Day 9 - Between Day 8 and today, I transcribed the melodies the decided on on Tuesday. I put them in order on a Finale document and printed it out for them - sort of a "bare bones" version of the song. No harmonies, no chords, just their melodies. I did try to unify the melodies into a key to make the transition easier, but besides that, I tried to be as true to what they sang as possible. To be honest, I wish I had from Thursday to Tuesday to do this part instead of Tuesday to Thursday...but it's done and it's over. It was just a lot of work in a condensed time frame.
In class today, we went phrase by phrase and talked about elements we liked or wanted to change. We made some really good progress today. Some classes even got to talking about chords and major vs. minor. In all but one of my classes we were able to do a (really rough) sing through of the song. It was really cool to hear! They're really buying in to their songs.
Most of the discussions today were extremely positive and productive. I had just a couple students who got their feelings hurt when their suggestion wasn't accepted by the class, but that was the minority today. Usually they just accepted the class decision and were able to move on. As in the past several exercises, they made some choices that I wouldn't have made, but we went with it because the class voted on it.
Before Tuesday, I'll make some changes and work on starting a piano part for each piece. We're making music, y'all!
Day 8 - April 26, 2022
I am so proud of these kids! We listened to all their sound box ideas today and they worked together as a class to figure out what they liked best. I took some time over the weekend to sort them based on text so we could listen to the same text and compare them. Some only had 2 options, some had as many as 5 depending on what they were able to record last week.
The thing that made me proud was how civil the discussion was and the amazing choices they made. I'm really doing my best to stay out of the discussion and just be a guide and mediator. They made some surprising choices that I wouldn't have made if I had been doing it myself. This really will be their piece.
The other really cool thing from today was when they decided that they liked the beginning of one recording and the ending of another and we were able to splice them and put them together to create something new! One class did that about 3 times.
My next task is to put the selected melodies in order to create the "bones" of our song. I'm probably going to write them out (using Finale) to make it easier for me to teach it. Plus, it's going to be pretty cool for them on Thursday when they see their choices represented on the page.
Day 7 - What a difference a day makes! We revisited the idea of composing melodies using the same process as Tuesday. We started with the same texts that we used on Tuesday, but I asked them to get in a group that was working on a different text than they were doing on Tuesday. Since they had done this on Tuesday, the process was much smoother today. They knew how to work with the text and were much more bold at suggesting melodies.
I had groups that were able to find a usable melody within about the first 10 minutes of working instead of taking 35 minutes like before. I opened their Audacity file and added their new tracks. As they recorded one track, I assigned the group to another text. Some groups during the day only came up with one or two, but I had several groups today that laid down 3 or 4 melodies.
I was really surprised by some of the things that they were able to come up with. Their melodies are so much different than what I would have done with these texts...and I love that! This really will be their song!
Challenges: Keeping on task was still a challenge for some students. So today, I addressed those students that weren't fully participating in their groups and separated them into their own group and assigned them a text. They actually responded really well to that and were willing to work in the small group. A couple of my students today had problems working in groups at all and found it easier to work by themselves.
We have an awesome "idea box" in Audacity now. We're going to listen to them next week and try to string it together.
Day 6 - As I anticipated, this was our most difficult day so far. I handed out copies of the text that we made last week, then we separated in 3 groups and tackled three segments of the text to try to come up with melodies. My poor first class always has to deal with me learning how to do this. We didn't talk about style or key today. I just wanted to get them making sounds and experimenting.
I found that it was best to have them start by reading the words aloud to find the important words. Once they had the important words, say the text together with that emphasis. The hardest part - especially for my 7/8 choirs - was getting to the next step: being willing to venture a melody. Each group was eventually able to find something that they were able to sing together. I used Audacity and recorded their segments so we could keep them as a record of today's progress. Some of the ideas may end up in the final piece, some will end up on the cutting room floor, but we at least got some starting points.
Difficult things today: I had a couple rough personality conflicts which made progress slow. I had one group just sing their text to the tune of "Up on the Housetop," so...that's probably not going to work. I had to move quickly from group to group to keep them on task, so I didn't have much time to guide them, though I was able to help a bit. Trying to stay out of the way and let them create is tough sometimes. :)
We're going to do this again on Thursday this week, so we'll see if we learn anything.
Day 5 - Whew! This is an exciting but exhausting project. Keeping the middle schoolers engaged in a positive way during these discussions has been the biggest challenge so far.
Today, we took the poems/quotes that we had narrowed down on Tuesday and created an order with them. I was really surprised the variety of ways that the classes wanted to approach their songs and how much discussion there was. I tried to guide the discussion without imputing too many of my own ideas. Some classes were much more verbal and one was like pulling teeth to get some of the students to participate.
The first class had two poems submitted by two students in the class. The class really responded well to their poems and one became the verses of the song and the other is being used as the opening and closing, sort of like bookends. Theirs will likely have a piano interlude at one point.
The second class decided they had a good quote that wasn't very "songable," but that they still wanted to use. So, they decided to have someone read that quote before the song began. They chose a simple central idea/quote that could be used as a repeated chorus.
The third class also was drawn to a spoken word opening, but they wanted it over choral vocalizations (oo's or ah's) before getting to the text of the piece. They wanted to do the same at the end of the piece.
The fourth class also went with a spoken quote first (the benefit of finding so many good quotes!). They probably have the shortest text, but a strong central idea. I let them know that you don't have to have a super long text to have a good song.
Three of the four classes were able to settle on a title for their piece today as well. The other class was close. They had suggestions, but we ran out of time for a vote. We'll do that next time.
We have lyrics!! We're going to attempt some melodies next time.
Day 4 - I decided that we're going to work on this project on Tuesday and Thursday every week. So, coming back from Spring Break, I had one more day to remind them to submit a poem or quote. Most of them had before Spring Break, but it was nice to have one more day.
I took all the quotes and poems from each class and listed them on a document that I could project on a screen for the whole class to see. I didn't include who submitted each item. I first read each quote and poem aloud so we could get a feel of each submission. I then asked them to think if any of the quotes/poems struck them as particularly meaningful and "songable." It took some prodding to get the ball rolling, but then they were much more open to discussion. I emphasized again that there's no right or wrong, just "more effective" or "less effective."
The 7/8 graders were able to take a broader scope and make connections between several quotes at a time. With the 6th graders, I found it helpful to go quote by quote and poem by poem to judge each one individually. Some students had submitted their own poetry, but the whole class was very supportive of the students' works.
We ended each class with document of possible quotes and bits of poetry that we'd like to use. Our next task will be to put them in an order that we'd like to use and possibly narrow our choices down a bit more.
Composer, Choral Conductor, DMA Student,