7-9 year-old Dalcroze: 2/28/17

This was an unusual class in many ways. The girls’ love for dramatic story telling prompted almost an entire class devoted to the development, rehearsal and enactment of one story. The class loosely followed some goals I had already set up, which was to work with 3 different rhythm patterns that are found in the slow movement of Mahler’s 1st Symphony. This movement is a basically a minor reworking of the tune Frere Jacques. But here is roughly the sequence of events:

  • I asked the girls to create characters for each of the 3 rhythm patterns I had written on the board, and which I played on the drum. They came up with a king, a queen and a kangaroo.
  • I let them choose whichever character they wanted to be. There were many kangaroos, a few queens and no kings – so I took on that role.
  • We explored how each group would move according to their specific rhythm pattern.
  • By asking them a series of questions, they created the following scenario: there is a king who likes turning people into statues, and one day he froze the entire kingdom. When the queen saw this she tried to save the statues, but was unsuccessful. A bunch of kangaroos came along and worked their magic spells to release the people. The queen was delighted.
  • Each group had percussion instruments. The kangaroos were to play for each other, and all played for me. We practiced this.
  • We enacted the story, attempting to talk as little as possible. This was easier the second time.
  • I told them that after the statues were released, the king was sorry he had done that. The entire kingdom came together and moved each other’s rhythms in different patterns. At this point I played the Mahler and asked them to listen for each rhythm and move freely however they liked. Some chose to move as a character, others choose to pretend to play instruments. After one time through, we talked about what they heard. We played it one more time, and pointed out the various rhythms we heard as it went along.

 

By this point, the time was almost up. We gathered for a quick round or two of the St. Louis Blues, and had to say goodbye. This was a class I might be able to repeat with a different group, but only one as imaginative and interested in story as this one.

Dalcroze: 7-9-Year-olds, 2/14/17

Here’s what we did:

  • Statue tag
    • All students make a statue. One moves as long as she likes. When she stops, she makes the shape of one of the statues. That statue is free to move.
      • This game is more fun when whoever is making someone else’s shape does not make their shape directly in front of the other person. This forces both the mover to be very clear, and the entire to class to watch the mover. Improvised music follows the mover.
    • Move to the music; when you hear one measure of eighth notes, stop for one measure.
      • This is a quick reaction calling for an inhibition. It’s challenging because the listener has to pay attention to the melody while moving (always a challenge for this age), and rest for exactly 4 beats. Most everyone needed verbal cues and pretty clear signals from the piano to achieve this. We will continue to work to strengthen the internal rhythmic feeling necessary to do this well.
    • What can you do with one stick and a special friend (who also has one stick).
      • A chance to exercise the imagination and work with a partner. Many creative responses.
    • Partner A holds out stick for 8 beats; B plays 8 beats on A’s stick. A moves stick each phrase. Switch.
      • After accompanying them on piano for a while, I began to play “Ah, Poor Bird” from last week. As they recognized it they began to tap it.
    • Spin off
      • The partners move to the music separately. When they hear the first 4 bars of the song, they must find their partner in time to tap the last 4 bars.
        • As the game went along I disguised the music more and more, challenging them to listen closely for the quarter-quarter-half rhythm of the opening. Some were successful, others needed some verbal cues.
      • Explore notation of song.
        • Now that they were thoroughly familiar with the rhythm of the song, it was time to see it translated into notation. As they stretched out on the floor, I asked them to show quarter notes in their legs, half notes in their arms (in retrospect I wish I would have switched these two) and eighth notes in the air with arms. I played through the various durations for a while, and then slipped into the song one last time. Some were able to translate it into their body, but that was hard for others. I sat them up and we put the notation on the board for all to see.
      • Blues
        • We ended by playing call and response phrases (with percussion) over the blues. I used St Louis Blues, a song I hope to come back to over the next few weeks.

Dalcroze: 7-9-Year-olds, 2/7/14

Back to my own observations… enjoy!


 

  • Statue tag
    • All students make a statue. One moves as long as she likes. When she stops, she makes the shape of one of the statues. That statue is free to move.
      • This game is more fun when whoever is making someone else’s shape does not make their shape directly in front of the other person. This forces both the mover to be very clear, and the entire to class to watch the mover. Improvised music follows the mover.
    • Move to the music; when you hear one measure of eighth notes, stop for one measure.
      • This is a quick reaction calling for an inhibition. It’s challenging because the listener has to pay attention to the melody while moving (always a challenge for this age), and rest for exactly 4 beats. Most everyone needed verbal cues and pretty clear signals from the piano to achieve this. We will continue to work to strengthen the internal rhythmic feeling necessary to do this well.
    • What can you do with one stick and a special friend (who also has one stick).
      • A chance to exercise the imagination and work with a partner. Many creative responses.
    • Partner A holds out stick for 8 beats; B plays 8 beats on A’s stick. A moves stick each phrase. Switch.
      • After accompanying them on piano for a while, I began to play “Ah, Poor Bird” from last week. As they recognized it they began to tap it.
    • Spin off
      • The partners move to the music separately. When they hear the first 4 bars of the song, they must find their partner in time to tap the last 4 bars.
        • As the game went along I disguised the music more and more, challenging them to listen closely for the quarter-quarter-half rhythm of the opening. Some were successful, others needed some verbal cues.
      • Explore notation of song.
        • Now that they were thoroughly familiar with the rhythm of the song, it was time to see it translated into notation. As they stretched out on the floor, I asked them to show quarter notes in their legs, half notes in their arms (in retrospect I wish I would have switched these two) and eighth notes in the air with arms. I played through the various durations for a while, and then slipped into the song one last time. Some were able to translate it into their body, but that was hard for others. I sat them up and we put the notation on the board for all to see.
      • Blues
        • We ended by playing call and response phrases (with percussion) over the blues. I used St Louis Blues, a song I hope to come back to over the next few weeks.

7-9 Year-old Dalcroze: 1/31/17

This week, a guest poster: Laca Tines. She is a student in our methods class (you may have seen her observing), and a wonderful early childhood music teacher herself. As part of our class, she was asked to write an observation report. I thought hers was keenly observed, and asked for her permission to post it. It is always interesting to see our work through other’s eyes. Thanks, Laca!

Laca Tines
Dalcroze Observation/1-31-17 Instructor: Michael Joviala 7-9 year-olds

ACTIVITY: Story/Fairies and Elves, Phase 1: individual movement
T placed scarves on the floor around the room. Each student had a turn to move around the room in any way she chose and then navigate the scarves by jumping over them, walking around them, etc.
T accompanied each child’s movement on piano.
Response: Most children chose to skip around the room and then jump over each scarf. (One student did choose to walk for a bit before skipping–an interesting choice which she seemed to make quite deliberately.) Students were very engaged and eager to see what was next. Purpose: locomotor exploration/improvisation, navigatng space/energy

ACTIVITY: Story/Fairies and Elves, Phase 2: group movement, listening for cues
All students were to move around the room and jump over the scarf “holes” when they heard the musical cue. T, at piano, played predictable pattern and students successfully leapt at the appropriate time. T then added some variations, such as asking students to jump only when eighth notes were played.
Response: Most students were successful. All were very engaged.
Purpose: listening, anIcipaIng paQern/phrase length, recognizing duraIon (as when listening for eighth notes), navigaIng space/energy

TRANSITION: In the spirt of the story, “fairies and elves” were asked to find a scarf to fluQer as they fell asleep to the song
T: played “Ah, Poor Bird” on piano.
Response: Students quickly recognized the tune and naturally began to quietly sing.

Purpose: (re)introduce the song, give students a chance to relax/shiV gears

ACTIVITY: Fairies/Elves, Phase 3: Which notes are longer?
T played “Ah, Poor Bird” on piano and asked students to hold scarves, travel around the room, and toss/catch their scarves on the longer notes. Students were then asked to jog the underlying eighth notes/walk the quarter notes/walk the half notes, while still tossing their scarves on the long notes.
Response: Students were successful in recognizing/showing the longer notes, but not always able to step the duraIons.
Purpose: recognizing duraIon, awareness of phrase length and form, experiencing mood of song
Note: It seemed that children were not dis3nguishing the difference between measure 3 and the other measures (not realizing it did not end in a half note). I was curious about this, but am not certain I am remembering the rhythm correctly. Perhaps, there was just no need to make it an issue.

TRANSITION: Fairies/Elves arrive home. All rest on ground. Purpose: relax and refocus

ACTIVITY: Game, 1-3-5 recogniIon
As an introducIon to the acIvity, T placed three papers on the floor (each in a different area of the room), while singing a neutral syllable paQern on scale degree 1, then on 5. Students were then asked to listen to piano and move to appropriate area of the room, based on what they heard. Pitches were further solidified by holding scarves low/high accordingly.
Response: Students were engaged and, for the most part, accurate. A bit of aQenIon was paid to 1 and 5 first, before adding 3 (which was maybe removed??). T was able to add 1 an octave above, and draw aQenIon to the “high” and “low” 1.
Purpose: recognize scale degree, physicalize the difference between the pitches (high/low/ middle).

ACTIVITY: Sing What I Show
T indicated scale degree by holding up finger(s) and asked students to sing appropriate number. T then sang a simple song (unknown to me, but familiar to the class), on numbers, while sIll indicaIng scale degree with fingers.
A few students then had a chance to lead the group (holding up fingers) in a short improvised pattern
Response: Students were asked to use scale degrees 1 and 5. Right away, the second student added 3 as well. Overall, the students seemed very comfortable and demonstrated a solid sense of the scale degrees.
Purpose: scale degree, improvisaIon, leading/ownership

ACTIVITY: Drawing and Playing Shapes
To demonstrate, T drew a shape made up of 4 (I believe) lines, then arranged 4 tone bars in that same shape and played the tone bars according to the drawing. Students then each drew their own shape and shared it with the group. T arranged and played tone bars according to each student’s drawing/direcIons. Students then sang back each paQern, as T indicated with hand movements the pitch direcIon.
Response: Students were very interested, took great care in drawing and explaining their shapes, and sang each other’s patterns successfully.
Purpose: space exploration, improvisation, leading/ownership, pitch

7-9 Dalcroze: 1/24/17

Here are this week’s activities:

  • Make a straight line with one hand and a circle with the other.
    • Not easy for anyone to do, and most were not able to accomplish this. However, it allowed us to become acclimated to our temporary room which contained a large wall mirrored wall. I allowed them to look at themselves for a while, and then announced, “There actually is no mirror here,” hoping to discourage them from being distracted by it. It mostly worked!
  • Association: quarter note=walk; eight notes=stop and clap
    • I played very simply on a drum, and asked a student to play. This is the first time students have played for a movement exercise. I was surprised at how carefully they played and listened to each other, though it was challenging to sustain interest by the time we got to the last student. I participated with the movers.
  • Same game, but I played on the piano, using the low register for the feet, and the upper register for the hands.
    • I stuck to the rhythmic structure I had set up, but gradually moved it into a dissociation: the feet stepped quarter notes and the hands clapped eighth notes. Many were successful. For some this is challenging.
  • Ah Poor Bird
    • I transitioned into this simple but beautiful little round which some already knew. I put them into ‘nests’ and asked one to ‘fly’ into another’s nest and land right at the end of the song.
  • Ice Skating
    • By special request, we repeated this from last week. This time, I played for it and asked them to develop a trick or series of movements that they could demonstrate. Each took a turn. They moved with abandon!
  • 1-3-5
    • As they relaxed on the floor, I began to lead them in associations with 1, 3 and 5 of the scale (showing what they hear with arms, legs, fingers as they liked). I slowly introduced the Haydn to see who might recognize it. Some did. We then used tone bars to invent phrases using 1-5 of the scale. We then played and sang phrases using tone bars of 1-5 of the C major scale. Some sang with numbers, with varying degrees of accuracy. I chose not to correct, but to just let them experiment without feeling like they had to ‘get it right’. There will be plenty of time for that!

7-9 year olds: 1/17/17

  • Spinning
    • Kids of a certain age often like to spin when they come into a classroom. I’ll leave it to the psychologists to explain why, but sometimes I’ll start where they are. So today I began to play music that matched their spinning. I gradually changed the music and pointed out that it no longer sounded like spinning. I asked them what it sounded like, and soon all were doing the movement. We added several more movements and each time I returned to the spinning.
  • Clap 4: at the signal, stop and clap 4 times.
    • This game was a repeat, but this time I added an element. At the first signal, they stop and clap. At the next they touched their knees four times. We kept cycling between the two until most of them could remember, and then we continued adding. They suggested the movements. I aimed for music that met their predictions most of the time. We tried a variety of tempos and dynamics.
  • Story: The Duration Family
    • They managed to squeeze another story out of me! Mother (quarter note), brother (eighth notes), the dog (sixteenth notes) and grandma and grandpa (half notes) like to play a game on Saturday nights. They sit in a row (labeled with the appropriate symbol. They turn on the radio, and wait for their music to come on, at which point one of them gets up and moves around the others. At the end, they all go out for a walk. Each member pairs up with someone from another group. They hold hands and move their own movements simultaneously. The set up and rules were a bit cumbersome here, and I might not do this again. I did enjoy watching them move together with another’s movement. This is something that even some adults might find tricky the first time, and many of them managed to do it with accuracy. Many of the kids assumed their roles thoroughly, especially grandma and grandpa.
  • Ice skating to Vivaldi
    • After the focused concentration of the previous game, we cut loose with some free movement to a recording from the Winter movement of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons. The music changes from pointed staccato to very free and sweeping phrases: perfect for walking with ice skates and then skating.
  • Cool Down: snow angles
    • Everyone created or led a tempo. Most of the class joined in. Some took the opportunity to rest. They are feeling more free to make individual choices.
  • 1-3-5
    • With not much time left, we ended by singing (call and response style) phrases using 1, 3 and 5 of the scale. I also associated hand signals and took a few moments to remind them of the Haydn Surprise Symphony melody.

That’s it for this week!

7-9 Dalcroze: 1/10/17

Here is our first class of the New Year:

  • If I move, students are still. When I stop, students move freely.
    • Simple instructions (affectionately known as ‘opposite day’), but devilishly hard to execute for this age. The urge to mirror is very strong in us. I made my phrases in tempo and predictable. Each student eventually led for a while. I hope for a variety of movements, but skipping is definitely the most popular. After a while, I added music to match the movement: single line for the soloist, and melody and harmony for the ensemble. This removes some of the difficulty of watching the soloist as they are now using musical cues, but it also begins to feel like a soloist and orchestra playing a concerto.
  • Same game, piano leads.
    • This returns the game to its original intention. I now encourage them to use the tempo and dynamics they heard in their own movements, which now happens in silence. This requires them to inhibit their natural impulse to move when they hear music. Inhibition is typical Dalcroze strategy.
  • (seated) open hands for major, closed arms for minor.
    • This quick reaction is a review, but my real purpose was to put a pattern of seven beats with a rest at end into their ears.
  • Move pattern in the room, alone if minor and together if major.
    • The rest on the end is quick, and requires a short stop (not easy for everybody). Interestingly they chose to move in two large groups for the minor.
  • Toss a bean bag in the rest as you move.
    • I added a story to this, and passed out bean bags: Fairies and elves walk in a dark forest, tossing a short light up (orange and red bean bags) into the air in the rest of the pattern. Every so often they take a bigger rest and toss the light higher. If they hear the evil giant they run to hide, but must learn to hide in their own space, away from their friends or the giant will find them. (This last part occurred quite spontaneously in an effort to get them to quickly find their own space in the room, a challenge for this age.)
  • Move to Haydn’s Surprise Symphony
    • The pattern came from the famous movement of this symphony. After they were familiar with it on the piano, they moved to a recording. It was fun to watch them encounter the big surprise chord!
  • Play an imaginary instrument to a movement from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Watch for your turn to be the soloist.
    • They were surprisingly engaged in this. I played the role of conductor. I hope to use this next week in another activity, and wanted to prime the pump.
  • Make rhythm patterns with rests.
    • We used 4 note cards with quarter notes on them, one turned over for the rest. I asked one student to change the cards to make a new pattern, one to play the pattern, and the class to snap or tap in the rest. Each pattern feels a little different, and they seemed to notice this.
  • Improvisation: play when your partner is silent, be silent when your partner plays.
    • A mirror of the first activity, this time with percussion instruments. At first I was the partner, then we branched out. We demonstrated many ways of playing: with pattern/without pattern; long phrases/short phrases; repetitive non-repetitive.
  • Hey Ho: Play in the rests of the song.
    • This round is becoming familiar, and many were able to use their experience in the class to accomplish this.

Quite a full class this week – see you next time!

Michael

7-9 Dalcroze: 12/14/16

Here’s what we did:

  • All move freely; I choose one person’s movement to play after which the class guesses who I was playing.
    • This was by request. I like this game because it encourages the kids to move in their own way.
  • Make a shape with 3 or 4 people.
    • Simple instructions, but took them a while to achieve it. They all ended up making shapes on the floor, probably because they needed to cool down after all of the moving. It is difficult even for adults to make creative decisions in groups. It seems as though kids this age find it difficult to decide and stay with something, though there is no shortage of ideas. I noticed a tendency to want to make a shape that could be named (square, circle, triangle…). Some were not satisfied until their group’s shape resembled an identifiable shape.
  • Move away from your shape, at the signal come back.
    • No music accompanied at first. The signal was a single triangle chime. Soon I added music and encouraged them to express tempo and dynamics (many do this naturally). Then I made the signal the final 2 bars of Deck the Halls, the goal being to make it back to their shape by the last note. At first I had to keep the tempo slow and give verbal cues, but after a while they were able to anticipate.
  • Plastique: make a circus ‘trick’ with a group of 3 or 4.
    • Playing with the elephant story from last week. I allowed them to use a ball. One group created a 3 part piece that included different levels and tempo changes. It was very symmetrical.
  • Minor=move alone; major=find partner.
    • We stepped patterns with quarters, eighths and half notes. As longer durations are always more challenging to move, I encouraged them to stretch their ‘trunks’ on the half notes.
  • Boom Da Li Da
    • I used this as a quick movement transition before a rest. Fun song in 3 that has a 3x’s as fast section.
  • Anacrusic Scale
    • While they were resting on the floor, I played a growing scale (Do, Do Re, Do Re Mi, etc.) They sang back call and response style.
  • Modes exploration: At the xylophone, choose a starting note to call ‘home’. Play anything you like, visiting home when you want the melody to rest.
    • As they played I accompanied them at the piano to give them a flavor of each of the modes that they chose. This was meant as an introduction to these rich sound-worlds.

That was their last class (with me) before break. Happy New Year to all!

Michael

7-9 Year-old Dalcroze: 12/6/16

  • Back Telephone
    • The traditional game of telephone (whisper a phrase around the circle and see if it comes back the same) only with rhythms gently tapped on the back. We tried 2 rhythms and both came back perfectly. I used the second rhythm to introduce the 4 sixteenth note rhythm (known at Lucy Moses as ‘boo-mah-chi-kah’).
  • Start/stop when you hear 4 sixteenth notes.
    • A review of an inhibition-style quick reaction game meant to warm the group up for starting and stopping.
  • Leading and Following
    • This was done under the guise of a group of elephants finding their way through the streets of NYC to their jobs at the Big Apple Circuse. The lead elephant sings out to the others, who answer her back (call and response), after which she leads the group in her own tempo and with her own phrasing (stopping for red lights, etc.). I intended this as a quick opportunity to practice leading and following before we moved on to a series of ‘tricks’ that elephants would do as part of their act. We ended up spending almost the entire period on it. Many of the kids were inhibited to sing alone or even make vocal sounds to the group. At this stage of their development many are newly aware of a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to do things. Some are aware of the system of solfege singing and attempted to use syllables, which they are not yet adept at using. This same phenomenon was evident in their movement choices as leaders (many leaders needed coaching to prevent them from following the end of the line). Both of these things – singing whatever comes to mind and freely leading a group – might have come more easily to them in the past, but these types of temporary ‘regressions’ are, in my experience, quite normal. In any case, the kids stayed interested in this simple activity, and by the time everyone had gotten a turn, the period was almost over! I played music to match their movements. These are not music theory subjects I had intended to get to (hearing 1 and 5, ascending and descending scales, twice as fast and twice as slow) but they are undoubtedly musical behaviors (knowing how to lead and follow are essential in all kinds of ensemble music making), and I am happy to take the time to explore them if that’s what the kids need at the moment.
  • If You Dance
    • The round from previous weeks. The one ‘trick’ we worked on was stepping the rhythm of this tune, which uses quarters, halfs and eighths. I’ll keep returning to this round (and others) with the goal of being able to move them in ways that reflect the melodic and rhythmic shape of the song. Hopefully we will be able to sing it in a round one day, too.

7-9 Year-old Dalcroze: 11/22/16

7-9 Year-old Dalcroze; 11/22/16

  • Make a shape with curves. Make a shape with straight lines.
    • This seemingly simple direction was first intended to be a physical warm-up. As I watched their choices, I began to play accompanying chords: towards dissonance for the curvy, and towards consonant for the straight-line shapes. After a time, I stopped calling, and let the music speak to them. I experimented with harmonic progressions that moved from tension to release, and many responded well to this. It was interesting to see their interpretations even though there is a good deal of subjectivity when it comes to consonance and dissonance.
  • Toss the scarf on the long note.
    • I played three patterns in 2/4 time, using all the different possible combinations of a quarter and two eighth-notes. I encourage musically a big release on the long note. When we were finished, we looked at how these rhythms are be notated. I choose not to emphasize this too much, as there is so much about experiencing those rhythms that cannot be conveyed by their symbolic representation.
  • Step the beat, clap the rhythm.
    • We returned to this basic Dalcroze exercise known as a dissociation. It stretches their coordination abilities, and allows them to experience the same rhythms in a new way. We’ll keep coming back to these kinds of exercises each week, but without spending too much time as they can be exhausting.
  • When the melody goes up, walk forward; when the melody goes down, move backwards.
    • Another association. They followed the piano for a while, and they I began to sing “If You Dance,” from last week. I let them discover the shape of the melody as we sang and enjoyed moving it with them.
  • Choose a percussion instrument and play a pattern. Another will play with you, improvising freely.
    • Some young players seem naturally inclined to invent and repeat patterns, some seem more interested in generating and exploring new material. The children listened well to each other. Second players were most likely to add something repetitive to another player’s pattern, which of course is a perfectly valid musical behavior (we call that a ‘groove’). If two players locked into a groove, I picked up an instrument and freely played over it.
  • Group improvisation: all play together quietly enough so that you can hear the softest player.

This simple direction is meant to encourage closer listening, which can be challenging for any age when playing in a large group. I was curious to see whether they would fall into a recognizable beat and meter. They almost did. I am perfectly happy if they don’t for right now, just as long as they are really listening to each other as they play. We ended with a group sing and play-a-long of Bim Bom.