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Wednesday, November 4, 2015




Thinking Abstractly: Music Mapping:  Connecting Music and Art

Recently, in music, library and art class fourth graders have been preparing for the Portland symphony performance of 'Alice in Wonderland ".  In the art studio we listened to one of the pieces from the "Alice Symphony" by David Del Tredici.  Its called " Speak Roughly/ Speak Softly", and is a very abstract piece with two distinct moods.  In music class Mrs. Troy has shared the piece  and focused on how the composer creates a unified piece out of what sounds like complete chaos. In art studio we focused on translating the music, the sounds and beats of the music into marks and color, and actually ' mapping" it as it moves from one rough, loud mood to in intermediate mood, and finally to a calm movement.  I am sorry I don't have a clip of the painting in action as the kids were very kinetic as they painted.

It was a two week lesson and I introduced it reading on the Kindle overhead the Caldecott honor book  The Noisy Paint Box: The colors and sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art,  by Barbara Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary  Grand Pre.  We learn that as a young boy  Kandinsky discovered he had synethesia; when he saw colors he heard sounds and when he heard sounds he saw colors.  At the time he did not know  it was a unique condition ( about one in every 5,000 people has this unique ability) , but eventually it led him to be the first painter in the Western world to paint abstractly.

We looked at some of his works, listened to the abstract discordant and then melodious music of Del Tredici from the Alice Symphony, and then translated the sounds to marks.


Week two we watched a slide show I created on the importance of color in the world, how it affects everything from how animals are camouflaged, to how insects are attracted to flowers, to our moods on a sunny or gray day.  We also looked at how advertisers use color to influence our purchasing.



Here are some samples of the works both in phase one, black and white , and then phase two, when artists added their colors.  Each child not only responded in their own unique style, they also articulated very contrasting feelings on the different sides of the pieces.  Ultimately the paintings will be hung as a music mapping of the " Speak Roughly/ Speak Softly".

Student painting the notes and beats of "Speak Roughly, Speak Softly " from the Alice Symphony.
Left side speaking roughly. Right speaking softly.

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