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Cross-Curricular - Music
•  Experience the Mexican Musical Tradition of "Corridos"
•  Write Lyrics for Songs with Social Themes
•  Draw Musical Inspiration from Nature and World Cultures



Experience the Mexican Musical Tradition of "Corridos"


The Activity

Mexican ballads, or "corridos," tell stories of important Mexican and Mexican-American figures and events. Because corridos provide the perspectives of everyday people, they are important primary sources of information about history, and have become a significant cultural tradition. Introduce students to this musical form by asking them to listen to a corrido about Juan Quezada, a renowned Mexican potter who brought an economic rebirth to his hometown of Mata Ortiz. A link to this corrido and its lyrics is available from the main page of the FRONTLINE/World story, "The Ballad of Juan Quezada".
pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/mexico403/
Without providing any background information, see if students can determine from the music and lyrics what culture the song might be from. Ask students to explain their reasoning.

Next, tell students that the song is a “corrido,” or a ballad that, in this case, pays tribute to a local Mexican hero. Explain how the structure of such ballads typically follows a narrative pattern:

  1. Singer’s initial address to the audience
  2. Location, time, name of main character
  3. Message
  4. Main character’s farewell
  5. Composer’s farewell

(Source: Hernandez, Guillermo E. “What’s a Corrido? Thematic Representation and Narrative Discourse.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, Volume 18 (1999).)

Display the lyrics to the corrido about Juan Quezada and, as a class, identify the parts of the corrido narrative structure. Then, have students work in pairs or small groups to do the same for three additional corridos of their choosing from the ‘Listen’ section of the Smithsonian’s online "Corridos sin Fronteras" exhibit
www.corridos.org
(Note: Flash 5 or higher is required.)

Conclude the activity by discussing stylistic features common to this genre of music. Also, how do corridos reflect the times in which they were written? What values do they convey?

Consider also reviewing this study later on by having students listen to several selections of music and asking them to identify which piece is a corrido. How do they know?

To extend this activity, introduce students to the inspiration of the corrido about Juan Quezada by showing the approximately 10-minute FRONTLINE/World video, “Ballad of Juan Quezada.” (Note: This story can be viewed online
pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/mexico403/watch.html
in its entirety. A free transcript
pbs.org/frontlineworld/about/episodes/403_transcript.html
is also available to assist with planning. Or Purchase a Tape of Episode 403.) How do the corrido lyrics about Juan Quezada compare to what they see in the video?

Relevant National Standards

Music Standard 7: Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

Level III, Benchmark 1: Understands distinguishing characteristics (e.g., relating to instrumentation, texture, rhythmic qualities, melodic lines, form) of representative music genres and styles from a variety of cultures

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Classifies unfamiliar but representative aural examples of music (e.g., by genre, style, historical period, culture)

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Write Lyrics for Songs with Social Themes


The Activity

Explore how music can be used to achieve social goals.

Show students where North Korea is on a map and then play a segment from "North Korea: Suspicious Minds" in which a young girl sings a song that praises North Korea's "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.
www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/northkorea

At about 12:50 into the story
Song lyrics (translated): Sun, sun, if there's sun, it's the morning. Sun, sun, if there's sun, the birds fly. The Great Leader's picture is the sun, to whom I am grateful. I can't live without him. I am thankful to him.
Length of clip: 47 seconds

Discuss the message of the song and the purpose of teaching such a song to young children in North Korea. What would the lyrics be in a similar type of song written for children in the United States? Have students, working in teams, write sample lyrics then share them with the class.

What similarities and differences do students observe when comparing their own original lyrics to the song sung by the young girl? What political, cultural, and other factors may have influenced each composition?

Resources

For a children's song taught in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, please see the feature, "Sophiline Shapiro: The Dancer".

Visit the "North Korea: Suspicious Mind" Web resources for a synopsis of the story, related links and facts, and more.
pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/northkorea/

A transcript of the story is also available:
pbs.org/frontlineworld/about/episodes/201_transcript.html#northkorea

Relevant National Standards

Music, Standard 7: Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

Language Arts, Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level IV, Benchmark 4
Understands writing techniques used to influence the reader and accomplish an author's purpose

Related Activities

This activity is part of a suite of activities developed around the theme of the Cold War and Beyond. Additional activities under this theme include:

From Arms Race to Arms Sales (Politics)
pbs.org/frontlineworld/educators/politics_sierraleone.html

Face-Off: United States Foreign Policy With North Korea (Politics)
pbs.org/frontlineworld/educators/politics_northkorea.html

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Draw Musical Inspiration from Nature and World Cultures


The Activity

Using Icelandic music as a case study, explore how the environment inspires music as well as how cultures around the world influence one another's music. Begin by having students pretend to be reporters covering the Icelandic music scene. Using the feature "Long Nights Out With Top Icelandic Bands",
pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iceland/music.html
ask students to choose one band and write a descriptive review of its music. Reviews should include student hypotheses and supporting explanations for what they believe has inspired the band's sound (for example, Iceland's moonlike geography, its endless summer days and winter nights, its frequent economic interactions with the United States and Germany, and so on). Students may wish to consult the Facts & Stats section
pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iceland/facts.html
on Iceland and maps for information and ideas.

Resources

Visit the "Iceland: The Future of Sound" Web resources to find the features utilized in this activity, to watch the full FRONTLINE/World segment in streaming video, to read an interview with music reporter Marco Werman, or to find related links:
pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iceland/

Relevant National Standards

Music, Standard 7: Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

Related Activities

This activity is part of a suite of activities developed around the theme of Environment. Additional activities under this theme include:

Address Concerns Caused by Conflict in Colombia
pbs.org/frontlineworld/educators/geography_colombia.html

Documenting a Historic Climb of Mount Everest
pbs.org/frontlineworld/educators/geography_nepal.html

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