Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Rite Stuff - Lesson 1 - Listening for the First Time

Introduction [2 min]

Provide only a brief introduction to the piece so as not to influence the activity with preconceived ideas:

The Rite of Spring is a piece of music written by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was first performed in Paris in May of 2013 and is now more than 100 years old.

Activity [35-40 min]

Gather art and craft supplies. Listen to The Rite of Spring using it as inspiration for creating a single piece of artwork or a series of “scenes.” When the music is over, tell the group about your artwork and describe how you felt while listening to the piece.


Though I was a bit nervous before we started about holding the kids' attention for the half-hour-long piece, our first lesson was a real success. The kids enjoyed the Rite, and the artwork kept them focused for the duration. At the end, they were even begging for the next lesson! I was really proud of them.

The artwork the kids produced was great. We asked them to really listen to the piece and be inspired by it, not just draw something preconceived. Listening to the descriptions of their own artwork, it was clear that they took the assignment seriously.

Brayan (age 8) produced several pieces:

His first shows a wizard with a magic staff. There are raindrops on at the top of the page. The zig-zag lines and spirals are his visual representation of some of the repetitive elements of the piece.

Part of the piece reminded him of a ship in a storm. He drew the waves and sky rhythmically to the timing of the music.

His last drawing shows a conductor with a baton, in a frenzy of activity, conducting the Rite. (I love the stern expression on the conductor's face! And is that baton smoking!?) The footprints relate to one particularly heavy part of the piece with lots of drums. The little diagonal slashes on the lower left say "Pip, Yow, Pip, Yow," also inspired by the instrumentation of the piece.

Luana (age 9) also created a few different drawings:

During the mysterious beginning of the piece, she drew a woman laying in bed "giving birth." (Spring? Rebirth? There is some sort of deep and astute meaning that she picked up on in this one, I am sure.)

The next drawing presented the idea of different seasons during the different movements. From top to bottom she shows a lightning storm, gently falling snow, and then spring flowers.

Part of the piece reminded her of a party. This is a group of people dancing for Cinco de Mayo--notice the red and green decorations hanging from the ceiling. (She was particularly concerned that the gentleman on the right did not have a partner.)

Lucas (age 11) created only one drawing, but with many parts, layered on throughout the piece:

The concentric circles at the lower right represent that the piece builds on itself slowly to create something larger. The jagged lines and spirals represent different parts of the piece, both harsh and lyric. The red dots represent the end of the piece.

Kim and I also participated in the activity:

Kim layered up one drawing throughout the piece, with representation of drums and trumpets in particular. The staircases represent ascending melodies. And like Brayan, she used waves and footprints to represent different parts of the melodic and rhythmic elements of the piece.

My drawing is sort of visual map of the piece, though I was not super prescriptive about using particular shapes consistently throughout the drawing. It was more about the feeling of the piece as it developed. However, curves generally represent strings or woodwinds, angular forms are brass, and drums or heavy rhythmic themes are generally slashes or dashes. Where shapes and lines overlap, it represents the layered instrumentation of the piece. Many of the strokes were laid down in time to the music.

Overall, I was really happy with the way this lesson and activity turned out. I am really looking forward to our next lesson!

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