Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bach's "Little Fugue"

With my 5th graders, for mid-October to mid-November, I've been using lessons from my "Spooky Music" Unit.  I incorporate learning about composers, types of music, orchestral instruments, listening terms, and creative writing and composition all into this unit.

This year, I've created an activity for discussing the music of JS Bach.

First, to grab their attention, I'll show the students the video below (Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor).  Must students recognize this as a "spooky" song and have heard it around Halloween.

Second, we'll read and discuss information about the Composer (I can project it in PDF format):
Next, we'll learn about the piece the students will be describing in further detail, Bach's Fugue in G Minor or his "Little" fugue.  I know the students will be as mesmerized by this as I am, especially with a little spooky context (low lights and my Halloween decorations :) )
Then, I'll ask the students a variety of questions:
1. What colors do you see? (Green, Orange, Pink, Purple)
2. What do you think the colors represent? (The various pitch-levels on the organ)  I like to show this video - the organist is in a church where Bach worked, what a cool connection: BBC Bach
3. What happened when the colors went up/down? (The pitch of the line went up - the height of the colors mirror the height of the melodic line)
4. Why are some lines longer than others? (The length of the lines of color indicate the length of the rhythm - some indicate short rhythms, some longer rhythms)
5. Define fugue: a fugue is a composition technique in which a theme is introduced by one voice and imitated by one or more voices - the theme recurs frequently throughout the composition
6. Add movement: watch the beginning of the video again - ask students to raise their hands when they hear the "theme" for the first few entrances - discuss the higher and lower voices - discuss points of imitation(we almost hear the theme but it is different somehow - a different pitch, a major key, not entirely finished, etc) - I'm also going to have the students divide into four groups and follow one specific color as they watch - using their hands to mimic the direction

This video has a midi-piano recording of the piece - I like how the students can see the real notation.

I'll also show them how to create their own colorful composition:
I'll demonstrate (using the piano), "playing" my piece.  Students will describe the melodic direction of my piece, as well as point to short or long sounds.  Then, we'll "sing" each line, then the students will divide into two groups to sing this.

In a subsequent lesson (otherwise I'm sure I'll get many little versions of Bach because that's what's in their heads), the students will create their own "fugue".  The students can pair up to perform their fugue with a friend (using voice or piano - one plays the top one plays the bottom, etc).

You can find the printables in:
Spooky Music Unit
Fall into Music

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