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Thinking Inside the Volumes #6, Street Song


Not my students, but a good group of Middle School
Orff players.  My Middle Schoolers were 7 boys and
2 girls.  
My Middle Schoolers performed Street Song in Volume 3 of the Murray Edition Orff volumes.  It was their graduation performance number and they pulled it off really well!  Here is what they sounded like a few days before graduation.  I was not thrilled with some of the distracted performances, but the kids had just gone to an amusement park and participated in loads of end-of-year parties.  The actual graduation was not recorded but it was amazingly clean and tight.  Nobody forgot where we were in the pattern, all rhythms were either on time or rushing slightly.  They sounded amazing and the audience was really impressed.  As you listen, remember how well kids can take notes, right up to the very end.  This is a very scary piece to put together because so much can go wrong.  We did this with 9 students.
Street Song better
What was is it like for them?  This is what they had to say.  Street music interviewsWhen I hear these young men speak, I hear the pride and confidence in their voices.  The girls were asked to contribute, but they are shy persons.

The Process (March-May about 8 classes. April vacation, field trips, field day, etc. cut out loads of practice and class periods.  No extra rehearsals until June and even then it was to replace what they didn't have because their regular music class was preempted by a field trip or other special event.  They only practiced twice with me in June, all others were on their own.)
I. Introduction
     A. This is tough
          1. Students need to know that this is a piece that the best teachers can only do once or twice in their career.
          2. Students need to know the time needed to pull it off.
          3. Students need to make a commitment and set a date for the point of no return.  That's it, that's their decision.
          4. Play them the Youtube video.

   B. You can do this!
          5. Have a chart of the chord progressions in Roman numerals and have students play a three pattern of chord roots on bar instruments. (ta rest ta)
          6. Repeat this introduction for a month of lessons.  Give exams on memorizing the chord pattern.  Don't give in and write letter names, just chord Roman numerals.  Remember, this is foundation for theme and variations.  The variations use non-root notes.

II. Variations
       1. [concept] Have students break into voice groups (metal, wood, soprano, bass, etc.)  Perform tandem variations of the chord progression using only chord roots.  The variation will be in timbre ONLY.
          a. This does two things, it keeps students concentrating and is a good test for memorization
          b. It teaches theme and variations with smooth transitions
    2. Introduce non-pitch percussion instruments
          a. I find that if students map out a theme and variations and they choose instruments for each it works best.  Let's say that in step B1 your class follows this pattern (tutti, wood, metal, tutti), you may add wood blocks in a new rhythm (agree on this) for the wood variation, sleigh bells for the metal, and wood block, sleigh bells, and triangle for the ending tutti variation.  Play with different combinations.  
          b. Hocket: this is a good time to introduce the most famous variation in Street Song, the hocket variation.  This variation is at 1:17 in the Youtube version.  In this the students fill in the hole left by the rest in the original (ta rest ta) pattern.  Now they play (rest ta rest).  This can be done as a teacher vs student game.  TEACHER GOES FIRST.  Treat this as a game and only add it after some students really have the feel for it.  Tambourine and claves are great on the hocket.

III. Non-root Chord tones and 3-Mallet
          a. 3-mallet
               1. Show the physical task of 3 mallet and the visual and physical pattern of the notes.
               2. Only have students who want to learn this task be charged with learning it.
               3. Play teacher on 3-mallet against students on roots to introduce this.
               4. Add 3-mallet to variations or allow two people to try it between variations as a test or challenge
        b. Improvisation
              1. Using two glocks or two xylophones, make a three-chord structure by removing strategic bars.  Front instrument has the I chord on the left and the V7 chord on the right.  Rear instrument is the IV chord.  This is how two glocks would be.  With this set up, the player can hit any notes in the area of the chord and just follow the progression as memorized.
C  F A C  F  A
C E G  CD FG B 
             2. Practice with (ta rest ta) pattern as first learned, but with two mallets at a time playing notes.
             3. Change to more complicated patterns like (ta ta-ti ta, ta ti-ti ta [same thing, different style of neumonic])  It's amazing how good kids can sound on this!

IV. Movement and Visual Art
    1. If you have enough people to play the piece, don't forget the visual element.  You can...

  1. Have a montage of the school year or special project running as students play.
  2. use scarves or body socks to bring an abstract form and color element to the movement
  3. make up dance theme and variations
  4. collaborate with the art teacher on costuming, set, or other visual elements
  5. incorporate movement into the mallet technique and general movement of the players among instruments and moving to new instruments (ex: a variation off to go from Bass Xylophone to tambourine would involve movement)
  6. placement of instruments on stage can change or be unusual to facilitate playing and effect
  7. brainstorm more ways to add visual interes

V. The Murray notes
     A. Murray gave suggested ways to play Street Song.  You can teach the notes in the volumes by rote, reading, or pattern or you can introduce the gist of the pattern and have students improvise ideas, settling on their own variations.  I like this to be student generated.  I think it works well for students to find their craft.  I also think it's important for teachers to challenge students out of their comfort zone and learn more difficult patterns.

In the end, you have to use your judgement to guide students through this process.  But it is a process.  It is the process that the kids will remember.  They will remember the feeling of the end piece and the collaboration of the process.

Good luck!

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