Scaling Haleakala

lisagagnon

A reading and writing course in music © 2005 Ebb & Flow Arts, Inc.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: We wish to thank the following people who have assisted in the writing of this curriculum: Diana Dahl, Rae Takemoto, Anne Ashley, Sharon McElroy, Paul Marchetti, Teresa Skinner.

Background

In the 1920’s, Hungarian composer, Zoltan Kodaly, developed a system for teaching children how to read and write music. The state applied this method in all schools. The Hungarians knew that children who become musically literate will do much better in Math, reading & writing English, and Science.

Countless studies show this. As a result, for about one generation, every child in the country of Hungary knew how to read and write music. Hungarian composer, Bela Bartok, is ranked the third greatest composer of the 20th century next to Germany’s Schoenberg and Russia’s Stravinsky – two giant musical traditions and then the unlikely Hungary.This country’s emphasis on music reflects their wealth of artists, authors and scientists.

Now on Maui, we wish to pursue a more modest but similar goal, “Scaling Haleakala” – a curriculum designed to teach children how to read and write music, as well as understand how nature inspires music. Unlike Kodaly, we are dealing with one county of one state; not an entire country! So, although our goal is ambitious, it seems manageable in the light of a major historical precedent. Our tactic is clear: Reach all 4th grade classes every year when they are taught “Hawaiian Studies.” In nine years from inception we will reach every child on Maui who is nine years old and younger.

Our program also reflects the environment in which it develops. “Scaling Haleakala” uses the mountain as a metaphor for musical scales, the building blocks of our approach to reading and writing. The children gain knowledge about their environment, Hawaiian myth and the powerful influence of nature and the elements on creativity. Towards the end of the course, the children create short multi media ideas using their knowledge of reading and writing music, and inspired by a nature story.

Introduction

Two interdependent “pillars” support this curriculum: creativity and nature. Creativity without nature as its source and inspiration may yield inhuman and destructive results. Nature without creativity will not inspire us as the symbol of spirit in the soul of humankind.

The stages of child development are at once self evident but at the same time the subject of many lengthy psychological treatises. Such stages are self evident because we readily observe our child’s first steps, first words, first sentences, first observations, comparisons, creations, etc. We follow up these “firsts,” and intuitively coax their intertwined development. The treatises on child development are also fascinating and instructive. However, for this author, often they represent projection of “adult” models onto development with which their authors are no longer in touch. In practice, children never cease to amaze in their knowledge and perceptions. Children can learn in ways no longer known to many adults.“ To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child.” (Emerson)

The field of music is the “time art.” In the study of music, musical time supersedes the time of child development. The musical child prodigy is perhaps the most striking and anomalous of prodigies from all fields of endeavor. Teaching music to young children elicits from them thoughts and perceptions far ahead of their years. Teaching music goes beyond linear time and illuminates the child’s aptitudes and fruitful paths that lie ahead. As such, the teaching of music is a sacred task that transcends all human attempts to codify the stages of childhood development. Teaching music frees its practitioner from the shackles of predeterminancy.

The children must learn the basics, learn them quickly, and retain them. For this, cooperation with the classroom teacher is crucial. We will supply assignment sheets, vocabulary lists and other materials/equipment during the course. Basic reading & writing skills with homework should be taught and administered in the classroom. We will require discipline in the classroom, careful listening and a minimum of extraneous noise.

Emphasis at first will be on the basic vocabulary – quarters, halves, wholes – do-re-mi – in practice. But even at the beginning, the mountain theme occurs at the end of each session. It may be just a hint, but enough to infuse the process with nature’s inspiration. Towards the end, emphasis is more on multi media creation; nevertheless, the child must show evidence they know the “nuts and bolts” vocabulary of their creations!

General Procedures

Ebb & Flow Arts part-time staff person(s) hired by the Executive Director will help to teach and coordinate some of the sessions. Guest leaders and assistants will be employed. They are highly qualified music educators and musicians. “Scaling Haleakala” will be infused by concepts and practices developed through Ebb & Flow Arts programs at Kula Elementary School and other locations; namely, nature and its influence on the arts; connections between artistic disciplines – sound and color, sound and word, motion and dance, etc.; the importance of the creative process in human endeavors; lessons within the lesson through hand puppetry; magic as a vehicle to the understanding of music as illusion. We open up the subject to exploration by the multiple intelligence of the children.

We prefer facilities with computer labs. However, without a computer lab, we will supply hard copy of the templates and exercises that are used in the computer classes. The Finale NotePad program, a free download, provides the means for each and every child in the computer lab to understand composition. The term “compose” literally means placing together. The computer allows the children to place sounds together, hear them immediately, build on what they create. The “clear” function is very important as we often start with a clean piece of music paper. We alternate between computer work and more “hands on” pencil to paper, clapping and tapping exercises. Each process informs and reinforces the other.

The basic course is fifteen (15) lessons. Each lesson is 45 minutes in duration. We adjust these lessons according to the resources in each situation. Some schools may own piano(s), keyboard(s), Orff instruments, percussion instruments, etc. Other facilities may have none of these. In this case we rely on singing, clapping, tapping and whatever is portable enough to carry into the classroom.

The first six sessions occur in the regular classroom, clapping, tapping, singing, playing, introducing by session 6, whatever instruments are available. The next seven sessions occur in the computer lab – notating and composing music. The final two sessions occur back in the classroom making music with instruments, but now notating it with music paper and pencil and or/colored crayon. The children will ‘spin off’ to multi media “moments,” creative leaps, during the classes, particularly these final sessions. Concepts and techniques such as “motve” and hand symbols, reoccur throughout the course after their introduction. Each lesson transcends and includes the previous lesson.

Dictation integrates the musical exercises. The instructor supplies ample repeats of dictation, both fast and slow, measure to measure, and even note to note.

Each lesson ends with an observation about music and nature; and a “music appreciation”- type review.

Music and literature will include:

  • “The Octopus”
  • “Four Corners”
  • “The Swing”
  • “The Fisherman” and other selections from “Sports and Divertissements” by Erik Satie
  • “Gradus Ad Parnassum” and other selections from “Children’s Corner” by Claude Debussy
  • “Men and Mountains,” by Carl Ruggles
  • “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky
  • “Magic Mountain” by Alan Hovahness
  • “Alpine Symphony” by Richard Strauss
  • “Ocean” Etude by Frederic Chopin
  • “Une Barque sur l’Ocean” by Maurice Ravel
  • Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphony
  • Handel, “Concerto Grosso” Opus 6
  • “Catalogues d’Oiseaux” by Olivier Messiaen
  • “Doe a Deer” by Richard Rodgers
  • “Vers La Flamme” by Alexander Scriabin

Poetry:

  • “Fable” by Ralph Waldo Emerson,
  • “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman,
  • “l(a” and “off a pane)the” and “un(bee)mo” by e. e. cummings

For more information about “Scaling Haleakala”: Outline for a curriculum, K-5, 5 lessons.