10 Oct 2008

Appreciating classical music

In Charlotte Mason's sixth book, A Philosophy of Education, she discusses the study of Music Appreciation by quoting another - Mrs Howard Glover, who spoke at the Ambleside Conference of the Parents' Union in 1922.

Musical Appreciation - which is so much before the eye at the present moment - originated in the PNEU. about twenty-five years ago. At that time I was playing to my little child much of the best music in which I was interested, and Miss Mason happened to hear of what I was doing. She realised that music might give great joy and interest to the life of all, and she felt that just as children in the PUS were given the greatest literature and art, so they should have the greatest music as well. She asked me to write an article in the Review on the result of my observations, and to make a programme of music each term which might be played to the children. From that day to this, at the beginning of every term a programme has appeared; thus began a movement which was to spread far and wide.

Musical Appreciation, of course, has nothing to do with playing the piano. It used to be thought that 'learning music' must mean this, and it was supposed that children who had no talent for playing were unmusical and would not like concerts. But Musical Appreciation had no more to do with playing an instrument than acting had to do with an appreciation of Shakespeare, or painting with enjoyment of pictures. I think that all children should take Musical Appreciation and not only the musical ones, for it has been proved that only three per cent of children are what is called 'tone-deaf'; and if they are taken at an early age it is astonishing how children who appear to be without ear, develop it and are able to enjoy listening to music with

A Philosophy of Education pp217-218

Ambleside Online's excellent composer selections are made by people who know classical music well. Their selections are not limited to the most well known pieces - although they are often represented, and aim to give a broad sampling of the composer's life's work allowing us to hear pieces from the beginning, middle, and end of a composer's creative lifespan. I would find it difficult to achieve the range of music they've selected for my favourite composers - for the others I would have no hope at all! We highly recommend the AO Composer selections.

The Advisory provides a term calendar for Artists, Composers, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Folksongs and Hymns. Using the schedule for these subjects is voluntary, but greatly enriches the studies as it enables list members of the yahoo group to share resources and experiences with other mums on the list. In later years, I plan to follow the term calendar quite closely.

In AO1 and AO2, however, we chose to largely make use of the AO Composer selections, but to select a group of composers based on their attractiveness to young children. Many people like Richard Wagner but equally as many hate him - no composer has polarised opinion quite so violently as this man. He was also one of the most unpleasant. He was a spectacular conductor and composer - and we will study his work, but later when Jemimah has a good foundation in fine, pleasant classical music.

In the early years we select our composers based on a couple of excellent tools. The first is the Classical Kids CD's. The originator and producer of the series, Susan Hammond, does a great job in introducing children to classical music.

Her website says this:

A dramatic story, a little bit of history and the world's best-loved classical music set the scene for fun-filled musical adventures the whole family will enjoy. It's a symphony of stories for all ages, presenting the great composers - Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Handel - as heroes for today's children.

The stories connect with kids; the music touches their hearts and becomes a part of their lives.
The CD's give a gentle introduction to the composer and his music. We play them in the car, over and over during the whole 12 week study. By the end we all know a great deal more about the composer with no effort at all.

AO generally offers six selections per term. Some families concentrate on one per fortnight. We simply upload all the selections to itunes and play them from the computer as back ground music during our school day - and often during the evenings as well. When we recognise a piece from the CD we listen to it more carefully. I might mention the name of a particular piece, or we might talk a little about what type of music it is, or why it was written.

We study each composer for the entire twelve week term.

There's another resource that influences our music selection during the early years - good children's books. If you click on the musician's name below, you can see what book we use for each:

In AO1 our composers are:
  1. Mozart

  2. Beethoven

  3. Tchaikovsky

In AO2:

  1. J S Bach

  2. Vivaldi

  3. Handel

In AO3: In line with our Reformation focus, we will study Mediaeval music throughout this year, along with term focuses on possibly the following:

  1. Hayden

  2. Gershwin

  3. Mussorgsky

I hope you will love classical music in your home as much as we do in ours. Classical music is truly one of the "whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, things, isn't it? Above all, it is there for us to listen to and enjoy!!

Sit back, relax, enjoy, have fun!

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