Sunday, September 28, 2008

Middle School Monkeys

The first-year music rotation students were so interested in the Balinese Kecak (see video in previous entry) that I found some resources to help us create our own monkey chant. We read an abbreviated version of the story from the Ramayana that is depicted in the Kecak, then tried out a variety of vocal parts to creating our own interlocking monkey rhythm. To try our hand at some gamelan-style playing, we then transferred our parts to percussion instruments.

We also created a Monkey Chant in our World Music class, as part of our study of the gamelan. Check out some of our jams!

First-year Monkey Chant

First-year Monkey Jam on instruments

World Music Monkey Jam on instruments (same rhythms, very different sound!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rhythm in MS First-year Music Rotation

First-year music rotation has been all about rhythm this week and last. We collaborated to form complex rhythms in drum circles and a "vocal drum circle," created our own rhythm instruments out of found objects, learned to read and write some basic rhythmic notation, played rhythm games, and learned some lopsided Dave Brubeck rhythms.

Yesterday, I showed the class parts of three videos from YouTube showing some rhythmic traditions of Asia. The students asked me to post them to the blog so they could watch the whole thing and share them with their families. They really are fascinating!

The first is excerpts from the Malaysian World Drum Festival of 2008. This one caught my attention because my husband Jos just returned from a trip to Malaysia. There are unfortunately no captions describing the different groups, but you will see an incredible variety of percussive performances!

Here is an example of a Balinese gamelan, known as gamelan gong kebyar. Gamelan is a primary form of Indonesian traditional music. The gamelan consists of many instruments always played as an ensemble. Traditionally, the gamelan is sacred and may house spirits. Gamelan gong kebyar is performed on gamelans of primarily metal instruments, and is characterized by rapidly changing tempo (speed) and dynamics (volume).

Finally, an impressive performance of the Gamelan Kecak, or Ramayana Monkey Chant. This is a vocal gamelan tradition from Bali that is based on stories from the Ramayana. There are no instruments used--just voices!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Canoe Song!

This week, I've been (re)introducing all the LS classes to the Orff instruments. We start with just a few bars on the instruments, and gradually add more notes as the year goes on. Today, my Forest 1 group had four different instrument parts going while singing a three-part round! It was so exciting that I pulled out my laptop and made a Garageband recording, which you can listen to here.

The song is "Canoe Song," sometimes called "Land of the Silver Birch." Here are the words:

My paddle's keen and bright
Flashing with silver.
Follow the wild goose flight
Dip, dip, and swing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

School philosophy song

Here is the song we sang at LS all-school settling in this morning. I wrote it to help lower schoolers understand and remember the main points of the CFS philosophy, which can be found here in its entirety. It also represents my first venture into songwriting since college... thanks for the inspiration, CFS staff retreat!

Silence, peace, simplicity,These are the things that we believe.
Equals in spirit, each one of a kind,
We search for the truth as Friends in the light.

Silence is golden, or so they say
Well, we use our silence every day
We use it to center, to settle, to calm
To help us feel peaceful and get along.

Spirituality of Life
All life is precious on this, our green earth
We all share seasons of life, death, and birth
Despite all our differences, this we believe:
The light within you is the light within me


If all life is sacred, it's easy to see
That if I hurt you, it also hurts me.
We can end war, if we start right inside
Be kind to ourselves, and let love be our guide.

The things that we own can get in the way
Of friendship and truthfulness, learning, and play.
So when we have gifts, it's better to share.
Just look in your heart--your true wealth is there.


Each one of us has our very own way
Of seeing the world, of living our days
But we come together in one community
To learn from each other in sweet harmony

Truth Continually Revealing Itself
Truth can be found wherever we look,
Sometimes in nature, in friends, or in books.
Some find it in dancing, in music, in art--
And within ourselves, if we search in our hearts.

Here are the chords. If you are a LS parent or staff, your kids should be able to sing you the melody!

D Em
A7 D

D Em7
Em D A7 D

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Welcome to school!

I hope everyone's had a great start to the school year! It has been a little overwhelming having my first new school year in two units at once (not to mention my own daughter starting Early School)... but it really helped that LS specials and MS electives didn't start until week two. I was able to hop around both units during the first week of school and get to know everyone a little better. A big surprise for me was that in the Lower School, I'm now part of Forest class! Fortunately, long-time Forest teachers Michael and Amanda are there to help Lisa and me learn the ropes. In the Middle School, I especially enjoyed our day at Camp New Hope. The day included a beautiful Meeting for Worship in which the first-years, most of whom I know from last year in the LS, were matched up with their new fourth-year mentors.

This past week saw the start of music classes in both units. Here are some highlights of our week:

In the Lower School, we had fun echoing each others' silly rhythms, played name games, and decorated name sticks that we'll use throughout the year for a number of activities. We also learned the chorus of a song that distills each of the six points of the CFS philosophy into easy-to-remember words. I've put the words to that song below, in case you'd like to try it at home (or use it as a cheat sheet when anyone asks you what makes CFS so special)!

Forest and Mountain classes learned about the connection between rhythm, focus, and tossing beanbags. We took the first steps toward a major project for the year... learning to juggle! Doesn't sound very musical? More on that in an upcoming post...

My biggest project in preparation for my first year in the Middle School was to clean and organize the Music House. Though some of that was less than pleasant, it was well worth the effort to uncover all kinds of goodies from music teachers past! Thanks to all the teachers and students who offered help--especially the students who signed up for the Theater Improv Games playshop, only to find that our first game was moving large cardboard boxes to the recycling dumpsters in the style of criminals running from the law.

It's great to see all familiar faces in this trimester's First Year Music Rotation. This week, we discussed the definition of music (not as simple as it might seem!), listened to a variety of music from other cultures, started learning to juggle (with the lofty goal of 3 balls by November), learned a silly round (see below), and had our first drum circle.

Chamber Choir is an advanced choir, an audition-only follow-up to Matthew and Ida's wonderful Middle School Chorus last Spring. Auditions were held during the first week, and we have eight wonderful singers. This week, we went through some possible repertoire and started learning two songs--"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and a beautiful a capella arrangement of "How Can I Keep From Singing." On request from our singers, they'll be receiving audio recordings of their parts to help practice at home. 3- and 4-part harmony is challenging stuff!

Finally, Worlds of Music is my 7th period introduction to world music. Music of other cultures is a real passion of mine, so I am very excited to be teaching this class! In our first meeting, we recorded our personal reactions and observations of ten completely different pieces of music from ten cultures, then learned how a person from that culture might experience the music. Then we came up with a definition of music that can transcend cultures. I am pleased to report that we will be able to start our big project--creating a world music wiki--next week in the library computer lab!

Now the words to the two songs mentioned above:
Round to the tune of the famous Tallis Canon, used by MS 1st-year rotation. The words are supposedly based on an actual gravestone:
Here lie the bones of lazy Fred, who wasted precious time in bed.
Some plaster fell upon his head and Lord be praised our Freddie's dead!

And, the chorus to the song the LS learned this week:
Silence, peace, simplicity
These are the things that we believe
Equal in spirit, each one of a kind
We search for the truth as Friends in the light.