Monday, September 26, 2016

History of Music and Art: Part One: Ancient Greece

In these next series of posts, I will be bringing you along on a musical and artistic journey through time. We will meet some famous composers and artists, while creating some interesting art and listening to fantastic music. It is geared for kids between the ages of 5-12, but with some additional modifications it can easily be turned into something an older child could have fun working on, and a younger child would love to do the craft project with help.

Today we are traveling all the way back to Ancient Greece, which is the start of ancient music. Although there was music before this time, we don’t have records of it, so we call it primitive music. Ancient Greece was an amazing civilization. For the first time, besides having farmers, there were historians, playwrights, composers, scientists and mathematicians, and philosophers. This is because Greece was divided into city states. There was a city surrounded by countryside and that countryside would feed the people in the city, allowing them the opportunity to dabble in the arts and sciences.

Ancient Greece spanned a large amount of time and had many periods that were all different. This would be a great history lesson for an older student. I would recommend to learn about the history of these specific periods and well as prominent Greek people like Aristotle, Homer, Alexander the Great, Archimedes, and many more. You can also learn about how and why the Olympics started! Did you know that the original Olympics involved musical competitions too?
Unfortunately, because Ancient Greece was 3000 years ago, most music has been lost. There are musical fragments of hymns so we can get an idea of what their music was like. However, the earliest and most complete composition is the Epitaph of Seikilos written around 200 BC. This is a drinking song that was written on the tombstone of someone named Seikilos. Translated into English, it states, As long as you live, be light-hearted. Let nothing trouble you. Life is only too short, and time takes its toll.” This video, performed by SAVAE (San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble) shows you not only what the piece sounds like, but they also use different period instruments like the lyra (a stringed instrument) and the auletris (a flute-type instrument) so that you can hear the unique style of Ancient Greece. Close your eyes, and listen to this piece as if you were Plato. Can you feel the Mediterranean breeze?

The art of Ancient Greece is vast. The architecture is a great topic that I won’t get into, but you can discuss the different column styles of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, as well as the buildings that still stand, like the Parthenon. Ancient Greece is famous for its statues sculpted out of marble. They were obsessed with the perfection of the human body, and they showed off many sports poses in the statues they created (usually in the nude). Since Ancient Greece is from so long ago, many of the parts that stick out (like arms, heads, etc.) have fallen off or had been knocked off. An interesting fact is that, just recently, art historians have found traces of paint on some statues, so it is possible that the statues were painted to look like their human models, but over time the paint has come off leaving us with the very white marble.

An amphora is a vase with two handles, and archaeologists have found many of them from Ancient Greece (see image at right).  The vases are terracotta and are then painted black with red and white highlights. Each vase depicts a different story. Most of the stories are the Greek mythological stories.

Today’s project is for us to draw a scene from a Greek myth.

Check out this site for kid-friendly versions of some stories. (I would still recommend reading over the story first, just to make sure you are comfortable with it.) If you don’t want to study Greek myth, you can use a fairy tale, a family story, or anything you wish.
On a piece of paper, you can either draw an outline of an amphora, or use this FREE template and print it out.

The next step is to go to town with either a black and red crayon; or, if you don’t mind a mess and want something more authentic, black and red paint. For an even more authentic look, use brown or tan construction paper instead of white paper. You can then add some white highlights to the picture.  Here are some versions we created. We chose to depict the first Station of the Cross, Jesus is Condemned to Death. This is how I integrated religion in the project, as well as art and music.

So you can see it is easy to adjust this project to fit your needs. If you are interested in more Ancient Greek art, Wikipedia does a great job condensing and giving examples of all the art that was made during these periods.

I hope you enjoy this project and I would love to see pictures of your completed vases.

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