Sharing Music Across Cultures

Activity 1: Images and Soundscapes, Exploring Soundtrack Composition and Imagery

Activity Objectives

  • To help students understand the relationship between music and video imagery
  • To help students recognize the story that this combination tells
  • To help students relate the music and story to their distinct region, social background, individual musical tastes and preferences.

Day 1:

  • Show the class this video segment.

  • Discuss this clip as if it is a story. Assign and Identify the symbolism of the video imagery.

For example, the water itself could be a main character. The  personality or symbolism that it brings to the film's story line as a character might be strength and stability.

  • Have the students reflect upon the following questions about the film as a moving story line.

Note: students may discuss these points in small work groups or may reflect freely with a project journal.

  1. Who are the main characters?

  2. Are all the characters that are represented of equal importance?

  3. Is there a protagonist or antagonist?

  4. Does this story line present a thematic climax?

  • Have students break into small groups (2-4)  and answer the following questions:

  1. If you were a film director, what kind of mood would you try to create with music for the film as a whole? For Example; Students could choose to convey a personal opinion about the presented imagery by choosing music that reenforces that opinion. A student who feels the film conveys a dark contemplative story line might choose music with a dark brooding timbre.

  2. Would all characters identified have the same sound? Students may feel that specific images convey a different mood than the film as a whole, and may choose music of a different timbre or tone for those sections of the film.

  3. What instruments come to mind for each character or scene? Are any of your instrument choices specific to your individual culture or family history?

  4. Do you know of any music or artists that represent your feeling about this clip?

Most groups will have a long list of artists and some potential disagreements. This is OK. These disagreements will be a good opportunity for students to discuss specific musical characteristics that they feel represent or misrepresent the film. These discussions are also a good transition into cutting up several pieces of music to make a musical collage representative of the film.

Day 2

  • Using Garage Band, have students develop 2:52 of mixed music to accommodate the muted film clip. Encourage students to use a wide variety of music and artists to cut and paste together a musical collage.
  • Ask students to add “Director's Notes” to storyboards to explain and credit musical choices. 

Note: It would be helpful to prep this lesson by playing a wide variety of music that students might not be exposed to (jazz, symphonic, Americana, mambo etc.) and having these selections available for student use during this process.

Day 3:

  • Prior to playing the group soundtracks, show the film again and have groups shout out styles or artists that they used in their "soundscapes" at each point in the film. Keep a list on the board of the large variety of music being used. 
  • Have students point out music that shows up on the list that they did not expect, or were surprised to find. Ask students who chose that music to explain how they felt it related to the imagery of the film.

Note: This would be a good opportunity for students whose input may not have been chosen in group to be represented. This is a valuable step and is worth the time that it may take to generate discussion. Having prior knowledge of a story line or composer's intent can give more value to the listening experience.

  • Prior to playing the student soundtracks, set classroom expectations and listening expectations. Students may write comments and critiques in their project journals during sharing time.
  • Have student groups present soundtracks with the silent sound footage.
  • After each group premieres its soundtrack, ask students to share their impressions and give an opportunity for students to ask questions about motivation or inspiration.

Day 4

  • Finish playing the student soundtracks.

  • Show the film with its existing soundtrack, which is the first movement of the Echoes symphonic performance, with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and traditional performers from Hawai'i, Alaska, and Massachusetts, written and conducted by Randall Craig Fleischer.

  • Have students answer the following questions:

  1. What musical elements are similar between your musical soundtrack and the Echoes symphonic piece?

  2. Did you choose any of the same instrumentation or orchestration to represent thematic elements of the film's story line?

  3. Having heard the original soundtrack, would you be inspired to do anything differently?

  • Closing reflection: Having heard the Echoes soundtrack, how do you think it defines the images of the film? What other images could the music inspire on its own? What scenes from your daily life do you feel this music relates to?

Day 5

  • Download (CLICK HERE to download) the Echoes first movement as an audio file only.

  • Follow the previously described steps for creating audio soundtracks, substituting the symphony audio for film footage. That is, identify characters based on sound and instrumentation. Create story boards, identifying imagery to reflect tonal qualities and thicknesses of orchestration.

  • Have students film images from their everyday lives (friends, family, landscapes, images from the natural world).

  • Show the student films with the composed symphonic soundtrack, and have students answer the following questions:

  1. What visual elements are similar between your musical soundtrack and the Echoes symphonic piece?

  2. Did you choose any of the same kinds of imagery to represent the thematic elements of the musical story line?

Extension activity: Collaborate with the technology teacher to layer student musical collages over student films. Follow this with reflection and project journaling as described in the two previous stages of this project.