Category Archives: Music

A.I. Duet

Today’s Frivolous Friday post is in honor of my colleague, Angela Leonhardt, who is a music educator extraordinaire.  She just made it to the finals for our district’s Teacher of the Year.  That honor and many more are well-deserved by this wonderful teacher, who enriches our community with her dedication.  If I had any music composition skills, I would play her a magnificent fanfare with this A.I. Duet experiment from Google.  Unfortunately, even A.I. can’t mask my ineptitude, but I’m sure that someone with Angela’s talent can find a way to make beautiful music with this fun tool.

H/T to Mental Floss for sharing A.I. Duet with its readers.

withoutmusic
image from Raphael Love on Flickr

 

Advertisements

Formative Assessment with Music Lyrics

Even though I really enjoy hearing the conversations that go on when my students do a Hexagonal Learning activity, my students will tell you that the playlist assessment is actually their favorite when it comes to demonstrating their understanding of a novel.  According to them, they enjoy being able to work independently on this assignment, and to really “dig deep” (their words) into the meaning of lyrics as well as the novels we are analyzing.  

Here’s how our playlist assignments work:  I give the students 5 songs to listen to, in addition to the lyrics from each of the songs.  The students are told to choose one song that they think represents the book the best – in other words, if the book were turned into a movie, this song would be a great theme song.  Then they must justify their answers using at least three different lyrics with at least three different examples from the book.  

A couple of notes: 1.) I like to give students choice, so the first couple of years I did this activity, I asked them to bring in their own ideas for songs.  They never did.  I still offer the option to request a song be added, but the students rarely suggest one.  They seem happier with the ones I recommend.  2.) If you choose to do this activity, you will need to “vet” the best way for the students to access the songs.  Podsnack is a nice site for creating playlists, but won’t play when my students log in.  YouTube lyrics videos work for us, using SafeShare, as long as I have approved the videos beforehand.  Another option is to create a station where students can listen to the songs downloaded on an iPad or iPod.

I’ve done this activity with groups of different sizes, and the silence is eerie when everyone puts  on their headphones and get started.  The students are intensely focused on the assignment.  Some take notes on scratch paper before choosing a song.  Others page through their novels as they listen.  I almost feel useless as the students work because they are so incredibly engaged that there is no need for redirection.  Instead, I periodically give them feedback in Google Classroom to encourage them or remark on their interesting ideas.

My 4th graders do this activity with Tuck Everlasting.  My 5th graders do it with The Giver.  I asked my 5th graders this time if I could share a couple of their responses with you, and they agreed.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-2-52-48-pm

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-2-51-44-pm

If you are interested in using The Giver Playlist Assignment, here is a link to make a copy.  Within that document is a link to the Exemplars that I used with my students to show them the different levels of responses.

I should probably warn you that, once the students do this assignment, they may request to listen to the music while doing other assignments as well.  Some of them get very attached to the songs!

Musicmap

Musicmap is an incredible interactive website project by Kwinten Crauwels, which endeavors to offer an  encyclopedic collection of music genres and their histories.  When you first visit the site, you will probably be familiar with most of the titles on the home page.  Click on any type of music, however, and you will be able to access many genres that, if they ever crossed the thresh-hold of your eardrums, you would be hard-pressed to identify their names.

Pop music, for example, offered up “Brill Building” and “Shoegaze,” two genres that sound more like commercials for men’s products to me than musical categories.  In case I had any doubt these existed, though, all I had to do was click on either one to get a definition, time context, and a suggested playlist of examples.

I can’t attest to the accuracy or reliability of Musicmap, but I certainly can recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of music and in learning more about its extensive diversity.

Pop Genres, according to Musicmap
Pop Genres, according to Musicmap

 

 

Gifts for the Gifted – Compose Yourself

Thinkfun periodically sends products to me for review. When Compose Yourself arrived on my doorstep, I knew that I should find someone with a musical background to give it a test drive.  Our school music teacher, who is also the President-Elect for the Texas Music Educator’s conference, volunteered to try out the game with her class.  Here is Angela Leonhardt’s review.

image from Thinkfun
image from Thinkfun

“I was recently asked by our GT teacher to test out this music-based game from Thinkfun.  What fun my students and I had being the testers!  Although we were using this in our music classroom, anyone who loves music would enjoy this activity.  With 60 different music cards the possibilities for musical enjoyment are almost endless.

How it works:  Once you have signed into the Thinkfun Compose Yourself website and entered the “make music” code provided with the cards you are set to start composing your own music. Each card has a 4 digit number code that you enter.  You can enter up-to 16 cards in your composition. Once you are done you can hear your composition played by a professional marimba player, orchestra or both. 

Here are some highlights from Compose Yourself we found:

  • Very easy to use.  Students in 1st – 5th grade easily used the website and cards with minimal instruction from me.
  • All of the students enjoyed the music making experience and were disappointed when our time was done. A good sign in my book.
  • The students were very excited to hear their finished products.  One group of students wanted to continue the experiment and see what it would sound like if they all played at the same time.  
Compose Yourself 5th Graders
5th Graders using Compose Yourself
  • Price: Reasonable for both teachers and families.
  • We loved the ‘Clear Composition’ feature at the bottom of the screen to quickly set up a new composition.
  • Of course the Free Set-Up of your account is also a big plus. I set up one teacher account for all of my students to use.
  • Bonus:  You can download the mp3 of your composition and the printed melody line.

For those music educators out there who are wondering how this relates to your classroom instruction and standards, never fear.  My initial purpose was to have students ‘play’ with the ideas.  As an Orff Schulwerk teacher the act of play is where the learning begins for me.  I gave my students a quick overview of how to enter the card codes and told them to play, see what happens. What happens if you flip a card or move it to a different place in the score?  They LOVED hearing their compositions in an orchestral setting.  It was very satisfying to them.  With our second experience I provided more structure to their play by turning this into a lesson on musical form and elemental structures. What started as play turned into learning through play. I can also see future lessons on melodic contour using Compose Yourself.  I don’t see my class using this as a ‘notation reading’ lesson at this point.  I could separate out the cards within their reading ability but I think there are other ways to practice this skill.  I’m not a fan of the ‘lollipop’ notes as we call them in my classroom but I’m sure there was a technical reason why the programmers printed the notation this way.  This is a small minus for an overall great program and experience for my students.

My students have been satisfied with the instrument choices because they’ve never heard their ideas in a full orchestral setting.  The website talks about adding more instrumental choices in the future, which would be a bonus but not necessarily an essential in my book.”

 

1st Grader using Compose Yourself
1st Grader using Compose Yourself

For more recommendation in the Gifts for the Gifted series from this year and past years, check out this page.

gifts

Typatone

Typatone comes from the makers of Patatap.  In the latter, you are basically able to create visual fireworks by typing on a keyboard, as each key corresponds to a shape and sound.  Typatone is similar, but it allows you to create music with a sentence.

The website is free to use.  There is an app available for .99, but I think free works pretty well for me;)

How can you use this in class?  We discuss synesthesia in my 4th grade GT class, so Typatone can definitely augment that discussion. Also, I think the students would enjoy writing poetry or sentences with figurative language to see how they sound.  How about a spelling test?  Allow students to listen to the sounds of different letters, and then have them guess what word you just spelled.  Music teachers can probably think of a few applications also.

Creations can be shared through e-mail or embedding (although the embedding option apparently does not work in this blog).  You can click here to listen to the short tune I composed.

Typatone

Jurassic Park

Despite some of the controversy surrounding the release of Jurassic World, the Phun Phriday post for this week honors the music from the original movie with interesting covers by The Piano Guys and The Warp Zone with Peter Hollens.

Click here to go to an A Capella cover from The Warp Zone and Peter Hollens as featured on Laughing Squid.

View the video here.
The Warp Zone and Peter Hollens cover Jurassic Park theme. View the video here.

Here is a slightly more poignant version from The Piano Guys.

I Want You Bach

I found today’s Phun Phriday post while I was browsing through Flipboard.

image from "I Want You Bach" by The Piano Guys
image from “I Want You Bach” by The Piano Guys

The Piano Guys have arranged a brilliant composition that combines Bach and “I Want You Back” from the Jackson 5. Here is part of the summary you will find on their YouTube description of the video:

“What if the harpsichord from the 1770s hit headlong into the talk box from 1970s? What if J.S. Bach and Jackson 5 met up and just jammed? Would they jive? Can you dig it? These are the kind of far out questions we asked ourselves as we laid down these licks and cut this film. We decided to put together a gig with two wigs in dandy attire and two hep-cats in some funkadelic threads to see if it would fly. (Incidentally, Steve’s 1770/1970 alter egos are “Sir Reginald von Sharp” and “Scooby” while Jon’s are “Duke Johann van Keymeister” and “Phil.”)

Presenting… “I Want You Bach” – Jackson 5’s funky “I Want You Back” mashed-up with 5 illustrious themes written by J.S. Bach.”

Hmm.  What do you think might be next? Bach in Black, Bach in the Saddle, The Boys are Bach in Town, Bach in Time…