Your children have impressed me with their quick learning and understanding of time signatures, measures, bar lines, and double bar lines! We are going to continue our study of rhythms by learning about the half rest (it looks like a top hat!) after April vacation. For the time being, we will be focusing on learning more about instruments with the music of Carnival of the Animals.
Carnival of the Animals is a musical suite (collection of songs) written by a French composer named Camille Saint-Saens. It is meant to be humorous, with fourteen short pieces written about animals. Saint-Saens actually didn't want this published in his lifetime, thinking that it would ruin the credibility of his more serious works. We are not going to be learning about these songs in the order they were meant to be listened to, instead we are going to listen to them in groups based on similarity. Some songs may be taught alone, while others may be taught in groups of four or more.
The first group we will be focusing on is the birds. The four bird songs of Carnival of the Animals are: The Hens and Roosters, The Aviary, The Swan, and The Cuckoo in the Heart of the Forest. The Hens and Roosters piece feature the high strings (violin and viola), two pianos, and a clarinet. These instruments are meant to represent the pecking sounds of the hens and roosters eating on a farm. The Aviary features the strings, piano, and flute. The strings create the background sound of a forest while the flute takes on the life of one bird flying around the aviary alone and the pianos provide the sounds of the other birds in the background of the aviary. The Swan is undoubtedly the most famous piece from this suite. It is actually the only on Saint-Saens allowed to be released while he was still alive. It features cello and pianos. The cello portrays the swan on top of the water, gliding along elegantly while the pianos take on the role of the swan's feet, paddling quickly underneath the surface to keep up with the majestic appearance of this beautiful animal. The last piece we will be listening to is the one that the student will have the easiest time recognizing and remembering. The Cuckoo in the Heart of the Forest is played by two pianos and a clarinet. The pianos represent the background noise of the forest while the clarinet occasionally pops in to mimic the call of a cuckoo bird.
We will first discuss the birds and how they may be represented, and then we will listen to each piece. The next class, the students will fold a paper into four equal parts, and draw on each part what they see when they hear the songs.
I am very excited to embark on this new unit with your children, and I hope they are excited as well!