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MUSIC FROM THE INSIDE OUT Music Literacy for Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School

A Curriculum for Music Teachers and Non-Music Teachers Alike

Music Literacy for Upper Elementary, Middle School and High School
DVD and CD inside
A Curriculum for Music Teachers and Non-Music Teachers Alike
By Daniel Anker, Carol Ponder and Donna Santman
Preface by Eric Booth

Alfred Music Publishing Co. Inc.   ©2007   Book, CD and DVD  $79.95

Reviewed by Vince Corozine

This very ambitious project is based on the critically acclaimed film featuring the musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra.  The special teacher’s DVD included excerpts from the film and segments created especially for the classroom.

The book is divided into five units 1.  Musical Identity, 2. Let’s Talk About Music, 3. What Is Music Anyway? 4. Musical Meaning, 5. Living the Music. There are also notes on DVD “extra” segments.

27 DVD chapters connect the above five units.  19 recorded CD tracks of 12 standard orchestra excerpts, and six contemporary treatments of ethnic music, complement the units as well.

The introductory material encompasses thirteen pages. The contents of the curriculum contain 104 pages of clearly identifiable goals and lesson plans with open-ended questions to be asked by the teacher.

Each lesson has an Overview, DVD Chapters, Companion CD tracks, Setup and Materials, Recommended Timeframe, Lesson Summary, and Step-By-Step approach to the lesson.  There are plenty of suggestions offered as to how to present and evaluate the material.  Homework assignments are suggested along with tips for how instrumental teachers may implement the material.

This information is very well written, sequential and presented in an attractive way. The open-ended questions will motivate the students to explore new areas of sound and focus on the three significant areas: listening, analyzing, and creating music.

It is always necessary to keep alive the exploratory instinct for creative music making. I believe that the author’s have accomplished this goal. A conclusion that can be made immediately is that all sounds should be listened to, analyzed and judged.

One of the most difficult things a teacher must learn is to keep quiet and let the student’s struggle –especially when he thinks he knows the answer.

A cautionary note:  the vocabulary used in many of the chapters appears to be more sophisticated than most fourth to sixth grader students can grasp. It will be necessary to explain, using alternate language, the following terms, among others: “spontaneous” “communicates” “assembled” “complex” “distinguish” “accountable” “delineate”“categories” “documented”, “engaging”, “repertoire,” “differentiate” “continuum” “modification” “accommodation”, “aesthetically”,  “manipulating”  “ethereal,” “cliché,” “abstract,” “preconceptions,”  “perspectives”, “metaphor,” “microcosm,” “integral” and so on.   There certainly will be students who will quickly grasp the meaning of these words, but the majority of students will require definitions for purposes of clarity.

Unit I: “Musical Identity”  deals with our musical likes and dislikes. The film, Music from the Inside Out, invites students to consider diverse musical personalities as compared with the person’s social personality. The aim of this unit is to help students find their own musical distinctiveness, to find significance and meaning in music, to make informed musical choices, and to become more musically active.

Improvising, composing, arranging, and listening are stressed very heavily in this unit.
A working definition of what is music would be of great help to the students just prior to embarking on Unit II  “Let’s Talk About Music” . The teacher can solicit open-ended questions to arrive at a workable definition. Expectantly, the class will eventually discover that “music is an organization of sounds which is intended to be listened to” as a useful definition. I admit that other definitions of music will also be suitable.

Unit II  “Let’s Talk About Music” asks the students to “map” music with their bodies, create a vocabulary to talk about music, and focus on directed listening. I particularly like asking my students if they notice any changes within the music as they listen.  Another example is “Raise your hand when you hear the music become more dissonant, and lower your hand when it becomes less dissonant” (arrive at an explanation of what “dissonance” means.)

On page 29:     “Music accountability means that you control the discussion and you are responsible to yourself and to your classmates. It also means that you decide what’s worth talking about….”
. To develop a working musical vocabulary will enable students to discuss music intelligently.

This unit brings out the fact that music is a “time art” in that it, like dance, passes us by and we need a recollection of what we just heard in order to enjoy it.  Asking students to physically map on paper what is heard in the music is an excellent technique. Particularly emphasizing there is not one correct way to do it. This concept will open the student’s mind to realize that composers think differently and that they compose in many different ways.

Unit III  What Is Music, Anyway?  explores “Is it noise or is it Music? and “When does noise become music?”
Asking students to make two lists; one listing what is “noise” and the other stating what is “music” is a good starting point.

Eventually students should come to the conclusion that noise is any undesirable sound.  Examples like static on the telephone, or unwrapping of cellophane candies during a Beethoven concert.  Noise is any sound that interferes or destroys what we want to hear or not hear  A follow up question for discussion, “If you don’t like a piece of music is it noise?”

The practical exercises contained in Unit IV, Musical Meaning are very useful.  Ultimately students will conclude that it is the composer’s job to make use of the materials of music to produce something meaningful and moving. It was pointed out that composers use opposites such as High/Low, Loud/Soft, Short/Long, Fast/Slow as tools.
The teacher could ask, “If a composer wanted to write a very dramatic composition—list the musical materials that he would draw from.”  The students should be led to the conclusion that a dramatic composition would involve contrasting values, with abrupt changes, and surprises.  This is what makes Beethoven such a dramatic composer. The teacher could then play a movement of a Beethoven symphony from the accompanying CD.
The intent of the composer is mentioned as a viable method of evaluating his work.
In lesson two, the authors describe music as sound in motion, and the meaning in music comes from where the music is going.  This is also a good working definition of music.  Whichever definition the students prefer should open up their minds and ears that there is no one way to compose or to listen to music. The idea that music is a journey through time, one of emotions, feelings, and ideas is a solid aesthetic thought.

Unit IV “Musical Meaning” encompasses  motion, expectation and surprise in music.
I particularly like “silence can increase anticipation, deflect expectations, give us time to catch up with what we are hearing, separate sounds for impact, or convey meaning all its own.”

Rests can be considered silence that are windows in music. Today composers use silence as part of their compositions.

A particular significant question asked is: “Does intention matter?”  Does the audience need to know the composer’s intention, or any other information about the composer and his world, before listening to the work? This will no doubt create an atmosphere for candid discussion among students.

Unit V “Living Musically” explores how music  enriches our lives and discusses the value of music in civilization. Music exists because it uplifts us and we are raised to a more vibrant life.

The overall aim of this outstanding curriculum is to raise awareness with a larger picture of what music is and what music can be in their lives, so they will be inspired to seek out new musical experiences.  As one of my college professors exclaimed, “Don’t let your ears fall asleep in an easy chair!”

This curriculum will make a positive aesthetic impact on your students, if you carefully follow the suggested sequence.  Music teachers and general classroom teachers can implement this curriculum effortlessly.  Highly recommended!

Music from the Inside Out
Reviewed by Vince Corozine

            This DVD is a valuable tool for presenting music to students. It contains twenty-seven chapters that explore the following musical genres:  classical, jazz, opera, bluegrass, small chamber ensembles, salsa, and others.

The chapters are fairly short and can be shown during a limited time span of the class.  These chapters  help to generate class discussion.

The DVD is entertaining, has spectacular visuals and great sound.

Viewers will see students and professional musicians (from the Philadelphia) performing and talking about music. Watching professional musicians on and off the concert stage is an illuminating experience for your students.

I believe that the producers of this film overlooked an important educational opportunity, in that they should have labeled the names of the musical compositions being performed and the name of the solo instrument playing at the time. This would help the students to recognize the composer, the title of the composition, and the name of the instrument.

Important concepts like the struggle for self-expression, the musician’s role in the orchestra, color in music, achieving a proper mental and physical attitude toward the performance of music are essential for your student to grasp.

The DVD presents a very moving and poignant presentation of music.