20th May 2005 at 01:00
KS 12

Talk about music with a very slow and a slightly faster walking (andante) pulse. Play examples of each and move around the class, carefully placing each step on the downbeat. Discuss how very slow music can create a solemn ritual feeling by arresting the pace of "ordinary" life. In groups, compose a piece with a very slow pulse, taking care not to speed up. Can you find a way for one player to control the speed of the group? Can you do it without a drum? Listen to how Tchaikovsky does it (bass notes on piano) in his miniature Doll's Funeral (Children's Album Op 39 Nr 7).


Compose a piece

which - like James Joyce's Finnegans Wake - need never end, because its final phrase leads directly back to the opening. Sing "Michael Finnegan", which offers one solution, by telling the singers to "begin again". Try to find an alternative method. For example, the final bars might incorporate an unresolved chord that conducts players invitingly back to the opening bars. Can you make the music sound as if it moves between solemnity and celebration in an endless cycle?


Listen to "Siegfried's Funeral March" from Richard Wagner's GotterdAmmerung -eight minutes of music of almost unbelievable power and emotion. The march reviews themes (leitmotifs) from Siegfried's life, shot through with a pair of shattering repeated semi-quaver minor chords. Compose a piece for a dead heroheroine from history or fiction. Include short sections that represent aspects of hisher achievements, loves and aspirations, each connected by a recurring funeral theme.

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