Thursday, March 10, 2011

Curriculum Resource: Music History and Appreciation

I was at a parent gathering yesterday, and one of the things we discussed is the fact that, no matter how well educated and brilliant we all are, nobody is good at all the different disciplines we would like our children to learn.  But thank goodness for the Internet, where we have resources at our fingertips to help shore up any areas in which we may be weak!

One of those areas for me is music appreciate.  While I've always really enjoyed music, when I was in school, I didn't learn much about music history or how to analyze a piece of classical music.  Of course, that's one of the great things about homeschooling--you can catch up on the things you missed the first time round in your education.

So for others who might be in the same boat, I wanted to share a wonderful resource I found for teaching music appreciation.  It is a website called Classics For Kids, and it has so many wonderful features.   Classics For Kids is actually a radio show designed to teach classical music to children that is broadcast from WPUC, the public broadcast station in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The short (about 6 minute spots) talk about either individual classical music composers or particular works, and are carried by radio stations around the world--but, unfortunately, none of our local stations here in Wake County.  Fortunately, however, you can hear them online from the Classics For Kids website.  Here is a link to almost 40 podcasts you can download, ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to Scott Joplin.

However, there is SO MUCH more to this site than just listening to the shows (which do include lovely music in addition to narrated commentary).  There is a huge list of composers that you can read about, many of whom also have some of their music that you can listen to, often with an activity sheet that gives you tips about analyzing the music or something creative you can do either while or after you have listened to that song.  There is an interactive timeline that places many of those composers both within what period of music the belong, as well as some major events that were going on at the time.

Thus, for example, since we are studying the 19th Century this year, I can see that early 19th Century events like the Louisiana Purchase or the War of 1812 took place during the tail end of the Classical period, when Shubert and Beethoven were composing.  However, now that we are reaching the American Civil War, we are in the Romantic Period, and the big classical composers at that time were Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, and Dvorak.  This is really helpful for me, especially when I combine it with the art history resource I discussed last month, which tells me that in this time in art, the artistic Romantic movement was coming to an end and Impressionism was beginning.  I can add in a subject that I do know better, and realize that American literary Romaticism, representing writers like Whitman, Hawthorne, Dickenson, Melville, and, of course, Poe, were starting to be replaced by the American Realists, like Twain, James, and Crane (I guess war tends to do that to you).  When you line up all these different arts with historical events, it all makes sense as to why they were developing as they were, given world events.  It also makes the history richer by weaving in these different ways of describing or capturing what was going on in people's lives at that time.

They also have an interactive map, so you can see what composers came from which countries, and lesson plans and games and teaching tips and all sorts of stuff.  I think the material is really geared towards upper elementary, and so some of the printables may be a bit childish for our middle schoolers.  But the subject matter is age appropriate for tweens, I think.

If you are looking from some good, basic FREE information about major classical music composers and their leading works, I recommend  Classics For Kids.  I certainly haven't found anything better.  If you have other suggestions, though, please add them in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. I did check out Classics for Kids. Too bad their history is not complete. The were missing the Renaissance period!