ART is to get people talking!

Class: Grade 8                                                 Date: TBD

Topic: Social Issues                                         Subject: Music

Lesson Plan50 Minutes 
Content: Students are introduced to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring by watching a YouTube video by Ballets Russes. Students are asked to describe, analyze or interpret an arts expression they are interested in. Teacher explains how the audience interpreted Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring 107 years ago. Students are asked to create their own work using the call and response format, within a drumming circle. Students document how their response was influenced by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
Outcomes and Indicators:
(Arts Ed) CR8.1 Respond to professional dance, drama, music, and visual art works through the creation of own arts expressions. Describe, analyze, and interpret arts expressions of personal interest. Analyze and discuss how dance, drama, music, visual and interdisciplinary arts are expressions of individual or collective perspectives. Create own work (e.g., visual or performing arts) in response to a professional arts expression, and describe how own work is inspired or influenced by the original work.
Assessment: Students document/ journal: A description, analyzation, or interpretation of an arts expressions of personal interest that they have found/ think of.Describe how their own work (the response on their drum within the drumming circle) was inspired by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
Prerequisite Learning: Students should know how to carry and handle drums as well as know how to use their hands to drum a drum. Students should know how to follow the drumming circle conductor (teacher).    
Lesson Preparation Equipment/Materials Computer, Audio, Internet, YouTube. Access to drums for drumming circle Advanced Preparation
Set: (4 min) This sold-out premiere ballet, The Rite of Spring, caused a turbulent uproar causing arguments and fist fights to break out during the performance!  

Development: (36 min) In 1913 (107 years ago) in France, 31-year-old Igor Stravinsky, a law school dropout, had composed a composition for the elite traveling Russian dancers known as The troupe Ballets Russes. The performance continued, as rehearsed, but so did the uproar, ending in fist fights! Display/ show/ imagine/ find an arts expression of personal interest to you. Imagine attending its formal performance and arguments erupt in the audience! Describe, analyze, and interpret your chosen arts expression in writing (assessment for teacher). Would there be reason for an uproar? To this day, no one is exactly sure why there was such a turbulent response to the ballet’s performance, The Rite of Spring, but it could be the story line, the unconventional choreography, or the dissonant and inconsistent rhythms. Create your own response within a drumming circle in a call and response format. Students respond by creating a 4-beat response to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Help students understand and analyze that all of our individual responses are indeed individual but also contribute to the collective perspective.  

Closure: (10 min) Describe how your own work is inspired or influenced by the original work.          
Classroom Management Strategies   Show YouTube video from 7:45-10:45. Show a picture of the Theatre des Champs Elysees, where the uproar occurred. This is not meant to be a lengthy research project. The students may quickly access their personal electronic devices to find but encourage students to use their imaginations. 


  1. Some students may become comfortable learning to be the drumming circle conductor.
  2. Students may have additional percussive instruments added to the drumming circle such as maracas, shakers, etc.
  3. Students may enjoy learning new parts within the drumming circle. 
  4. Students may want to research an arts expression that has deeper meaning to them rather than just imagining one.

Adaptive Dimension:

  1. Students may need to slow down their response in the drumming circle: a 4-beat response may be to fast to begin, give them 8 beats.

EXTRA NOTES, after having met with Denise:

  • To display art work have an art walk as a response to a piece of art. Example: I did this in Valerie Trigg’s visual art class.
  • 6-part process considering why one likes/ dislikes something. Cannot just say “I like it”, “I hate it”.

Allow for unconformity because The Rite of Spring is unsettling. How can they manipulate the drum!?

Was 8 beats constraining? Did Stravinsky feel constrained?

Claude Debussy: Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune

Class: Grade 8                                                 Date: TBD

Topic: Social Issues                                         Subject: Music

Lesson Plan50 Minutes 
Content: Students are introduced to modern era composer Claude Debussy by watching a performance of his Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune. Discussion regarding the interdisciplinary art expressions Debussy used (music with poetry) to further express and capture his feelings. We too can use art to address social justice, pulling inspiration from Debussy’s composition and Mallarme’s poem by creating our own cut poetry.
Outcomes and Indicators:
(Arts Ed) CH8.4 Examine and respond to the work of artists who incorporate more than one art form in their work (e.g., combining poetry and music). a. Examine and discuss various interdisciplinary arts expressions (i.e., using two or more disciplines in the work). b. Collaborate with others to create interdisciplinary work that addresses issues of social justice and/or other topics of interest to youth (e.g., relationships, body image, racism, sustainability).
(ELA) CR8.1 View, listen to, read, comprehend, and respond to a variety of texts that address identity (e.g., Becoming Myself), social responsibility (e.g., In Search of Justice), and efficacy (e.g., Building a Better World). View, listen to, read, and respond to a variety of visual, multimedia (including digital), oral, and print texts that address the grade-level themes and issues related to identity, social responsibility, and efficacy including those that reflect diverse personal identities, worldviews, and backgrounds (e.g., appearance, culture, socio-economic status, ability, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, career pathway). 
Assessment: Cut poetry is handed in at the end of class with 2 sentences explaining/ commenting on their poem: what it means to them and how it applies/ represents their social justice cause.
Prerequisite Learning: Students need to know and understand what social justice is and be able to choose one as their “cause”. Social justice can include: Relationshipsbody imageracismsustainability
Lesson Preparation Equipment/Materials Computer, Audio, Internet, YouTube (first 2 minutes)Cardstock, scissors, glue, pencils, pens, markers Advanced Preparation Photocopy poem by Mallarme, one per student   Variety of books that address identity
Set: (5 min) Debussy was inspired to compose this orchestral work based off a poem by Mallarme which is about a faun, a mythological character of the forest who is half man, half goat. He is visited by three lovely nymphs. The hazy, dreamy quality of the poem is captured in Debussy’s sensuous music. Let’s listen! Introduce students to Debussy’s composition Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune.

Development: (35 min) One student reads soliloquy (included, I wrote). Discuss Mallarme’s first response to Debussy using his poem to be set to music. Mallarme was not happy at all. His friend Paul Valery stated: “He believed that his own music was sufficient, and that even with the best intentions in the world, it was a veritable crime as far as poetry was concerned to juxtapose poetry and music, even if it were the finest music there is.” Debussy was not deterred and invited Mallarme to the premiere performance of Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune. Mallarme had a change of heart and said: “I have just come out of the concert, deeply moved: what a marvel! …Listen to the composition for yourself!” Music and poetry have been combined because Debussy saw the desires and dreams of the faun moving in a warm afternoon and he wanted to create a similar atmosphere musically. We can create interdisciplinary work that addresses issues of all kinds. Today we will focus on social justice. Display books that address identity, encourage students to choose a social justice topic that is important to them and have them create cut poetry in partners from the poem by Mallarme. They may add words of their own to assist in the creative process. The students can choose to make their cut poetry visually appealing using markers, etc.  

Closure: (10 min) Students can read their created cut poetry aloud. Give them a few minutes to write on the back of their cut poetry what it means to them and how it applies/ represents their social justice choice.
Classroom Management Strategies   Hand out the poem; one per student.    Look for a student volunteer with strong reading skills.         Students may not know what veritable means: true/ accurate.           Debate! Can we combine different art forms? Use one art form to respond to another art form.           Students do not have to share their cut poetry vocally in front of the class but are encouraged to.


  1. Students may choose to write a song with or without lyrics to represent their social justice cause.
  2. Students may work in larger groups to create longer poetic stanzas, possibly becoming a song.
  3. Students may enjoy explore using classroom instruments to assist in creating their cut poetry. 

Adaptive Dimension:

  1. Students may prefer to draw/ colour their “cut” poetry instead of using the words to express themselves.


My name is Claude Debussy and I was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France in 1862 (158 years ago). My father was a china shop owner while my mother was a seamstress. I began piano lessons at the age of 7. When I was 10 years-old I entered the Paris Conservatoire aspiring to be a pianist but my interest soon changed to composition. I received many awards.

I worked as a pianist, collaborative artist, and conductor. Although I gained fame and notoriety, I had a very turbulent romantic life being involved in scandalous romantic relationships. I married my first wife Rosalie Texier in 1899. Rosalie threatened to kill herself if I didn’t marry her. I ended up having an affair with Emma Bardac (Rosalie attempted suicide at this point) and we had a baby girl together before I divorced Rosalie and finally married Emma.

I am highly original and innovative and I am influential in both France and internationally. Impressionist painters influenced my music. I am more interested in evoking rather than narrating and suggesting rather than depicting. I am drawn to mythological subjects that are often witty and satirical. I died of cancer March 25, 1918.

Poem, L’apres-midi d’un faune by Stephane Mallarne

I would immortalize these nymphs: so bright
Their sunlit coloring, so airy light,
It floats like drowsing down. Loved I a dream?
My doubts, born of oblivious darkness, seem
A subtle tracery of branches grown
The tree’s true self—proving that I have known
No triumph, but the shadow of a rose. 

Franz Schubert: Erlkonig

Class: Grade 8                                                 Date: TBD

Topic: Social Issue: Bullying                            Subject: Music

Lesson Plan50 Minutes
Content: This 50-minute music lesson introduces students to the Romantic Era composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Students will learn a few basic facts about Schubert and be introduced to his lied “Erlkonig” (Erlking). We will discuss the issues of bullying after viewing Schubert’s lied. Student choose a poem and find or create music to go with the poem (this is a lied). They may share their lied at the end of class but is not mandatory. Finish class with 1 minute of straight writing from questions that arose.
Outcomes and Indicators:
CP8.9 Compose sound compositions in response to social issues (e.g., poverty, racism, homophobia, sustainability, gangs). a. Examine the intentions, development, and interpretations of own and others’ music expressions in relation to social issues (e.g., antiwar songs, music with environmental messages, hip hop songs that promote positive life choices). b. Create and perform own music compositions, improvisations, or song lyrics in response to a social issue of importance to students. e. Explore and expand upon a musical idea to achieve more depth of meaning and expression.
CH8.4 Examine and respond to the work of artists who incorporate more than one art form in their work (e.g., combining poetry and music). a. Examine and discuss various interdisciplinary arts expressions (i.e., using two or more disciplines in the work). b. Collaborate with others to create interdisciplinary work that addresses issues of social justice and/or other topics of interest to youth (e.g., relationships, body image, racism, sustainability).
Assessment: Ask students to come up with a question that will indicate they have understood one of the key points – and then use their question for further discussion. Further discussion looks like this: Quickwrite: Students are given a question and they must write whatever comes to mind for a full minute without stopping. When done, several may be asked to share insights that emerged in the process of writing.
Prerequisite Learning: What an Erlking is: German legend: a sinister supernatural elf who dwells in the forest; anyone who is touched by him dies. What a Lied (Lieders is plural) is: German song that uses a solo voice with piano accompaniment. An understanding of what social issues are: an issue that relates to society’s perception of people’s personal lives What a bully is: one that seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable). Students need to know how to access music from any source of their choosing such as radio, iTunes, YouTube, etc.
Lesson Preparation: Equipment/Materials TV screen/ monitor, audio, computer, internet, YouTube video. Photocopied words of Erlking for each student, as attached to this lesson plan. Bring poetry books and/ or have students access poems using the internet; laptops/ tablets for students that do not want to use existing poems. Laptops/ tablets for students to source a music composition. Or they may use their own handheld electronic device. Advanced Preparation Photocopy of Erlking words for each student. Access to a world map: whether that be a map on the classroom wall or pulling one up on the internet. Variety of books of poems relating to social issues
Set: (3 min) Are there bully’s in our day, the year 2020? Were there bully’s in the 1800’s? Today we are learning about a man named Franz Schubert who was born in 1797 in Vienna, Austria. He is a famous music composer who wrote over 600 Lieders. The poem Erlkonig (translates to Erlking in English), written by Goethe, had a huge impact on Schubert so he composed music for the poem and it came to be known as a lied.

Development: (40 min) The story of this poem is this: On a windswept night, a father rides urgently with his ailing son. The boy sees the Erlking, a menacing elf who tries again and again to lure the frightened child away from his father’s protective grasp. The boy becomes increasingly frightened and agitated despite his father’s attempts to calm and reassure him. Father and son continue their journey with great haste. As they arrive at the courtyard, the father looks down to find his son dead in his arms, the Erlking apparently successful in his attempts to lure the child away. Watch YouTube video (5:18). Teach students a little bit about Schubert: Lived in poverty: his works were popular but he did not receive enough money to support himself. He dated but love was not rewarded to him in return. He died at age 31 (1828) having struggled with many health problems. Played the viola in his family’s string quartet. Could sing beautifully; admitted as a boy soprano into Stadtkonvikt. Was a school teacher but quit because he didn’t like it. He idolized Beethoven (they lived in the same city but only ever met once) & he requested to be buried next to Beethoven (their graves are still side by side now, although the graves have been moved to Vienna’s most famous cemetery) Reflecting on Schubert’s life experiences, why do you think he felt compelled to compose music for such a tragic poem, Erlking? Was the young son in the poem bullied? By who? What did he try to do about it? Why couldn’t his father see the “bully”/ Erlking? I want you to think about a social issue that is important to you. Examples: poverty, racism, homophobia, sustainability, bullying, gangs. Find or write your own poem that relates to your chosen social issue. Compose a sound composition that your poem could be sung to. You may make up your own notation (real or invented) or you may use another artist’s sound composition. Mid way through introduce the students to ways to achieve more depth of meaning and expression in their composition through the use of dynamics (loud: forte; soft: pianissimo) or tempo (speed: fast/ slow).

Closure: (5-7 min) Students can volunteer to share their created lied with the class. Call upon one or two students for the questions they had throughout the lesson. Have students free write for one minute straight without stopping and hand in to teacher.        
Classroom Management Strategies Encourage class participation; students can raise their hands.   Point on a world map where Austria is in comparison to where we are in America.   Invite students to think of a question throughout our lesson. Follow up on this at the end of class. Have a student volunteer read the story. Hand out prepared lyrics so students can follow along while watching the YouTube video of Erlking. Only turn ONE set of lights off to keep students awake and engaged. Encourage class participation but if the students are timid or resisting full class participation, use Think/Pair/Share: (3 minutes maximum) Pairs of students are able to discuss responses to this question together and then one of them shares their thoughts. This encourages interaction and engagement and offers some additional time for thinking.   Display poetry books brought into class.   It is important the students understand they do not HAVE to share their composition in front of the whole class unless they WANT to. {Explore and expand upon a musical idea to achieve more depth of meaning and expression}. If no one volunteers, teacher shares theirs.   A lied is sung! Students are NOT required to sing theirs! They may read their poem along with their chosen music. If students are stumped for a question, choose from a few of these for a lead: Was Schubert bullied so he felt drawn to this poem? Why didn’t Schubert’s girlfriends love him in return?Can I help a bullied victim? How?


  1. Students may choose multiple social issues to be reflected into one lied. Example: Bullying and poverty (2 issues) for one poem and one song = 1 lied.
  2. For the technology advanced students: have them choose a song from a movie and import it to Audacity, removing the visuals. (Audacity is a free open source on line program that is easy enough for a 13-14-year-old to figure out).

Adaptive Dimension:

  1. Choose key words related to their social issue rather than a whole poem.
  2. Prepare “cut poetry” (taking words and phrases, seemingly at random, from existing pieces of writing and reassembling them to create a new piece) on the social issue.

Haydn: Emperor Quartet

Lesson Time Required: 50 minutes

Grade Level & Conceptual Focus: Grade 8, Social Issues

Key Inquiry Question: How did Franz Joseph Haydn contribute to the Classical Era and how did his travels inspire him to compose a moving national anthem to honor his native country of Austria?  

Required Resources & Materials: Variety of instruments found in the music classroom. 12 copies of the prepared Reader’s Theatre, 12 students to volunteer to read/ act the script. Attached PDF copy of Emperor’s Quartet (lyrics included). A printed table (below) for each student, for end of class assessment

Positive Personal skillsNegative Personal Skills

Computer with access to YouTube and audio so the students can listen to String Quartet in C Major, op. 76, no. 3 (“Emperor Quartet”).

Photo of Esterhazy Palace (Austria)

Arts Education Goals Addressed: (Cultural/Historical, Critical/Responsive, Creative/Productive) All 3.

Arts Education Strands Addressed: Music, drama, visual art, and literature.

Connections to Other Subject Areas:

CG8.2 Analyze abilities for responding positively to change in one’s life.

d. Document and appraise one’s own dependability and honesty towards others.

CC8.1 Examine how a disposition for lifelong learning connects to potential career pathways.

c. Compare how positive and negative personal skills and attitudes influence life and work-related success d. Explore and clarify understandings about the relationship between personal knowledge and skills and life and work choices

Proposed Learning Outcomes & Indicators: 

CP8.7 Improvise, compose, and perform (e.g., with voice, instruments, and technologies) a selection of pieces in contrasting styles.

a. Examine and apply the technique of vocal improvisation in song and speech.

h. Prepare, rehearse, present, and evaluate individual and group performances of contrasting styles of music.

Planned Learning Activities: To introduce and learn about Franz Joseph Haydn, have 12 volunteers read/ act out the Reader’s Theatre (I wrote). Have students listen to YouTube Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, op. 76, no. 3 (“Emperor Quartet”). Re explain the reason Haydn composed this piece of music (as found in the green highlighted section of Reader’s Theatre). Allow students to explore the various movements and variations of The Emperor Quartet using the classroom instruments. Teach the students the beat/ structure of The Emperor Quartet and have them repeat using their selected instrument (this is a very easy/ basic 2/2 time). Allow time for students to “perform” if they’d like to, in front of the class. Teach the students the words in the first line of The Emperor Quartet in English. If available and I can find someone in the school community that knows German, introduce The Emperor Quartet in German and learn the first line in German. 

Mother HaydnHELLO! I am a cook, my husband is a wheelwright (a person that fixes wooden wheels) and we have 3 sons, Michael, Johann, and Franz Joseph, all who became musicians. We live in Rohrau, Austria.
Franz JosephI was born in 1732 and I am a self-taught musician.
Nicolo PorporaI am an Italian singer and composer and Franz Joseph considers me to have been his only teacher.
Franz JosephI was educated at St. Stephen’s Cathedral where I was a choirboy until my voice changed, causing my dismissal. 
Count Ferdinand von Morzin  I hired Franz Joseph for his first full time position as Kapellmeister. His responsibilities included conducting, composing, and performing.
Maria Anna KellerI married Franz Joseph in 1760 and one year later my husband began his long and successful career with the wealthy & influential Esterhazy family. 
Prince Nikolai EsterhazyFranz Joseph became Kapellmeister and moved to my family’s magnificent palace (show picture of palace), in 1766.
Maria Anna KellerMy husband worked hard training instrumentalists, conducting, composing, and performing chamber music. He provided all the music for the court opera house, theatre, and chapel.
Prince Nikolai EsterhazyFranz Joseph’s contract stipulated strict rules that included a dress code (looked like the Pope’s Swiss Guard), his manners, and habits.
Franz JosephDespite my many restrictions at the Esterhazy’s, I was given much creative freedom to discover my artistic voice. I enjoyed exploring symphony, opera, and string quartet.
NarratorFranz Joseph’s reputation gradually grew outside of the Esterhazy House.
MozartEven though I was over two decades younger than Franz Joseph, we developed a friendship and we respected and admired each other. We dedicated string quartets to one another.
Prince AntonI am the new Prince, succeeding Prince Nikolai. I do not love music as much as Nikolai therefore I relieved Franz Joseph from all his duties but I did pay him a pension. However, he was still required to compose for the annual mass.
Franz JosephAfter being relieved of my duties at the Esterhazy House, I moved back to Vienna (276 KM), in the year 1790. I was 58 years old now. I had an opportunity to travel to London where I met Johann Peter Salomon. 
Johann Peter SalomonI captured Franz Joseph’s attention as a concert promoter and he carried out a series of concerts, finding great success. He “electrified” his audiences.
Franz JosephDespite my many restrictions, I was given much creative freedom to discover my artistic voice. I enjoyed exploring symphony, opera, and string quartet.
NarratorFranz Joseph received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University.
BeethovenI was privileged to meet Franz Joseph in 1792 in Vienna where he briefly taught me.
Franz JosephIn 1794, I took a second trip back to London where I found a lot of financial success with my last six symphonies. I was deeply moved by the English anthem “God Save the King” and was inspired to write a moving anthem for my native Austria to honour its emperor, Francis II.
NarratorIn 1795 Franz Joseph permanently moved back to Vienna and wrote oratorios, six masses for Prince Nicholas II (Anton’s successor, the Prince who didn’t care for music), and more string quartets.
Franz JosephThe year 1802 I retired due to my failing health but I made one last appearance in my 1808 performance of The Creation.
NarratorFranz Joseph died May 31, 1809.

Follow up discussion questions:

  • Did Haydn have the “easy Street” life? Did he experience change and difficulty?
    • How can we be honest with ourselves and others when difficulties arise?
    • How did Haydn show he was dependable and honest?
  • Was Haydn a lifelong learner? Are you? How do positive/ negative attitudes influence our lives and work success? How was Haydn affected? (even though he was let go from the Esterhazy House, he found success performing concerts in Vienna.
  • Plans for Assessment: Using the image of the Esterhazy House, ask students to explain the significance in relation to one of the chapter’s key points.

Possibilities include:

  • Haydn was employed by the wealthy and influential Esterhazy family most of his career.
  • Haydn lived at the Esterhazy palace while training instrumentalists, conducting, composing, and performing
  • He provided all the music for the opera house, theatre, and chapel
  • Was told what he could wear
  • Had a lot of restrictions imposed upon him by the Esterhazy’s
  • Knew and respected Mozart
  • New prince fired Haydn when he was in his 50’s- new prince didn’t like music
  • Haydn moved back to Vienna (from Austria) but this gave Haydn a new opportunity b/c he met Salomon who promoted concerts. Haydn found success.

Hand out chart for students to fill in regarding their attitude because attitude affects our lives and work success.

My Positive Personal skillsMy Negative Personal Skills

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier

Lesson Time Required: 50 minutes

Grade Level & Conceptual Focus: Grade 8, Social Issues

Key Inquiry Question:  How did Bach contribute to the Baroque Era and how did his music reflect the social issues of their time and place? 

Required Resources & Materials: Computer with Internet to watch/ listen to The Well-Tempered Clavier and ability to display images of harpsichords. Map of Germany with the 8 highlighted cities, included. Trumpet (for the drama play), percussion shakers/ rhythm sticks. White/ chalk board with markers/ chalk.

Arts Education Goals Addressed: (Cultural/Historical, Critical/Responsive, Creative/Productive) All 3.

Arts Education Strands Addressed: Music, drama, and literature.

Connections to Other Subject Areas: CG8.2 Analyze abilities for responding positively to change in one’s life.

e. Re-examine personal management skills such as time management, problem solving, stress management, and lifework balance and evaluate one’s own strategies for dealing with personal change.

CC8.5 Create and present a variety of visual and multimedia presentations including an illustrated report, a role play that ends with a tableau, a dramatization, presentation software, a newscast with adequate detail, clarity, and organization to explain (e.g., an important concept), to persuade (e.g., an opinion on an issue, a mini-debate), and to entertain (e.g., a humorous incident).

a. Explore ideas and express understanding using various forms of representing (e.g., storyboarding, illustrating, role playing, e-mailing, preparing a concept map).

i. Use more than one type of media in a presentation.

Proposed Learning Outcomes & Indicators: 

CP8.8 Investigate and make choices about musical structures in sound composition. 

a. Use inquiry in music to extend understanding of the elements of music and principles of composition: 

• Pose questions to guide inquiry into how elements of music can be manipulated and structured to create balance and unity (e.g., What are the rhythmic and melodic possibilities/limitations with this instrument? What different timbres are possible with this instrument? What textures can be created by combining or layering a variety of vocal or instrumental sounds?). 

• Conduct a collaborative inquiry and experiment with voice and instruments to explore inquiry questions about musical structure (e.g., In what ways could we rearrange these motifs or phrases in different sequences?). 

• Collaborate with peers to document the inquiry process (e.g., traditional and/or invented notation, audio or video recording). 

Planned Learning Activities: Introduce Johann Sebastian Bach by having students “act” his life out, using the prescribed script as a guide. Allow for improvisation although the stated facts cannot be adjusted or modified. Encourage students to use more than one type of media in their presentation. 

“I am Johann Sebastian Bach and I was born about 335 years ago, in the year 1685, in Germany (show map, included, of Germany). Standing beside me represent my previous 5 generations (5 male progenitors), each involved in the music profession. My father was a court trumpeter (have the student acting as the father hold a trumpet). I was orphaned (students representing JSB’s family now return to their seats) by age 10 therefore my oldest brother, Johann Christoph, provided my musical training. I studied Latin, Greek, theology, loved to sing in choirs, played the violin, and was an excellent organist. I was also trained in instrument building and repair. 

When I was 20 years old (1705) I walked from Arnstadt to Lubeck (Germany) which was over 300 kilometers (the distance between Calgary and Edmonton) each way to meet the famous organist Dietrich Bustehude. I was so completely inspired that I stayed an extra 3 months without authorization. (female student comes forward to stand beside JSB) Bustehude offered me a job but only if I would marry his aging daughter. I declined (female student returns to her seat, while another female student comes forward) and chose to marry my distant cousin Maria instead. (2 male students come forward and introduce themselves as Maria and JSB’s sons, Carl Phillip and Wilhelm Friedemann and state they are successful musicians).

I moved my family to Weimar, Germany where I increased my fame as an organist. I played and composed exclusively for the Lutheran church, which included cantatas and chorale settings. In 1717 I received a salary advance for a new position at Cothen. (a different male student comes forward holding handcuffs, identifying himself as the Duke of Weimar and expresses anger that JSB took a new position so he throws JSB in jail for one month). 

I moved my family yet again, leaving Weimar and headed to Cothen where my sweet wife Maria died (1720) and (a different female student comes forward) a year later I married Anna who is a court singer. (2 male students come forward and identify themselves as JSB and Anna’s sons: Johann Christian and Johann Christoph and state they also became successful musicians).

I moved a lot within Germany, ending up in Leipzig for the last 27 years of my life. Here I am appointed Cantor of St. Thomas School in which I have many responsibilities which include: teaching, composing, directing choirs, and supervising musical activities in several churches. In 1729 (age 44) I became the director of Collegium Musicum which is a performing ensemble for university students and I write many large-scale works that include the Art of Fugue. I became expert at perfecting fugues, which are highly structured and imitative compositions. Fugues carry more than one independent melodic line however; a single theme prevails. Fugues are very busy because chords change on almost every beat. I did not invent anything new, I perfected existing forms of my time. Up until now, the major and minor tonal system did not exist- all tuning had to be done mathematically. My piece entitled “The Well Tempered Clavier” became an enduring and monumental contribution to keyboard literature and is a collection of preludes and fugues. It shows Bach’s mastery of the contrapuntal form in the new tuning method. It shows his mastery of the contrapuntal form in the new tuning method. The creation of this new tonal system meant keyboards no longer need to be re-tuned in order to change pitches. I traveled a lot to test new keyboard instruments. In 1747, just before I died, I visited my now adult son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who works for Frederick the Great at Potsdam and I wrote a contrapuntal work based on a theme provided by the king. 

In 1750, at the age of 65, I am blind and I died from a stroke.”

Let’s listen to The Well Tempered Clavier (only show a few minutes beginning at 21:23, it’s over 2 hours long).

Questions to discuss:

What instrument did the YouTube performer (Thomas Schwan) play? (piano) Schwan played The Well-Tempered Clavier, written by Bach. The word Clavier is a German word for keyboard instruments other than the organ. 

The instrument of Bach’s day was the harpsichord or clavichord because pianos were not invented yet:

See the source image

Is a harpsichord considered a clavier? (yes) Is a piano considered a clavier? (yes)

What are the rhythmic and melodic possibilities/limitations with this instrument, the piano? Examples may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pedals
  • More keys than harpsichord
  • Piano can be played using dynamics (soft or loud) (unlike harpsichords)
  • Play piano fast or slow
  • Piano’s are not portable
  • We want to sing along to recognizable tunes (ex: Happy Birthday)

What different timbres are possible with this instrument? Examples may include, but are not limited to:

  • Reedy     
  • Brassy
  • Clear 
  • Bright
  • Focused or unfocussed  
  • Breathy 
  • Dark
  • Rounded  
  • Piercing 
  • Strident
  • Harsh
  • Warm  
  • Mellow
  • Resonant
  • Heavy
  • Light
  • Flat
  • Having much, little, or no vibrato (a controlled wavering in the sound); or narrow or wide, or slow or fast, vibrato

What textures can be created by combining or layering a variety of vocal or instrumental sounds? Examples may include:

  • LH or RH can play, independent of the other
  • LH can be played simultaneously as the RH
  • LH & RH can play the same melodic line, or very different melodies at the same time

Have students listen to The Well-Tempered Clavier again, listening for examples of variety and excitement. Listen/ look for how Bach used additional elements such as dynamics (volume), LH or RH only, change of rhythm, voice, other instruments, etc. Bach decided to have a LH only part at 2:26. How does the LH only change the timbre? Notice when the RH joins back in, it repeats what the LH had just played. What changes at 1:34:35 compared to the first few minutes? (speed, timbre, dynamics) How would the texture of this song change if Bach had included lyrics? Or layered it with percussion instruments? Let’s try it using percussion shakers/ rhythm sticks and record ourselves playing along. Could we re arrange any of the motifs or phrases? How would this piece be different if Bach began with the intensity used at 1:34:35? Bach asked questions which led him to perfect the form (fugue) of his day. Baroque music had already been around for 100 years by the time he began perfecting music. He did not innovate, he absorbed influences of international styles. His music reflected the social issues of Germany such as combining 2 or more independent melodic lines and in the Lutheran Church he included their chorale tradition. The music in France had dance rhythms and ornamentation and Italy included Opera and writing for specific instruments (rather than generic). 

What about music now? We hear music all day long. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier may seem very different from the pop music we listen to today. Will one of you please tell me a pop song that is popular right now? Let’s listen to the pop song and listen for how it is the same/ different from the Fugue we just studied. (May choose to write responses on the board):

Very busy 
Chord changes 
Single theme prevails 
Can be mentally exhausting 

Bach moved many times, experienced the death of many close family members, spent time in prison, traveled extensively, and became blind. Think of your own strategies for dealing with personal change. Bach did not keep his setbacks from allowing him to grow. We can assume Bach developed time and stress management strategies while working as the Cantor (an important religious figure) of St. Thomas School because he then became the director of Collegium Musicum (= to the Dean of Music in a university nowadays), which was a performing ensemble for university students.

Plans for Assessment: Three-person dialogue: Each student works with 2 others to complete the assessment. On a blank sheet of paper, ask each student to write 3 words or phrases that represent the most important ideas, concepts, or points from the lesson. Write one at the top of the page, another in the center and another towards the bottom, leaving room below each to write a short paragraph about it. They choose one and summarize its meaning and significance briefly. They then pass their paper to the next person who will choose one of the remaining 2 concepts and write their summary. Do the same with a 3rd person. Papers are returned to the teacher with all three student’s names on all three papers. If there is one person left, make one group of four. One group of 2 is acceptable if 2 are without a group.