Using Podcasts to Teach Music
Music lesson podcasts offer teachers a framework to guide students in lessons that are both engaging and informative. Podcasts offer lessons from classical to contemporary music, from instruments of the orchestra to keyboard lessons.
The Education Podcast Network offers podcast lessons across the curriculum, 39 of which were specifically for music education. On the home page, I clicked on Music Education listed under the Subject Specific Podcasts. I chose Naxos Classical Music Spotlight Podcasts. Sixty podcasts about classical music came up on the screen. Then I chose Theater Music of Henry Purcell. This 20 minute audio podcast presents the cultural background and works of Henry Purcell. It is ideally suited to the middle school or high school classroom.
Teacher "Prep" and Overview
- Computer with high-speed Internet connection
- Digital projector
- Drawing paper and note-taking materials
- Large tablet paper, overhead, or dry erase board
- Students will gain knowledge of the baroque style of classical music by listening to and discussing the podcast of Henry Purcell's theater music.
- Students will visually demonstrate their understanding of baroque music by depicting what they hear in the podcast music.
- Students will think critically about their knowledge and understanding of baroque music by identifying key points of this style of music.
Here is some information your students will need to know prior to listening to the podcast:
- Baroque music began around the year 1668 and lasted until 1750.
- The two major composers of this era were Johann Sebastian Bach (German) and George Frederic Handel (German-British). Henry Purcell (British) was also a very renowned composer.
- The music of this time had a very strong rhythmic pulse—almost mechanical. Instrumentation expanded the range of musical notes that could be played.
- Two keyboard instruments of this period were the harpsichord and the pipe organ. The harpsichord was featured in Purcell’s theater music and the pipe organ was predominant in church music.
- The eight tone scale that we have today was standardized in the Baroque era.
Content, Activity, Summary and Review
This content presents the role of theater music during the latter half of the 17th century. Purcell only lived from 1659 until 1695. During his short life he wrote many major compositions. This video weaves narration with musical examples of Purcell’s theater music.
Play the podcast in its entirety. Have students take notes while the narrator is speaking.These notes should be for use in the summary and review section below.
When the music is playing, have students sketch what they visualize in the music. The pictures should be labeled with the composer’s name and the period. Require the students to sketch at least three aspects of baroque style which they hear in the music. Assess the sketches by the students meeting this requirement. Depictions could include, but are not limited to the following:
- Strong, steady, almost mechanical rhythms
- Pictures of an instrument heard in the music
- Different sections of the music—form; more than one note sounding at a time, weaving in and out of the composition—harmony; notes sounding by themselves--melody; high and low sounds—range.
Summary and Review:
Group students in fours or fives. Assign different topics from the lesson to each group. Have one student record three to four main points. The scribe in each group should write their group’s main points on a large white tablet sheet or dry erase board. All students should record these main points in their notes.
During a subsequent period, assess students on the main points they summarized in this lesson. A paper and pencil test can be given for traditional assessment and essay or an oral interview can be used for a portfolio assessment.
Subject Integration Lesson Ideas
Some ideas include:
- Theater students can perform recitations from the plays of Shakespeare. Play the music of Purcell in the background. A discussion could follow contrasting and comparing the music and the performances. Divide students into groups of four to five. Each group should complete a Venn diagram.
- Art students can draw a still life, which were prominent during the baroque period, while listening to the music. Discuss rhythm, line (phrasing) and form between the two art forms.
- Literature students can read the poetry of Edward Taylor (1642-1729) or John Wilmont second Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). Use discussion as a springboard to allegory and metaphor which was widely used during the baroque period. Discuss how the music and the poetry do or do not complement each other.
- World history students can discuss major historical events and political themes in Britain during 1670 to 1750. Analyze the impact history had upon Purcell’s theater music.
Teaching the Baroque style through music lesson plans that include a podcast such as this will help to make music history more interesting for your students to learn. Introducing them to various forms of classical music through new technology devices will take the "dryness" out, as opposed to just reading a text and taking notes.
This article is written from the author's own experience and expertise.
Grout, Donald Jay Grout. A History of Western Music. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1973.
Runciman, John F. Purcell. The Project Gutenberg EBook, 1909, Released December 23, 2004 [EBook #144430]. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14430/14430-h/14430-h.htm
Image: Purcell. From a portrait by Clostermann, in the National Portrait Gallery. Project Gutenberg (public domain).
Image: Purcell Seated at the Harpsichord. From a portrait by Clostermann, in the National Portrait Gallery. Project Gutenberg (under public domain).
Image:Musical Example (1). Project Gutenberg (under public domain).
Image: Musical Example (2). Project Gutenberg (under public domain).