Music & Art: A Trip to the Museum!

cross-curricular thumbnails

Age Range: Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will compare and contrast elements in both visual art and music in this virtual field trip to an art museum.

Note to Teachers: The video, listening examples, and images may enjoyed by all ages; however, the content is most developmentally appropriate for middle school and high school ages.

Free Downloads:

ENGAGE students

SHOW. Write the following five words on a white board or screen for students to see:

  • Color/Timbre

  • Rhythm

  • Form

  • Style

  • Texture.

SAY. “Here are five important terms that help us describe both pieces of music and pieces of art. Turn to a neighbor and discuss which words you understand. Define the words in terms of both art and music. For words you don’t know, make a prediction with your partner what that word might mean for art and for music.”

DEFINE. Briefly explain each word in the context of art and music.

  • Color/Timbre (TAM-ber)
    In art: the visual perception of a certain quality
    In music: the unique sound of an object, whether it be an instrument or a voice

  • Rhythm
    In art: the principle of design that suggests movement; often achieved through repeating visual patterns
    In music: the duration of sound in time; often occurs in patterns

  • Form
    In art: an element that describes shape
    In music: the structure or organization of a piece of music

  • Style
    In art: distinctive visual characteristics that make it possible to group works of art into categories of similarity or difference
    In music: distinctive sound characteristics that make it possible to group musical work in categories of similarity or difference

  • Texture
    In art: perceived surface quality in art
    In music: how various elements (melody, rhythm, harmony, instrumentation) combine to create an overall sound quality

EXPLORE sounds

WATCH. Watch this Class Notes video about what music shares with art. (7 min.)

EXTEND learning

Choose one or more of the following activities to extend learning.

REFLECT. Guide students to apply the five vocabulary terms to specific music/art pairings. Each linked piece of art goes with a piece of music. As you show each artwork and play each piece, invite students to take notes about what they see and hear, using the vocabulary words that describe different elements of art and music. A grid like the ones below might help students organize their thoughts. (The printable charts attached to this lesson include two blank charts for students to try other music/art pairings!)

A self-portrait by artist Frida Kahlo pairs with Toccata for Percussion by composer Carlos Chavez.

Toccata for Percussion I. Allegro sempre giusto
Toccata for Percussion I. Allegro sempre giusto. Carlos Chavez; Southwest Chamber Music Members
art music element comparison chart

This sculpture by Yoshitomo Nara, titled Light My Fire, goes with the main theme from the Princess Mononoke soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi.

Princess Mononoke Main Theme
Princess Mononoke. Joe Hisaishi; La Pietà; Angèle Dubeau, violin
art music element comparison chart

DESCRIBE. Ask students, “What's your favorite style of art? What's your favorite style of music? Try describing your preferences using the terms you learned today.”

Related Lesson Plans

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Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

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

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