Tag Archives: year 8

Pachelbel’s chords

Year 8 have been composing over a chord sequence using the eight chord pattern from Pachelbel’s Canon. Inspired by this and by a very different hip-hop/fusion rendition of the piece, they have made their own versions, each of which is really individual in its approach. One group, performing their piece live, discovered that they could put the melody from ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ over Pachelbel’s chord pattern. Here are a few examples of their work to listen to:

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Workshop with cellist and composer Aaron Minsky

Years 7 and 8 were treated to a workshop with the American cellist and composer Aaron Minsky. He started out as a rock guitarist before seriously studying the cello from his mid teens. His unusual playing style combines rock guitar techniques with traditional classical cello playing as you will see in the video clip below. Many of his compositions also combine both classical and popular music with the aim of making what is usually viewed as a classical instrument more accessible and versatile.

All about Texture

Year 8 have been focusing on the musical element of texture and the effect changing textures can have on a piece of music. Whilst general descriptive words can be used to talk about texture in music such as ‘sparse’, or ‘full’, there are some technical terms which are useful to know and understand so students have been getting to grips with monophonic (a single line), homophonic (chordal, blocks of sound) and polyphonic (interweaving melody lines) textures. They put their knowledge and understanding into practice by devising a composition that includes all three types of texture.
Here are some of their pieces:

Shaping music

So far this term Year 8 have been looking at the concept of structure in music and how composers of all genres and styles give a shape to their work. We have focused most recently on ternary form, otherwise known as ABA form, where there is a middle section which provides a contrast with the outer A sections. Most memorably for Year 8 ternary form can be likened to a jammy dodger biscuit with its contrasting filling sandwiched between two biscuits and of course, in the name of hands on learning, we had to sample a few of these just to be sure!
Here is piece in ternary form which two students composed and performed live to the class:

Ode to Joy

What makes a good melody? This is a question Year 8 have been trying to answer by looking at a range of different, well known melodies, including the theme tune from The Apprentice (otherwise known as ‘Dance of the Knights’ by Prokofiev). The students teased out the musical features of this melody as well as the theme from Swan Lake and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, by analysing the rhythm, movement by step or by leap, use of repetition and overall structure. After watching an excellent flashmob performance of this in Sabadell plaza, Catalonia, they all learnt to play the Ode to Joy melody.

You can watch the fruits of their labour below (and it’s worth knowing that only two of the students performing in this short clip are having formal piano lessons):

Ternary form and jammy dodgers

What is the connection between a musical structure called ternary form and a jammy dodger? Well, the latter is made up of a crunchy biscuit, a layer of sticky jam, followed by another crunchy biscuit and this three-part structure with a contrasting middle section is exactly what ternary form is all about – A B A. Whilst the jammy dodger is clearly an entity, a whole biscuit which needs each of the three parts to make it the way it is, it can be more of a challenge to achieve this musically, making sure that the three sections of a ternary form composition do actually hang together as a whole.
Year 8 rose to the challenge admirably and you can listen to a couple of their ternary form compositions below:

Dance Audition

Years 7 and 8 who had signed up were put through their paces at lunchtime today in the dance audition for The Witches. The audition was led by our two Year 10 dancers who choreographed it and taught the younger students their steps. We were impressed by our Year 10s, whose expertise we will definitely be needing to choreograph a dance scene in The Witches, and by how quickly the Year 7 and 8s learned the steps from scratch in a matter of minutes.

You can watch an extract from the audition below:

Composing in Layers

Year 8 have been looking at the nuts and bolts of how to put together a piece of music. Broadly speaking, most music, particularly pop music, can be thought of in layers:

top floor – melody

1st floor – harmony/chord pattern

ground floor – bass line

foundation – rhythm section

The challenge for Year 8 was to compose a piece of music with all these layers and to think carefully about the shape and structure of their piece too. Below are a couple of examples – work in progress but a few more tweaks and they will be finished:

Steel Pan Workshop

Year 8 had a fantastic time at Homerton learning how to play the steel pans. They first enjoyed a demo from the college steel band, ‘Absolute Pandemium’ and you can watch a clip here:

They were then put through their paces by the band’s dynamic teacher, Jane. They had to learn everything by rote, manage syncopated rhythms and navigate the pans with what seems to us their random ordering of notes.

Those below are newly manufactured pans but the original ones were made out of old oil drums and cut off in different lengths to give tenor, guitar, cello and bass pans.

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You can watch Year 8 in action below:

Here are a few shots of them, deep in concentration:

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