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:
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):
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:
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:
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:
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.
You can watch Year 8 in action below:
Here are a few shots of them, deep in concentration:
Music and Literature joined forces in the final composition assignment of the term for Year 8. Their brief – to compose a piece of music inspired by an extract from Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. The extract began: ‘It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs’. Frankenstein is captivated by the beauty of his creation’s hair and teeth but utterly repulsed by his ‘shrivelled complexion and straight black lips’. The scene reaches a climax when the monster appears in the scientist’s bedchamber and Frankenstein consequently flees in horror.
Here are a couple of their compositions:
Year 8 are in the thick of investigating programme music – music inspired by non musical things such as art, poetry, stories, history, personal life. They have begun by looking at music inspired by the weather, in particular, storms and have listened a range of different musical examples, including the storm movement from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. After some careful planning, they set about creating their own storm pieces using the wonderful array of sounds and loops available on GarageBand. Here are a few examples of their pieces:
Year 8 have been experimenting with GarageBand up in our Mac Suite using MIDI keyboards. They loved the composing possibilities opened up by technology – the loops, the different sounds, the editing and tweaking and the sheer freedom of composing no longer having to be tied to how good your skills are on a musical instrument.
Here’s a taste of what they have done so far:
Year 8 are learning about contrasts in music and got their heads around a full score of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony (well, part of it anyway). For those of you who may be wondering why it is called ‘unfinished’, the work has only two movements rather than the usual four but musicologists are still debating as to why Schubert appeared to abandon it, just leaving a few sketches for the third movement. After identifying features of the melody, accompaniment, dynamics, instrumentation and texture, the students created their own graphic representations of the score. Here are some examples of their work: