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The Orchestra Rocks

The Orchestra Rocks with Rhythmic Patterns

Aim: How do composers rock with rhythmic patterns?
Summary: Students explore rhythmic patterns and repetition in Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana and the use of ostinato and accents in Stravinsky’s “Dance of the Adolescents” from The Rite of Spring.
Standards: National 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10; NYC 1, 2, 3, 5
Vocabulary: accent, lyrics, ostinato, pattern

Connect with “O Fortuna” through the Orff Approach

  • Carl Orff believed that music was a full-body experience and that movement was an essential part.
  • Prepare students to move to “O Fortuna.”
    • What words would you use to describe the piece? Heavy? Light? Flowing? Controlled?
    • How would you represent those words in movements?
  • Move around the room while listening to Track 20 “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana.
    • How do your movements reflect what you hear?
    • How do your movements change throughout the piece?
  • By using the movements they invented above, guide students to move to the piece:
    • Measures 1–4: Big, dramatic movements (e.g., stomping, deep breathing)
    • Measures 5–60: (Andante section): Quicker, lighter, small movements (e.g., tiptoe)
    • Measure 61–end: Slower, larger, solid movements (e.g., stomp, solidly plant feet)
  • Listen again to Track 20 “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. Encourage students to move, tiptoe, or march around to feel the connection to the weight and rhythms, and sing along as they move and become familiar with the piece.
  • The activity may be repeated with Track 7 “Anvil Chorus” from Il trovatore (complete).
    • What similarities did you notice in the way you moved to the two pieces of music?
    • What differences did you notice in the way you moved to the two pieces of music?

About the Orff Approach

Carl Orff was a German composer, conductor, and music educator. The Orff Approach to elementary music learning includes performing, creating, listening, and analyzing. He defined the ideal musical experience for children as, “never music alone, but music connected with movement, dance, and speech.” To learn more about the Orff Approach, check out Discovering Orff by Jane Frazee (ISBN-13: 978-0-930448-99-8).

Discover Rhythmic Patterns in “O Fortuna”

  • “O Fortuna” has rhythmic patterns that repeat throughout the piece, getting louder and stronger with each repeat.
  • Look at the music for “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana and find the repeating patterns.
  • Circle all of the rhythmic patterns that are the same.
  • Draw a star above the rhythmic patterns that are different.
    • How many times does each rhythmic phrase repeat? (Hint: Look at the word “glaciem.”)
    • Where does each phrase begin and end?
    • How will we know when to change the dynamics or the patterns?
  • Sing or play “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. Practice changing the dynamics with each repeat of the verse as indicated in the score.
Creative Extension

Create New Lyrics for “O Fortuna”

Explore Rhythmic Phrases in The Rite of Spring

  • Listen to Track 12 “Dance of the Adolescents” from The Rite of Spring (excerpt).
  • Establish a steady beat clapping hands. Count from 1–8 following the steady beat. Repeat several times.
    • Which beat(s) did we start to naturally pulse heavier than the rest?
    • Why do you think some beats feel heavier or lighter than others?
  • Listen to Track 13 “Dance of the Adolescents” from The Rite of Spring (clapping complete).
    • What do you notice about this pattern?
    • Do all notes have the same weight?

Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

Stravinsky composed the rhythmically charged music for the ballet The Rite of Spring, which depicts an ancient ritual, for the Russian Ballet in Paris. At its premiere, some of the audience found the music and dance so shocking that they started a riot!

Find the Accents and My Ostinato Challenge

  • Using Find the Accents in The Rite of Spring (PDF), listen to Track 14 “Dance of the Adolescents” from The Rite of Spring (slow clapping), then circle or draw a symbol underneath each accented note that you hear.
  • Once completed, check your work by performing individually or as a group. You may use Track 15 “Dance of the Adolescents” from The Rite of Spring (play-along) to accompany your clapping.
  • In the same activity sheet, go to My Ostinato Challenge.
  • Circle or draw a symbol underneath each note you want to accent. You can have as many or as few as you want.
  • Clap the ostinato that you have created. Then share with a partner, and see if you can clap each other’s ostinatos.

Downloadable PDFs

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