At the beginning of the pandemic, music teachers everywhere struggled with how to transfer our music instruction to a virtual platform. I ended up in what I felt was a worst-case scenario: remote and asynchronous. Very often I felt like I was teaching to a void of digital nothingness. Before the pandemic, my students’ reactions and ideas guided my lessons. How could I bring the world of active music making to a computer screen? I had to think outside the box: what elemental musical experiences can you create independently? What if the only way to have a musical experience is to use a computer – what do you do then?
I started where elemental music should start – with a community of people. I created a group on Facebook where I created (and still create!) daily musical challenges. We started with a simple challenge – “Mutate Hot Cross Buns” – and from there we’ve gone on grand adventures. We’ve created rhythm blocks from shades of green, typed works of art into Typatone, and learned how to play from a distance.
Because of that dedicated group of educators, I scoured the internet to find free, browser-based experiences that inspired either music or movement improvisation. I was able to find applications that encouraged my students to use their voice or body to create music. I found either instrument substitutes or completely virtual instruments that inspired different ways of making music. I found ways for my students to notate and compose without needing Western musical notation.
To help myself and my students have access to these resources, I created a website, www.elementalmusicaladventures.com ,
that students could explore and interact with. Here, students can explore the science behind music and see what their voice (and other instruments) look like to a scientist. They can take the letters of their name and turn them into a melody or rhythm. They can even try to play “Rain, Rain, Go Away” on fifteen different instruments!
After creating this website, I was able to allow my students to have choices in their digital music-making. (This was especially important to my students who were quarantined and missed key school year events, like Field Day.) While on Zoom I cannot hear their work but I can see the delight on their faces as they explore different ways of making music.
Please feel free to use this as a direct link to your students, or you can use the graphics from the site (in this Google folder) to help you create elemental music lessons for your students in whatever learning management system that your school is using.
Have fun exploring, creating, and performing with the help of your computer!
Kate Bright is a music teacher at Lincoln Charter School in York, PA, where she teaches approximately 600 students from kindergarten thru fifth grade. She received her Orff Schulwerk certification at the Philadelphia University of the Arts in 2010 and is planning to complete her Master’s of Kodaly Music Education at the American Kodaly Institute. She has presented at Orff chapters around the country and has presented three times at the American Orff Schulwerk Association’s National Conference. Along with participating in her local international folk dance community, Kate also directs the Hummelstown Community Singers. She currently serves on the board of Greater Baltimore Area Orff, ACEMM, and the Harrisburg Area Contra Dance Association. In her spare time, Kate runs the Elemental Musical Adventures website and Facebook group, where each day she posts a new challenge for members to complete or ponder.
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