Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Music at the Feast and the Beauty of Attaining, Part I


For the next few weeks, I want to talk about one of the richest parts of the Feast -- MUSIC! Composer Study and solfa and sight-singing and music lessons and hymns and folk songs. It's the cannoli at the end of a lovely meal, the sweetness that tops off everything else. It will take several weeks to cover this topic because it's my favorite! Maybe we'll do a study together here, although online composer study isn't exactly what Miss Mason had in mind! This week, I may step on a few toes because I'm going to start by telling you what composer study is not. And if you follow any Charlotte Mason blogs, you may have heard these things called Charlotte Mason before. All I can say to that is "Nope!"

1) It's not a Unit Study.

Composer Study is not a unit study, so please don't download anyone's "unit" on composers, complete with worksheets a la Charlotte Mason. Charlotte Mason would not have used worksheets. Not only is this unnecessary, it's not characteristic of a Charlotte Mason education to study in units. Miss Mason believed in a broad feast of living ideas, a continuum of history without compartmentalizing it for the students in nice, digestible chunks. She would not have been a fan of a neat, tidy unit culminating in a lapbook mostly put together by mom. That's getting in between the child and the material which ends up in a passive learning experience rather than an active one. (Toe-stepping has commenced!) 

Hannah and Drew perform during Taming of the Shrew
What I generally see on these websites and blogs is a well-meaning homeschool mom who is busy teaching lots of children of different ages and who is trying to make studying Composers easier for other homeschool moms -- so they can fit it into their already busy days. I get that. And I appreciate anyone taking the time to put these ideas online for other moms in such a selfless way. But see, the essence of a Charlotte Mason education is slow savoring, simmering ideas, ruminating thoughts. You can't create a quick and easy Composer Study guide and expect that to follow the method. The student will more than likely give back what you wanted but may forget the entire experience by the next fall. Miss Mason was brilliant about training her teachers to present the living materials in such a way that the student is the one possessing the knowledge and the teacher is the one placing it on the feasting table and stepping back. So, no predigesting!

Miss Mason recommended several notebooks for students to make their work their own. One of these was a music notebook. I'm not sure what was in this particular notebook since I haven't seen an example. But I know her students studied six pieces by a composer throughout a term, learning also the basic musical information necessary to take note of the type of piece it was, the form, the musical terms to identify various musical ideas (pianissimo, forte, sforzando, sonata form, etc.) Perhaps this is what was in the music notebook along with their feelings and impressions of each piece and any information they wanted to remember about the composer?


2) It's not possible to do it all online.
My children playing Ode to Joy on chimes (bells)

Composer Study is also not an online endeavor. So, even though I am going to leave you with a list of links at the end of this blog post, I'm giving them to you for research purposes, not to set your elementary student, middle schooler, or teen in front of DSO's kid-centric composer pages with puzzles and word searches or whatever. The only exception to this is here. (It's pretty darned cool!) Click on it and be prepared to spend the next hour navigating the site and learning about Beethoven. Other than that one site, I can't recommend doing a whole lot of online composer study. Charlotte Mason recommended listening to music performed live and learning to play an instrument. That just isn't possible to do online -- although music lessons are available on youtube. But the study of music and learning technical skills on an instrument require putting your hands on a trombone or tuba or violin or piccolo. A truly invaluable composer study experience  involves watching music performed live at a park concert or a symphony hall or by a quartet at the local community college. Anything live where you can watch the instrument being played was recommended. During Miss Mason's time, there would have been parlor concerts after a nice meal or tea.There wasn't much in the way of recorded music, so I can't say she would have frowned on it. But if given the choice between a recording and a live concert, I'm certain she would have said to watch the live concert. If the student only has access to recorded music, play it. Often!And we all collect cds to remind us of our favorite composers when we can't be at a concert. I still believe the very best music education would involve the student learning a few pieces by the composer on the piano, violin, guitar. That is an excellent way to make the music a part of you!

3) It's not necessary to dumb it down.
Watching Tosca at an outside event at The Met in NYC
Composer Study does not need to be dumbed down for younger students. Anyone of any age can enjoy the great music of the past alongside older siblings, with the possibility of older students reading a more complex biography or studying musical terms and styles and the composer's country, his influences, or his inspiration. The music itself, though, should be available to all ages! No need to wait. Toddlers can learn to recognize Ode to Joy or Mendelssohn's Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream, for example.

 


4) All you have to do is have the music playing in the background while you do your other lessons.

Hannah playing uptown for a little extra $$$
This is the one I hear most. Composer Study doesn't happen automatically by osmosis! (although wouldn't that be great?) Just leaving it on in the background achieves two things. First, it shows the student that this subject isn't important enough to devote your full attention to. And second, it divides the student's attention between what he is hearing and what he's reading or studying. So it slows the ability to absorb what is being studied, especially if it's loud enough to be heard in the foreground. And if it isn't, why bother playing it at all? That's a lose-lose situation. Background music during "teatime" or something cutesy like that is fine, but it's not Composer Study. When music is playing in the background, it doesn't create a relationship within the child's heart with the composer. The student can't access it later. There is nothing to hang it on, and no focused attention was given to it. These facets of the Charlotte Mason method are important. If we ignore them, we have misinterpreted how to teach the way she intended.

Okay. I am done being critical. I know you're relieved! Now, here's what I've gleaned from The Parents' Review:

From Music Appreciation Lesson:

"About six works by some great composer are chosen for study each term. These compositions are played or sung to the children constantly and studied carefully. The children are taught something about the form, harmonic structure, thematic development of the composition and some information is given about the life of the composer. An article appears every term in the Parents' Review on the composer and his works, which is a great help to the teacher or parent who is giving the musical appreciation lessons.
Boys and girls living in London have great opportunities. Concerts are often arranged especially for them, and sometimes professional musicians are engaged to perform the works at some private house where there is a branch of the Parents' Union School. Children can be taken to the Sunday Concerts at the Queen's Hall or Albert Hall. It is not necessary for them to stay all through the performance—take them out after the finest composition has been played. But, as I said before about pictures, it is not much use taking them to concerts unless they have some previous idea of what they are going to hear. Familiarity with the work means enjoyment of the finished performance. A musical home is a happy place. Encourage your children to learn instruments so that there may be Chamber Music in the home in after years. Teach them to listen and discriminate between good music and what is inferior: form, in fact, such a love of it that it will be a necessary part of their leisure in after life."

Hannah sings an aria at Starbucks when promised a free drink
Ah, success! And applause from the baristas, too!
From  About Music Teaching, by Barbara Davenport, Volume 14, 1903, pgs. 296-299

  The cultivation of a good ear is perhaps the most important thing in all music, whether pianoforte or any other instrument. A splendid way to cultivate the ear in childhood—a way that is sure to amuse, so strongly does it resemble the magic of a "game,"—is to send the child away from the piano whilst you strike single notes one after the other, making it guess each time what note you are playing. Very soon an intelligent pupil gets used to recognising the different notes; begins to be able to judge distances of tone, semitone, major and minor thirds, and so on; and the exercise of ear becomes the greatest delight.

Of piano playing,  Ms. Davenport had this to say: 

Technique and expression are almost too nearly allied for a child to distinguish between them. If the melody is singing sweetly, clearly, and sustainedly in one hand, and the other is accompanying firmly, quietly, and in perfect time, let that be enough. In the after years when life has opened out in all directions, and the mind is full of the mystery of human life, and the heart is full of love, and maybe sorrow, then expression will come.
But first must come a love of every detail of the learning; an unwearying devotion; and an honest determination to spare no trouble in the attaining. Did not a great man [Thomas Carlyle] once say that even genius was only "an infinite capacity for taking pains"?

Hilary performs in Opera Carolina's La Boheme
Because I was raised by symphony musicians, music from the ballet, symphony, quartet, solo instruments, and from Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern time periods are a part of my soul, somewhere etched indelibly in my dna. And I'm thrilled about that! It happened accidentally, probably because my dad was cheap and preferred to take me with him to rehearsals rather than pay a babysitter and have me stay home. That doesn't make me an expert, but it makes teaching about composers easier since many of these works are already within me. It also gave me the motivation to research within the volumes and the Parents' Review and Miss Mason's own programmes until I finally understood her ideas about music and composer study. And guess what? She didn't even remember to include music appreciation in her curriculum at first. Once she repented of this incredible sin of omission, she gave us some recommendations, but for the most part, she entrusted these choices to Mrs. Curwen. Here are a few books Miss Mason recommended for Music study: Arthur Somervell's Fifty Steps in Sight-singing, Harriet Moore Brower's Story Lives of Master Musicians, and P. A. Scholes' Listener's Guide to Music.
   

Next week, I'll share how our family has done Composer Study over the years. It has been such a valuable experience! I hope you'll check back in for that. I'll leave you with Miss Mason's Programmes for Music study. 

Bon Appetit!
 
Year 1
Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

Schumann
Grieg
Brahms

Singing (v. 2)

1.    6 French songs

French songs by Violet Partington
    or
French rounds and nursery rhymes
    or
Sonnez les matinees

2.    2 hymns and a Christmas carol

3.    The joyous book of singing games by John Hornby or
    Songtime, ed. by Percy Dearmer

Music (v. 2)

Learn to play the piano, using The child pianist.

Year 2
Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Debussy
    Schubert
    Wagner
        Stories from Wagner by J.W. McSpadden may be used

Singing (v. 2)

1.    6 French songs

French songs by Violet Partington
    or
French rounds and nursery rhymes
    or
Sonnez les matinees

2.    2 hymns and a Christmas carol

3.    6 English songs from The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

4.    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

        lessons 1-6
        lessons 7-11
        lessons 12-15

Music (v. 2)

Learn to play the piano, using The child pianist.


Year 3

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Mussorgsky & Borodin
    Handel
    Dvorak

Singing (v. 2)

1.    6 French songs

French songs by Violet Partington
    or
French rounds and nursery rhymes
    or
Sonnez les matinees

2.    2 hymns and a Christmas carol

3.    6 English songs from The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

4.    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

        lessons 16-19
        lessons 20-23
        lessons 24-27

Music (v. 2)

Learn to play the piano, using The child pianist.


Year 4

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Mendelssohn
    Bach
    Beethoven

Optional:

    The book of the great musicians by P. Scholes

Singing (v. 2)

1.    6-9 French songs

A book of French songs
    or
Voyez comme on danse

2.    6 English songs from The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

3.    Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

4.    Fifty steps in sight-singing: exercises for pupils by Arthur Somervell

        steps 1-4
        steps 5-10
        steps 11-12

For reference:

    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

        lessons 12-19
        lessons 20-23
        lessons 24-27

Music (v. 2)

Learn to play the piano, using The child pianist.


Year 5

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Mozart?
    ?
    ?

Optional:

    The book of the great musicians by P. Scholes

Singing (v. 2)

1.    6-9 French songs

A book of French songs
    or
Voyez comme on danse

2.    6 English songs from The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

3.    Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

4.    Fifty steps in sight-singing: exercises for pupils by Arthur Somervell

        steps 13-16
        steps 17-18
        steps 19-20

For reference:

    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

        lessons 28-34
        lessons 35-37
        lessons 41, 43 Music (v. 2)

Learn to play the piano, using The child pianist.


Year 6

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Chopin
    Haydn
    Schubert

Optional:

    The book of the great musicians by P. Scholes

Singing (v. 2)

1.    6-9 French songs

A book of French songs
    or
Voyez comme on danse

2.    6 English songs from The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

3.    Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

4.    Fifty steps in sight-singing: exercises for pupils by Arthur Somervell

        steps 21-26
        steps 27-32
        steps 33-34

For reference:

    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

        lessons 38, 40, 42, 44
        lesson   45
        lessons 46-49

Music (v. 2)

Learn to play the piano, using The child pianist.


Year 7
Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Wagner
    Purcell
    Debussy

The listener's guide to music by P. Scholes

Musical groundwork by F.H. Shera

Singing (v. 2)

1.    9 French songs

French songs, with music
    or
La lyre des ecoles

2.    9 German songs

        Deutscher Liedergarten

3.    9 English songs

        The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

4.    Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

5.    Fifty steps in sight-singing: exercises for pupils by Arthur Somervell

        steps 35-38
        steps 39-40
        steps 41, 43

For reference:

    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

        lessons 50-52, etc.

Music (v. 2)

Choose and learn a suitable composition from the programme of music each term.

Year 8

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Handel
    Tchaikovsky
    Bach

The listener's guide to music by P. Scholes

(optional) The second book of great musicians by P. Scholes

Singing (v. 2)

1.    9 French songs

French songs, with music
    or
La lyre des ecoles

2.    9 German songs

        Deutscher Liedergarten

3.    9 English songs

        The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

4.    Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

5.    Fifty steps in sight-singing: exercises for pupils by Arthur Somervell

        steps 44-46
        steps 47-50

For reference:

    Ten minutes' lessons in sight-singing

Music (v. 2)

Choose and learn a suitable composition from the programme of music each term.


Year 9

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Beethoven
    Mendelssohn
    Franck

The listener's guide to music by P. Scholes

(optional) The second book of great musicians by P. Scholes

Singing (v. 2)

1.    9 French songs

French songs, with music
    or
La lyre des ecoles

2.    9 German songs

        Deutscher Liedergarten

3.    9 English songs

        The national songbook, ed. by C.V. Stanford

4.    Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

5.    Musical groundwork by F.H. Shera

        term 1
        term 2
        term 3

Music (v. 2)

Choose and learn a suitable composition from the programme of music each term.


Year 10

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Mozart
    Chopin + (optional) Chopin by J.C. Hadden
    Schumann

(optional)
    The enjoyment of music by A.W. Pollitt
    Lives of the great composers, ed. by A.L. Bacharach
    The musical companion, ed. by A.L. Bacharach

Singing (v. 2)

6 French songs

6 German or Italian songs

6 English songs

Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

        Clarendon song books, books V & VI
        Oxford book of carols
        Clarendon classical song books, book I
        Clarendon aria books, book I
        Practical sight-singer by A. Carse
        term 3 only: Album of 30 songs by Schumann

Music (v. 2)

Choose and learn suitable compositions from the programme of music each term.

(optional)
    The growth of music by H.C. Colles

Foundations of practical harmony and counterpoint by R.O. Morris -12 chapters; see preface
    or
    Practical harmony by Stewart Macpherson

    Elements of music by F. Davenport


Year 11

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Brahms
    Dvorak
    Haydn

(optional)
    The enjoyment of music by A.W. Pollitt
    Lives of the great composers, ed. by A.L. Bacharach
    The musical companion, ed. by A.L. Bacharach

Singing (v. 2)

6 French songs

6 German or Italian songs

6 English songs

Learn songs by the composers studied in Music appreciation and Christmas carols when appropriate.

        Clarendon song books, books V & VI
        Oxford book of carols
        Clarendon classical song books, book I
        Clarendon aria books, book I
        Practical sight-singer by A. Carse

Music (v. 2)

Choose and learn suitable compositions from the programme of music each term.

(optional)
    The growth of music by H.C. Colles

    Foundations of practical harmony and counterpoint by R.O. Morris -12 chapters; see preface
        or
    Practical harmony by Stewart Macpherson

    Elements of music by F. Davenport


Year 12

Music appreciation (v. 2)

Listen to music by 3 composers

    Elgar
    Purcell
    Handel

(optional)
    The enjoyment of music by A.W. Pollitt
    Lives of the great composers, ed. by A.L. Bacharach
    The musical companion, ed. by A.L. Bacharach

Music (v. 2)

Choose and learn suitable compositions by

    Bach, Handel
    Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven
    Schubert, Chopin, Schumann
    no room: Brahms, Franck, Tchaikovsky, Elgar

(optional)
The growth of music by H.C. Colles

    book I
    book II
    book III

for reference:

Clarendon song books, books V-VI
Oxford book of carols

Links: 

All quotations from Parents' Review articles are from Ambleside Online, a tremendous resource for the Charlotte Mason enthusiast.

http://harmonyfinearts.org/2011/12/charlotte-mason-blog-carnival-music-and-composer-study/

http://www.amblesideonline.org/ComposerSch.shtml (Composer Study Rotation)

from Linda Fay:

http://opera.stanford.edu/op4all/main.html Opera CDs (free!)

http://www.opera-opera.com.au/plotind.htm (opera plot summaries)

From Pinterest:

http://pinterest.com/witheagerhands/composer-study/

http://pinterest.com/jimmiescollage/music-and-composer-study-for-homeschool/