Australian Song Lyrics Analysis

Two questions.

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:

Click for full size view: 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:

Literacy

  • Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing
  • Text knowledge
  • Grammar knowledge
  • Word Knowledge

ICT

  • Investigating with ICT
  • Communicating with ICT
  • Managing and operating ICT

Numeracy

  • 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

Resources

 

 

Australian Curriculum General Capabilities Checklist

I needed a quick way to record my use of the general Capabilities in my my programs. I tried a few different configurations, but this one seems to work well.

There’s a title section at the top for unit title, year level and date. The capabilities are in two sections: ‘Supporting students to become successful learners’ and ‘Developing ways of being, behaving and learning to live with others’. There’s a checklist of elements for each capability with a small section for notes. I use this to jot down what I’m specifically doing in that unit to teach / assess the element.

Since using the checklist, I’m discovering that I’m actually teaching to the capabilities more than I thought. The element descriptions are a handy reminder of the scope of each capability too.

Two versions are available for download: a Word file that you can edit and a pdf version.

Download AC General Capabilities Template (pdf)

 AC General Capabilities Template (docx)