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April 9th, 2009
Lesson Plan 1: Experimental Music
Lesson Overview

Lesson Title: Experimental Music
[download this lesson plan as a PDF]
[download this lesson plan with Student Organizers as a PDF]
[Student Organizer – Music Response Survey PDF | RTF]
[Student Organizer – Music Experimnent Write Up PDF | RTF]

Grade level: 5-8

Topic/Subject Matter: Music, Science

Time Allotment: Three 45-minute class periods, and additional in-class or out-of-class time to collect data for experiments in the Culminating Activity.

Overview: THE MUSIC INSTINCT showcases the research and discovery process of scientists whose work focuses on the interrelationship between music and science. Music is a topic that is very accessible and familiar to young people, and can be used as a medium for simple student-led experiments. In this lesson, students will learn about the elements of music and will design and conduct their own scientific experiments on how people respond to music, using examples from THE MUSIC INSTINCT as a guide. They will learn to determine a research question that can be tested in an experiment, will write a hypothesis, and will collect data using classmates, peers, or the community as their subjects.

In the Introductory Activity, students will begin by associating different chords with descriptive terms evoking the sounds’ feeling or mood. Then, they will view segments from the MUSIC INSTINCT program to explore the elements of music, learning how differences in the basic building blocks of music (pitch, rhythm, tempo, timbre, melody, and harmony) can lead to the differences in expression and feeling that we come to associate with different musical styles through experience. These elements are also the simple variables that can form the basis of scientific experiments to test how people respond to music and sound. In the Learning Activity, the students will be led through a model experiment in the classroom, testing the class’ response to different chords and learning about the process of the scientific method as they do.

As a Culminating Activity, groups of students will design and conduct their own experiments testing people’s responses to music. After collecting their data, students will report their findings to the class.

While this lesson can be used to deepen student understanding of the scientific method on the one hand, and the elements of music on the other, students should have a basic understanding of these concepts prior to embarking on this lesson.

Pitch = high/low
Tempo = fast/slow
Timbre = characteristic quality of an instrument or voice
Interval = distance between two notes
Chord = combination of three or more notes
Melody = tune
Harmony = chords, like major/minor
Rhythm = pattern of beats

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