140: More on Beethoven’s Fifth

I think that the important thing that I need to remember is that year 5 and year 6 children are exactly that – children. Some of them are probably still only 9 years old.

I reckon that is my number one error when planning these lessons to do with composing music based on elements from this great Symphony.

What I was aiming for was to get the children to combine a melodic pattern and a rhythmic call-and-response pattern, in the way that they had just seen and heard in the first part of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

I told them what to do, I showed them what to do, I attempted to divide them into sensible combinations of children, started handing out the instruments, and then

well, I choose a description from any of these and it would be close to what happened next;

  • hive of activity
  • enthusiastic musical exploration
  • pandemonium
  • chaos

It was not helped by being confined to the classroom, due to a timetable melt-down. In the end I sent three groups into the corridor outside, leaving far too many still in the class room. Would you believe that 7 sets of chime bars, 7 shakers and 7 tambourines could be so deafening.

I could see a sort of emergence of what I had hoped would happen beginning to take some kind of vague and shadowy structure as I went from one end of the class to the bottom end of the corridor checking that everyone was OK, and nothing too dodgy was happening.

At the end of the lesson, I called everyone back into class, sat everyone down quietly, and invited a couple of groups to play what they had composed so far.

Sheer magic. Out of the terrible cacophony, each of the two groups, working together, produced more or less exactly what I had been asking for. How on earth did that happen?

I’ll tell you something else. A number of the children have come to me after the lesson to get the name of the music we have been listening to and ask where they can buy it. “Is it on I-tunes?” I call that a Result.

Flying birds divider


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