Tag Archives: music

Cultural Literacy: Woody Guthrie

Billy Bragg, an British singer I’ve been listening to for over thirty years, announced yesterday on his Twitter feed that New York City will rename part of Mermaid Avenue on Coney Island (where Woody lived, and which is also the name of an excellent trio of albums of Woody’s songs by Mr. Bragg and the American rock band Wilco) as Woody Guthrie Way. Furthermore, this years Mermaid Parade features Arlo Guthrie as King Neptune and Nora Guthrie as Queen Mermaid. They are, you will perceive, Woody’s children. If you’re in Brooklyn, or anywhere near Coney Island, I urge you to attend this cool event.

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Woody Guthrie in celebration of the events limned above, and of Mr. Guthrie as an American treasure.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Frank Zappa on Rock Journalism

“Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.”

Frank Zappa

Quoted in Chicago Tribune, 18 Jan. 1978

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Nirvana

Here’s some high interest material that has motivated, in my experience, even the most resistant students to read: this reading on the rock band Nirvana and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet might have the same effect in your classroom.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Mozart Effect

[N.B. that this quote contains an apparent error, to wit that number 488 in the Kochel Catalogue is not a sonata for two pianos, but rather the composer’s 23rd piano concerto.]

Mozart effect: A finding, first reported in the journal Nature in 1993, that listening to compositions by Mozart increases scores on tests of spatial ability for a short while. In the original experiment, college students were given various tests after experiencing each of the following for ten minutes: listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos in D major K488, listening to a relaxation tape, or silence. Performance on the paper-folding subtest of the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale was significantly better after listening to Mozart than after the other two treatments, but the effect dissipated after about 15 minutes, and other (non-spatial) tasks were unaffected. The finding has been contested by other researchers and has been widely misinterpreted to imply that listening to Mozart (or listening to classical music) increases one’s intelligence. Several independent research studies have shown that children who receive extensive training in musical performance achieve significant higher average scores on tests of spatial ability, but that long-term consequence is not the Mozart effect.

[Named after the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-9100]”

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

A Learning Support on Aesthetic Criteria for Reviews

A little over a decade ago, I worked for a couple of years in a middle school in the North Bronx. While there, I developed a short unit on writing reviews. Somewhere in along the way, across that ten-year span, I lost the unit (it took me a while, as a slow learner on these things, to master data storage), but somehow hung onto its templates. Those are in a folder awaiting redevelopment; I do think teaching students to write reviews is a good way to guide them to a broader understanding of culture in general, and the elements of culture in particular.

While rummaging around in some old folders, I found this learning support on aesthetic criteria for writing reviews. I remember distinctly that these lists were student generated. I acted only as a Socratic foil by asking questions to clarify terms.

At some point, I’ll get back to writing the unit this document was meant to support, and post its lessons in these pages.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

 

The Clash

A couple of hundred years ago, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, The Clash liked to call themselves “the only band that matters“: indeed, it was emblazoned across the front of their towering record “London Calling.” Last week while on spring break, I listened to a podcast series on The Clash, hosted by Chuck D of pioneering Hip-Hop group Public Enemy (an inspired choice, by the way) on the streaming music service to which I subscribe. It brought back great memories of a very different time in this world of ours.

Here is a reading on The Clash and the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it. When I’ve given this to alienated students to read, it has aroused, almost to a one, their interest. Whatever you think of punk rock and The Clash, there is no doubt that their music carries a message of rebellion and its concomitant, hope and action to create a better, more just world.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Jessye Norman

“(b. 1945) U.S. soprano. Born in Augusta, Ga., she won the Munich International Music Competition in 1968, and debuted in in Berlin as Elisabeth in Tannhauser (1969), She appeared at La Scala in 1972 and made recital debuts in London and New York the next year. Having garnered extraordinary praise for year, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in Le Troyens in 1983, confirming her reputation as perhaps the greatest soprano of her generation. An imposing stage presence, her operatic and concert repertoire ranges with equal conviction and musicality across an exceptionally wide range.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.