Listening Lesson: 'Short Ride in a Fast Machine'

Cogs in a machine · Pixabay

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will practice steady beat while listening to John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

  1. LISTEN. First, listen to the piece Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams.

    Short Ride in a Fast Machine
    John AdamsShort Ride in a Fast MachineBournemouth Symphony Orchestra; Marin Alsop, conductor
  2. SAY. “This piece begins with a steady beat on a temple block, which is a percussion instrument made of wood. Let’s explore the instruments in our classroom? Do we have any made of wood? What other materials do we have?”

  3. EXPLORE. Allow students exploration time with any instruments or items you have in the classroom. If you don’t have instruments, consider having a few tin cans and pencils on hand, blocks of wood, and paper. Students can explore timbre (TAM-ber) with easy-to-find items, not just instruments!

  4. DISCUSS. Ask students to compare and contrast sounds. “How do they sound different? do they sound the same?”

  5. PLAY. Give each student a non-pitched percussion classroom instrument (or homemade instruments using tin cans or wood blocks and a pencil for a mallet.) Sing or chant a short piece of music students already know. Try to keep the steady beat.

  6. LISTEN. Listen to Short Ride in a Fast Machine again. This piece is around four-and-a-half minutes long. The temple block plays a steady beat for the first three minutes and fifteen seconds. Challenge students to march in place for that long or play the beat on their instrument. Try not to speed up!

  7. REFLECT. “This piece is called Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Why do you think the composer named it that?” On a piece of paper, have students list as many kinds of machines as they can think of. If there’s time, have them draw or create one.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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