Issue 144: BBC Ten Pieces; Mars

I’ve just finished the second of two lessons based on Gustav Holst’s “Mars” from “The Planets”. It was particularly appropriate as it was composed between 1914 and 1916, so fits in with the World war 1 topic.

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http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Atmosphere_of_Mars

If you haven’t seen the BBC Ten Pieces video, you can get hold of it on BBC iplayer at the moment; Mars is the first piece of the ten.

These were classroom-based lessons, with children being removed and returned for rehearsals for the Christmas Show, so I decided to have a pretty much free-format couple of lessons. In the first one, we watched mars (again – we had already seen it) and also a graphic score version that’s on youtube. The graphic score instruments are synthesized, so we were able to discuss the difference in tone quality amongst other things.

After watching both videos, and talking about how the music made us feel, and what we thought, and what we saw and heard, I handed out paper and pencils and set the to producing some kind of response – words, sentences, pictures, stories – I gave them free rein. It made interesting reading for me afterwards; and their usual class teacher was quite taken aback, especially by the amount of writing some “non-writers” had produced. For the second, equally disrupted lesson, I let them continue with their writing/drawing, or start again, or work in groups to turn their written work into music using a limited number of percussion instruments.

I shall do this again with another of the pieces next week (rehearsals are still in progress!)

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