Following a previous post, someone asked about our inquiry into cycles. The main inquiry point is that the layering and varying of simple musical patterns can create a complex sound, and that this cycling technique is used in several musical cultures. Depending on how you spin it, this could fall under the transdisciplinary themes How We Express Ourselves, Who We Are (as a cultural or humanity focus), or even How We Organize Ourselves (as a microstructure) or Where We Are in Place and Time (interconnectedness of people).

djembefolaAfter some exposure through videos, recordings and hopefully playing instruments, you can guide the students to deconstruct the music into the repeating patterns. Perhaps the most obvious provocation would be, “What do these genres of music have in common?” This is probably easiest to do if they have played the music themselves. The patterns can be connected to ostinato, which they will already know. Time for the first essential question (Form): What constitutes a cyclic pattern?

As the students listen to and perform music using cycles, they will begin to make connections and, at the same time, start to articulate the differences and/or what makes each culture’s music unique. Depending on the students’ questions, you could further the inquiry in any number of directions:

Function/Change: How can we vary and combine the patterns to create something new?
Connection: What do the examples have in common
Perspective: Why might this music have developed in this way
Function: How does the ensemble collaborate? How do they know when and how to change? (This could lead to some good Causation questions.)

The summative assessment would ideally involve the students collaborating to create their own cyclic music and performing it, but it could also involve the identification/deconstruction/analysis of a new genre that uses cyclic patterns. It all depends on what your own central idea and key concepts are, and where the students decide to take the inquiry.

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Inquiry: Musical Cycles
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