Unit 5 Title
Shapes

Unit Structure

  • Live Video Conferencing with an ACO musician (20-30 min)
    • For this videoconference the students will need to be organized into groups of between 3-6 people, facing each other in a circle, with room to move.
  • Classroom lesson delivered by classroom teacher exploring Unit 5 Classroom Lesson on the website (approx. 45 min)
  • Art activity: draw Webern’s shapes in the style of Kandinsky (approx. 45 min)

Student Objectives
By the end of this unit students should

  • Identify the composer Anton Webern
  • Identify the painter Wasily Kandinsky
  • Learn how abstract shapes can be imagined as music and vice versa
  • Define the following words: mute, pizzicato, ponticello, tremolo, harmonics

Classroom Lesson Strategies

  • On the Unit 5 Classroom Lesson page of the website, watch the first video (5 min)
  • Listen to at least the first bagatelle (30 seconds) and time permitting, more than one.  Ask the students to close their eyes and try to imagine the shapes or gesture in the air.
  • Look at at least one of Kandinsky’s painting (time permitting, more than one). Ask for any volunteers to sing or perform the  “sound effects” of the painting (like in the shape game from the VC).

Classroom Art Activity
Choose one bagatelle to play – the students will draw its shapes. Play about 5 seconds at a time, repeating as many times as necessary for the students to draw what they hear.

Materials Needed
For Videoconferencing:  none
For Classroom Lesson: Workbook optional
For Art Activity: Paper of any size, pens or pencils, colored pencils, markers or crayons.

Live videoconference with ACO musician – for this VC, you will have to organize your students into groups of between 3-6.  Each group will stand in a circle facing each other.  It should be a tight circle with a little room between each student to move their arms.  We will play a game in which the students will turn physical shapes (created with their hands in the air) into sounds, in preparation to listen to the Webern (it is difficult to describe this game without actually playing it. The rest of the instructions for lesson 5 will make much more sense after playing the game).

Classroom Lesson website page – listen to the video of us doing the sound shape game and then playing the Webern.  We are actually singing the notes in shapes and gestures exactly as Webern wrote them. Webern’s music is very short (in the Six Bagatelles, each movement is about 30 seconds) and very gestural. Webern packs a lot of ideas and emotions into very few notes (sort of the way a very depressed person might sigh or a happy person might wink. These little gestures are essentially very condensed forms of complex feelings with much subtext).

Listen to the Six Bagatelles (or at least one or two of them.) Encourage the students to imagine the shapes in the music. You can even have them physically create shapes in the air as they listen. Ask them if they see each shape having any particular color or texture.

Look at the Kandinsky paintings. Isolate and point to different shapes. Ask the students to imagine and/or perform out loud how different shapes might sound.

Art Activity – choose one of the Bagatelles. Draw and paint it in the style of Kandinsky.

Materials needed:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Black ink
  • Markers, crayons or paint

Step 1: Choose one of the bagatelles. Starting with a pencil, the students should sketch out the shapes they hear. Listen to about five seconds at a time, repeat as many times as needed.

Things to bring to the student’s attention:

  • How do you want to lay out the page – do you want to show the passage of time from left to right? Up or down? In a circle?
  • Listen to whether the musical shapes rise in pitch or get lower in pitch. How can you show this difference in your shape?
  • Listen to how the musical shapes connect to one another, make sure the shapes that you draw reflect these connections. Is there space between the shapes?
  • The musical gestures can also be drawn as lines or zigzags or just blobs of color.

Step 2: After sketching out the shapes in pencil, play the music again and ask students to think about which colours they hear.  Add paint or markers or crayons to the picture.

Step 3 (optional): Outline shapes in black pen or marker.

For reference, I attempted this art activity myself and videotaped the end result; I tried to show on the video how I heard the music correspond to the shapes (on the Classroom Lesson page).