Music & Art: Compose Your Own Music

cross-curricular thumbnails
Dan Dennehy/Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Wikimedia Commons

Age Range: All Ages, modified by age

Learning Objective: Students will compose music inspired by a well-known artwork.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Compose Your Own Music

ENGAGE students

SAY. “In this lesson, you get to try to create your own music inspired by a famous painting. You don't need to be able to read and write music notation, just have your imagination ready to go!”

EXPLORE sounds

LOOK. Invite students to look closely and list the elements they see in this painting by Vincent Van Gogh. Students might list mountains, trees, sun, and dry grass.

FIND. Using found objects, or instruments if you have them, ask students find a sound to go along with each element. Remind students, “Found objects are just everyday items you use to make musical sounds!”

Here is an example, using a combination of simple auxiliary percussion instruments and found objects. The examples also use a combination of traditional and alternative notation symbols.

Composition grid
Katie Condon/MPR

CREATE. Say, “Now draw a grid like the one below to make your own composition, inspired by Van Gogh's painting. Make sure to give it a title!”

Blank composition grid
Katie Condon/MPR

EXTEND learning

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

CREATE (again!). Repeat this composition process with another piece of art: look carefully at an artwork, list the elements in it, find sounds to go with each element, and write down which sounds happen when.

PLAY. Invite students to try performing their compositions with someone in their household with found objects at home. One person can play two parts at a time if necessary!

LEARN. This Class Notes video, and this lesson to go with it, explores the elements that music and art have in common.

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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