Day 5

Sunday 17th January 2021

Celebration Musical Role Models Minute 6: Memphis Slim – Broke and Hungry

Thomas thought this piece sounded happy. I don’t think he really understood the words. We played it again and I explained the singer was telling how his girlfriend had left him. We read the notes and talked about the blues structure, which he has learnt about with his piano teacher. He said he could recognise the structure in the piece but said that the piano music sounded happy to him, rather than sad.

We talked about how maybe the purpose of the blues was to provide some sort of comfort and so the music itself might help sooth the sad feelings of the words. Thomas said he thought he could hear a double bass but we then worked out that this was just very low notes on the piano.

I have noticed that Thomas has been experimenting more with sounds since we’ve been exploring the minutes. He has always enjoyed this but it seems to have opened his imagination to the possibilities. He’s been exploring making sounds with everyday objects such as drinking glasses or paper. Tonight he was playing around with amplifying with his voice using a combination of a plastic funnel and a houseplant watering can!


Day 4

Friday 15th January 2021

Christmas /4 – Bach’s Gloria in Excelsis

Today at bedtime we went to the ‘explore minutes by mood’ section. I asked Thomas to choose a mood. He chose ‘Jolly’ and then chose the piece labelled ‘Christmas’.

He said it made him feel happy. He wasn’t able to identify what about it gave it a happy sound. He imagined a lot of people playing instruments on a big stage. He could hear brass and a big drum and voices. We listened again and I pointed out the strings and woodwind too. I found the music very uplifting, joyful and exciting.


Day 3

Wednesday 13th January 2021 

Listening to Composing 1: Make a Rhythm Piece

Today we are exploring the resource From Listening to Composing 1: Make a Rhythm Piece. We are having a more relaxed home school day today after a lot of lessons yesterday. So we started by listening to pieces in bed in the morning.

Hull1 /1: Hands Free by Anna Meredith

Thomas heard clapping, “yeah!” and ‘shhh” sounds and we also thought we could hear a big deep drum. There were obviously lots of people and they were inside a large building as the sound was echoey. Reading the notes we realised the drum was probably stamping feet. We enjoyed the BBC bitesize clip about the making of the piece and talked about how much practice it must take. We talked about how the musicians kept in time and knew what to do and when. Thomas suggested they had the piece written down somehow. I asked him how even if and orchestra has the music how do they make sure they all play exactly together. He remembered then that they have a conductor.

Hull 1 /19: Speaking in Tongues III by Shiela Chandra

This piece made us laugh because when Thomas was very young and only just starting to talk he used to frequently make a very fast repetitive “dugga dugga” sound and play around with the sound and rhythm. He could do it really fast. This reminded us of that and he realised he couldn’t do it that fast any more. We were absolutely intrigued by the incredible tabla playing in the Ted talk clip and again discussed how much practise it must take to be able to do something like that.

Hull 1 / 47 L.O.V.E. by Daniel Elms

Thomas heard lots of brass instruments and maybe strings. In the second listening we also picked up a harp and woodwind. He said the second half made him think of a satellite orbiting the earth. Whenever I ask him about the mood of feeling of the minutes he is not very forthcoming but seems to come up with images more easily.

I have been listening though and choosing the minutes or resources for the next day rather than working through in any order or picking randomly. I think about diversity and how we can take the experience a bit deeper by making our own music or linking it to other learning, like geography for example. For that reason I really like the information that goes with each piece, particularly where there are links to related videos to watch. For each minute there are so many learning directions you could go in. This makes me feel very excited and inspired and is what I love about home schooling – being able to go on a multi-disciplinary learning journey with any starting point. In future we might take just one minute a week and jump off from there into other learning. Todays minutes are getting me to think about how we could do some drawing of the minutes and also use them specifically to explore expanding Thomas’s vocabulary of feelings.

Later today we will try composing some rhythm pieces.


Day 2

Tuesday 12th January 2021 

 Collection 1♯9 Earth bow 

 I chose this minute for today because I had seen the band Baka Beyond play years ago and their music is inspired by the Bakaya people. Thomas had seen the title accidentally and so he already knew it was a bow. He thought the high pitched continuous sound was likely to be insects.

We were amused to read that Sumba breaks his bow at the end and that is why there is laughter. We tried to work out the rhythm of the music but it was not anything familiar and seemed to have an odd number of beats (maybe 5?). We went on to watch videos of Baka people singing and water drumming. All their rhythms were quite complicated.   

I think we will follow this up with learning a bit more about the Bakaya people later in the week. In the evening Thomas had a bath and we experimented making sounds with a plastic cup and a small watering can, a wooden spatula and an elastic band stretched between the taps. Thomas worked out a structure for a short percussion piece and we recorded it.

We realised that after doing this we were listening to everything in a different way and he played around with sounds for another half hour before bed. 


Day 1

Monday 11th January 2021 

Collection 2#1 John Cage prepared’ piano piece

We decided to use our minute of listening today as a break in the middle of doing maths. We lay on the bed and listened with our eyes closed and listened through twice. Thomas, who is 8, had the following comments. 

It sounded like a piano. Also there was someone bashing their hand on the piano. It made me think of a cave with lots of stalactites hanging from the ceiling and dripping. It sounded a bit spooky. The cave would be cold and wet and there might have been an underground river.

After reading the notes about it about it and listening again he added: Theres 3 sounds. The tapping, the piano and a cymbal-like sound that is probably a string rattling against something.   

I said there were two distinct piano sounds that I could hear. A clear high one and the lower more echoey notes. There was a lot of repetition and a regular rhythm.  

We were very intrigued and amused by the youtube link to Stephen Scotts Bowed Piano Ensemble. Thomas found it funny that they were actually hitting parts of the piano with hammers. We talked about how much practise the piece must have taken and that it looked quite uncomfortable leaning over the piano. It inspired us to look inside our own piano. Thomas spent about 40 mins exploring how it worked. He asked his dad why each note had three strings. Jon thought the idea was that they all had a very slightly different pitch so that it gave a rich sound. We used a wooden spoon to tap some of the strings.