Looking to create a music listening curriculum?

That is something we do here, too!

Here at the Fun Music Company we LOVE looking through curriculum documents, created by government departments and education authorities.

Student enjoying a music listening curriculum

I am only a little bit “tongue-in-cheek” as I write that!

Seriously, we do actually enjoy it! Its a really interesting aspect of our work here – getting down to the nitty-gritty of working out what a curriculum document means, and how teachers can best create activities that meet the needs in the classroom.

One common aspect that is in almost every curriculum is LISTENING, and specifically listening with intention to gain understanding about the elements of music.

A music listening curriculum in context of curriculum requirements

The current draft Australian curriculum, Grade 5 & 6 contains

explore and explain the ways that musicians use the elements of music to communicate ideas

And the US common core contains things like:

Demonstrate and explain how intent is conveyed through interpretive decisions and expressive qualities (such as dynamics, tempo, timbre, and articulation/style)

So it should be easy to find licensing examples that feature specific elements of music and have the students listen to them, shouldn’t it?

Well … in theory yes. Certainly the writers of these curricula feel that teachers should be able to do that.

The problem is that it’s not actually that easy in practice to find these listening examples that are perfect for every situation.

There are some examples that spring to mind, such as Edvarg Grieg’s “Hall of the mountain king” which highlights tempo – it begins really slowly and gets faster towards the end.

Oh… but hang on a minute. It also highlights dynamics, because it gets louder thoughout as well.

So do we use it to highlight tempo, or dynamics? And how do we teach students two concepts at once? And how do we communicate that in a way that our students will understand it?

Music is just not composed to highlight particular elements of music. Music composers create a piece of art – and they’ll use whatever elements of music they need to use to communicate their intention.

So as educators it is up to us to match the curriculum need and examples we can find – and it is a challenging process, as so many pieces might be great in some aspects, but they may be too long, or too challenging for other reasons.

Our Fun Music Company Curriculum CONNECT program is designed to meet this need, and provides a wide variety of listening examples. Our writers are constantly dealing with this issue of finding music that communicates the educational concept without too many distracting elements.

Here at the Fun Music Company we are also currently commissioning composers to write specific listening examples for the revision of this program, to specifically meet some of these needs. If you’re a composer and you’re interested in contributing to this program, please do get in touch.

However the short example highlighting particular elements of music is only a beginning point. Students do need to listen to a wide variety of music, and identify multiple elements of music simultaneously – and that is one of the big challenges we face as educators.

So please send us your feedback and comments – we would love to know how you incorporate music listening highlighting particular elements of music or expressive elements in your lessons!