During our music time last week, Miss Ann, the music specialist, gave Salón Morado – the Purple Room – a few sheets of blank music staves to take back to the classroom. As we walked back to the classroom, we wondered how the whole class use the three sheets of music.
“We can all write on it!”
“Maybe we could each use one line. Then everyone can do it.”
As we ate snack, we considered how we could make the sheets last longer than one song, so to speak. We scanned around the room and saw some “gems” we had been using recently. The teacher set up a provocation by putting the three music papers on a table with the gems and stood back.
Three of the students instantly sat down. Without consulting each other, they all began to place the pieces on the staves like musical notes.
A teacher asked, “Wow, look at the music you’re writing! What does it sound like?” The student considered his notes and began “dum dumming” out the Nutcracker piece they have been hearing in music class.
Another student had placed some small gems as well as some larger ones. The teacher asked her if they meant something different. “These are the loud ones,” she said, pointing to the larger pieces. A third student agreed that the small pieces were quiet and the large ones were loud.
Later that day, more students sat down at a music sheet and began placing gems on the page. In one composition, the large gems were percussive. “These are the drums. Cht cht cht! And this is the guitar.” [points to small gems] “Doo, doo, da, doo! Oh! And this is the piano,” he added, pointing to a large green piece. Each staff on the sheet was a different song. He named them The Blood of the Mummy, The Lion Roars, and The Fireworks Come.
Those who created something on the music understood that this was a representation of sound. They didn’t necessarily know what each line and space meant, but they did see that the gems held meaning. To encourage this line of thought, we made a giant music staff that the gems fit neatly onto. We also added small xylophones to the mix as well. Of course, the instruments became the new focus right away, but after the novelty had worn off the kids began experimenting with the gems and music again.
Together, two students created a long string of notes.
Teacher: “Whoa! That’s a lot of notes!”
Student: “I’m making a really long song! A fast song—really, really fast. A hundred fast,”
Teacher: “Do you know what it sounds like?”
Student: “Yes,” playing a quick succession of notes on the xylophone.
Dynamics, speed, instrumentation. So far, these are all musical concepts that the children in Salón Morado have taken from music class and life and have put onto paper. It seems that understanding the notes rather than the staves was the place to start. Next, we hope to talk more with them about how putting notes (or gems) on top of each other tells us multiple notes are played at the same time. Then we might explore how the placement of each note translates into different pitches and how moving a note (or gem) up and down on the staff tells us to change the sound in our heads. We’ll just have to see where the music takes us!