Saturday, October 10, 2009

The first month of school--Middle School

Actually, it's the first 6 weeks of school... we are already halfway through the first trimester! Here are some highlights from my three Middle School electives this trimester.

First Year Music Rotation–This class is required of all MS first-years, and it serves as a bridge between the LS and MS music programs. With just ten or eleven students each trimester, it's a great opportunity for individual attention to students' interests as we explore the world of music through a variety of projects. We started the trimester by listening to a list of ten "mystery songs" from around the world. We discussed how our cultural background colored our own experience of the songs, then learned a little about how the songs would be perceived in their own culture–often polar opposites! Favorites included Tuvan throat singing, the Bulgarian Women's Choir, and the Drummers of Burundi. We then had a lively debate about how to create a universal definition of music. It was not an easy task, and in the end, the only thing everyone completely agreed upon was that music required sound waves! We went on to study rhythm through some drumming experiences of our own. Our first project was to create musical instruments out of found objects. Each student created two instruments, an idiophone and a second instrument that could be a chordophone, membranophone, or aerophone. Most recently we have been studying melody and harmony through our classroom xylophones. On Monday, students will be sharing their original compositions which show off the techniques we've been working on.

A Cappella Choir–Sixth period is the Middle School's first genuine a cappella choir! 15 girls and 1 very enthusiastic boy make up this sweet-sounding group. Creating three- and four-part harmony is a challenge at any age, and these tweens and teens are really rising to it. So far, we've learned an arrangement of "Hey Jude" and we're working on "Blackbird" and the ever-popular "Under the Sea," as well as some beautiful rounds. Stay tuned for a recording!

GarageBand–Another first in the Middle School, in the GarageBand elective we are going past the basics of dragging and dropping loops and learning to use GarageBand as a real tool for creative composition. After an exploration of the many features of this versatile program, we've started exploring style and genre through short projects. So far, students have composed the calm opening music for an imaginary show on yoga and meditation, and a soundtrack for a one-minute clip of an exciting soccer game. Now we're making our own real videos and experimenting with how our music can color, or even completely change, the emotional impact of a scene. You can listen to some of our completed projects at our wiki.
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