Spotify has algorithms for anaylsing and aggregating song content. This BBC article uses the data to find the ‘saddest song’ ever. There’s lots of potential ideas here for integrating maths and music.
Who is Australia’s most erudite lyricist?
And how can you embed the General Capabilities in secondary music lessons?
Aussie Song Lyric Readability
In answer to the first (but no spoliers here, let me tell you) you’ll need to read all the way to the bottom of How complex are Aussie song lyrics? Analysis shows our wordiest songwriters to find out. The article looks at readability scores, length and the difference between being able to read the words and having the life experiences necessary to understand them. Along the way there’s fine (YouTube linked) examples of our best talent, from Paul Kelly and ‘Dumb Things’ through to Kasey Chambers and ‘Nothing at All’.
Embedding General Capabilities
Now let’s use the con concept of assigning readability scores to song lyrics as a way of embedding general capabilities into music lessons:
Start with the article. It will make a fine primer and Australian-artist orientation for students before delving into lyrical analysis.
Now have students collect lyrics from their favourite artistes and paste them (the lyrics, not the artists) into Word.
- Click the File tab, and then click Options.
- Click Proofing.
- Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected.
- Select Show readability statistics.
Word will also give a word count for the text. Record the results and organise them in Excel. Their efforts might look a little like this, from The Dumbest Hits of the Last Decade:
Questions to ask. Which artist pitches (hah!) their lyrics at the lowest reading age? Which at the highest? Who has the longest word count? Shortest? What’s the average readability? Who uses the longest words? Shortest? What correlations can be found across genres? What other generalisations can be made?
So what General Capabilities have been covered? You can certainly tick off:
- Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing
- Text knowledge
- Grammar knowledge
- Word Knowledge
- Investigating with ICT
- Communicating with ICT
- Managing and operating ICT
- Estimating and calculating with whole numbers
- Using fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and rates
- Interpreting statistical information
Critical & Creative Thinking
- Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
- Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
- Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
He learned throat singing and playing the Igil from his grandfather and since graduating from the Kyzyl School of Arts performed in the folk groups “Tyva”, “Yat- ha”, and won a BBC Award for World Music. He is the youngest member of the “Huun Huur Tu.
The Internet still amazes with its potential to make international connections!
I’ve been looking for a set of A-Z musical instrument posters for our music room. But most sets seem to skimp on the difficult instruments (quick- name an instrument beginning with I, N, Q or Y!) and many are just line drawings.
So I’ve created my own with all letters represented including I for Igil, N for Nyckelharpa, Q for Quena and Y for Yanqin.
You can download the first set – letters A through H – here for free and I’ve included links for the other two packs and the first ‘expansion pack’ below. They’re just £3.90 (around $6.50) on the TES store.
A-Z Musical Instruments Poster Pack Set 1: A-H
This is Set 1 (containing 8 posters) of the A-Z Musical Instruments Poster Pack, a collection of 26 alphabetical posters in three packs depicting a range of common and uncommon musical instruments. Set 1’s eight posters include the Accordion, Bassoon, Clarinet, Didgeridoo, Electric Guitar, Flute, Glockenspiel and Harp.
Each instrument poster features a highlighted alphabet-letter, colour and icon coded categorisation, a large photograph of the instrument, smaller supporting photographs of features and playing positions and an information box detailing alternative names, era of development, related instruments and more. Just the resource to brighten your music room walls or use as a hands on lesson resource!
It also includes a PowerPoint presentation with audio files (or YouTube links ) of each instrument.Use the PowerPoint presentation to introduce new instruments, feature an ‘instrument of the day’ or supplement other music lessons.
Download: Musical Instruments PowerPoint A-H
Set 2 (I-Q) posters include Igil, Jaw Harp, Kalimba, Lute, Maraca, Nyckelharpa, Oboe, Piano and Quena.
Set 3 (R-Z) posters include Recorder, Saxophone, Timpani, Ukulele, Violin, Washboard, Xylophone, Yangqin and Zither.
Set 4 (Brass) posters include Bass Trombone, Bugle, Cornet, Euphonium, Flugelhorn, French Horn, Sousaphone, Trombone, Trumpet and Tuba.
Matthew Hindson, Composer. Deputy Dean at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Curator, Australian Music Program has a number of useful free music resources on his blog.
Free Manuscript Paper: Five different styles including a compact 18 stave version.
Free Music Fonts: There are 14 different fonts including a recorder fingering font, a guitar strings font, a sax fingering font and a tempo indications font. My two favourites are the Rhythms and StaffClefPitchesEasy fonts.
My Year 6 music class experimented with serialism and tone-rows but using a diatonic scale (A B C D E F G) rather than a chromatic one (ie with all the semitones).
I used the phrase ‘Rainbow Tone Row’ to link in with out use of BoomWhackers.
Although this does somewhat negate serialsims goal of removing the influence of key from compositions, it allowed for easier composition and the use of our decidedly diatonic glockenspiels and BoomWhackers.
I demonstrated the technique on the board and then had students perform. The methods on the sheet (including writing the tune a third higher) are not authentically serialistic but the aim was to provide the students with readily accessible composing techniques. After students had tried their hand at writing and performing their (own diatonic) tone rows, we chose one student’s piece to perform using the performance grid. The class divided into four groups, with each group ‘soloing’ and performing with others.
A quick search of YouTube will turn up many videos on serialism.
Advanced students may like to try composing the chromatic scale. There are lots of resources around but mostly aimed at secondary students. This 12 tone serialsim worksheet at TES.com might be useful.
Australian Curriculum links
- Explore dynamics and expression, using aural skills to identify and perform rhythm and pitch patterns (ACAMUM088)
- Develop technical and expressive skills in singing and playing instruments with understanding of rhythm, pitch and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the community (ACAMUM089)
- Rehearse and perform music including music they have composed by improvising, sourcing and arranging ideas and making decisions to engage an audience (ACAMUM090)
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‘Compass Rose’ received a promo in the March / April edition of Stage Whispers.
The ‘Ghost of Tom’ (or ‘Ghost of John’) is a perennial Halloween favourite and no wonder. It’s (a little bit) spooky, has a ghost, a ghost lyric (oo-oo-oo), is a round and can be accompanied by just two notes.
This version is in Am, making it easy to perform on tuned percussion instruments (no sharps or flats).
The range for vocalists is a bit of a stretch, you might have to lower some parts down an octave.
Below are the resources I’m using with my music students.
- A simple grid notation accompaniment with just three patterns: A-G-A, C-B-C and E-D-E. JP children will quickly learn these and older students with limited music experience will also cope.
Ghost Of Tom Simple Percussion Chart
- The four lines written in notation. Use this for older students. Give them the choice of which lines to play (beginners can do the last two).
More capable students can play all four.
Have You Seen the Ghost of Tom – Percussion Chart
- An audio accompaniment with vocals. It’s just 90bpm, so a good speed to play along with. It has a two bar intro and then the song is sung once. The song begins again but this time as a round. Part two begins at bar 11, part 3 at bar 13 and part 4 at bar 17. Each entry is marked with a cymbal. It finishes with a two bar ending.
- A simple score of the song.
Ghost of Tom Score
- Vocal sheet (with alternative verse).
Have You Seen the Ghost Of Tom – Lyrics