Listening Lesson: Jessie Montgomery and Musical Influence

Mick Haupt/Unsplash

Age Range: All ages

Do you know what a record is? Have you been to a record store? Composer Jessie Montgomery liked to go to the record store, and it influenced her composition many years later.

1. We can listen to music in many ways. The ways people listen to music has changed over time. There are two main ways to listen to music:

• Live music (an in-person performance where the performers are right in front of you)
• Recorded music

2. Technology has influenced how we listen to recorded music. Over the years, different devices and materials have been used to record and playback audio, or things that we hear. Here's a list of just a few things that have been used to record sounds over the years:

• Phonograph
• Electrical recording
• Magnetic tape
• Digital equipment
• Software programs

Look at the list of devices below and write down or say out loud which devices you have used to listen to music.


3. Composer Jessie Montgomery was influenced by listening to a lot of records as a child. In 2016, she even wrote a piece about it, called Records From a Vanishing City. Listen to her talk about the community where she grew up, and how it influenced the piece she wrote.

4. Jessie Montgomery talks about being influenced by Miles Davis. Let's listen to a little of his music here.

5. Bela Bartok was another influence on Jessie Montgomery. Listen to a very short piano piece here.

6. Benjamin Britten was yet another influence on Jessie Montgomery. Listen to a short piece of his for oboe and piano, called The Grasshopper.

7. Now that we have listened to a few of Jessie Montgomery's influences, let's hear a little bit of her music. This piece is called Break Away: III. Smoke

8. Reflection/comprehension questions:

• Jessie Montgomery was influenced by listening to certain musicians. When she went to the record store, she probably picked out Miles Davis and Bela Bartok and Benjamin Britten records. What records would you pick out? What music influences you?
• Do you listen to a lot of different genres, or styles, of music? Which is your favorite, and why?

9. Want to hear more music by Jessie Montgomery? Try her string quartet, Strum. In the video below, the composer is one of the performers. Listen all the way to the end- it gets very exciting.

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