (+Gong)
B Chorus Instrumental (+Glockenspiel)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ready, Set, COMPOSE!

It was the first three minutes of class.
The kids hurried to an instrument, 
and I spoke this rhythm:

             Du  ta  de  ta  Du    Du   de    Du

I then said, "Make it into a melody 
using the C Major Scale"
A minute later, this is what they came up with.  
Hot Diggity Dawg, these kids ROCK!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Art of Composition

Composition is the art of improvising in slow motion.  However, improvisation often doesn't lend itself to reflective thought and modification of the musical idea one produces.  Composition, on the other hand, is an intensely reflective process which often incorporates much modification.  For both, we use the musical knowledge we have to create new musical thoughts.  Here are some clips of Fry third graders performing their "Question-Answer" composition.  Students built their own F pentatonic scale on the instruments and used it as a basis for composition.  We learned how to structure the phrases to give it the question-answer sound.  Notice the alternating feel with the phrases: the first phrase sounds more like a comma, while the second phrase sounds like a firm period.  It takes crafting to making sensible musical phrases!  Way to go, third graders!

Soham and Ishaan 3GP

Natalie and Shria 3GP

Sahana and Jayna 3Y

Isaiah and Tadhg 3Y

Madison and "Crazy K" Kennedy 3Y

Kyle and Jaden 3Y