Monday, July 11, 2016

Space: A Journey Through Music

My oldest son loves space. We have gone to a few museums, tracked the International Space Center in the night sky, and have spent many hours in the space section of the library. He wants to be the first human on Mars and delights in daydreaming about being an astronaut. Guess what he doesn’t love? Music. (FYI- music is my thing! I teach music as my calling.) He sure knows how to break his momma’s heart. Luckily I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get him to enjoy a music unit with me. Let me show you how I used his love of space to bring him in to my world of music!

Things you will need:

  • A book about the planets (or a book on each planet). You could also use this site. 
  • A book about Holst, or you could use this site. 
  • A CD of the full Planets suite by Holst, or this YouTube video (which has time stamps in the description for the different movements, which is needed). 

Procedure for the lesson: 

(can be completed over the course of two weeks, or during a rainy day).

  1. We read a short biography on the composer, Gustav Holst. 
  2. We took a sheet of butcher paper and taped it to the wall. 
  3. We painted the sun on one side of the paper. 
  4. We made an earth circle and pasted it on the paper to represent the third planet. There isn’t an earth movement, so that is why we pasted it on there first. 
  5.  For each movement I did the same basic procedure. We would read a little about the planet. Afterwards, I put the music on and told him to let the music talk to him. He created a planet while listening to the music based upon the music. I told him not to be literal, but to make the planet be symbolic. What does the music look like to him? When he was finished, we placed the planets on the butcher paper in the correct order. 
  6. The first movement is Mars, Bringer of War. This is a fun piece to clap along to because the music is in an odd meter! (There are five beats per measure) 
  7. The second movement is Venus, the Bringer of Peace. 
  8. The third movement is Mercury, the Winged Messenger. My favorite parts about this movement are the solos. If you can, point them out and have your child guess what instrument it is.
  9. The fourth movement is Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. This is a famous movement and it has the Thaxted hymn in it. (Can you find it?) Holst actually wrote Jupiter first and then the hymn was based upon the melody he put in this movement. 
  10. Movement five is Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age. This was Holst’s favorite movement and you can see why. It is just beautiful! 
  11. Movement six is Uranus, the Magician. It is considered “vulgar,” although you don’t have to worry about bad words. The music is just a bit shocking compared to the other movements. 
  12. The last movement is Neptune, the Mystic. This movement has a woman’s chorus. This is my favorite movement of the whole suite. It ends with a fading out, and Holst actually wanted the women’s choir to sing from rooms off the side of the stage with the door open to give it the far away sound. 
  13. After we read about the planets, we listened to the music, and put the planets up on the board we stood back and admired our work. 

This was a fun little music appreciation unit with art, science, and English sprinkled in. Both my seven year old son and my four year old daughter were able to enjoy it and were able to do their own thing. This is a great idea for tiered learning in a music classroom, a home school house, or just to do for fun!

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