Music & Geography: Maps! (Part One)

cross-curricular thumbnails

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will understand different types of maps and consider what it means to map out a piece of music.

Note to Teachers: Please modify and adapt concepts and language to align with social studies units and make content grade-level appropriate.

ENGAGE students

DISCUSS. “What is a map? We recognize maps when we see them, but how would you define a map? How do maps help us?”

EXPLAIN. “We will define a map as ‘a graphic diagram or representation of something.’ In geography, this means a representation of an area of land. A map might show roads in a certain area, or features of the land (including things like rivers and mountains) or climate. In science, biologists map out different parts of the body, including tiny particles we can't see without help from a microscope. Thematic maps show the location of a certain topic of interest. Can you imagine a map that shows all the major sports teams in the USA? Or the location of every bookstore in the city where you live?”

REFLECT. “Look at the four maps below and think about what each map tells us. Brainstorm a short list of different kinds of maps, or things you would like to map out.”

Wikimedia Commons/Katie Condon

EXPLORE sounds

DISCUSS. “Time to think a little bit about how we can map a piece of music. We can map the things we hear, and we can focus on one particular aspect of the music. For example, think about how you might create a map for the following musical elements:

  • Dynamics: The volume level in a piece of music, or the sequence of loud and quiet sounds.

  • Melodic contour: The shape of the melody, or tune, in a piece of music. Shows the movement of high and low sounds.

  • Instrumentation: The instruments used in a piece of music.

  • Structure/form: The pattern of different sections in a piece of music. Shows contrast and similarity of musical ideas.

  • Articulation: The way certain notes sound- short, long, smooth, bumpy.

“Can you think of other musical elements you might be able to map out?”

EXPLAIN. “In this lesson, we will create one musical map. This map will focus on showing melodic contour. Melody is the tune of a piece of music. Melodies use high and low pitches to move up and down. The shape of the up and down movement of a melody is called melodic contour. Here is a full lesson on melodic contour if you want a refresher.”

CREATE. Invite students to take out a blank piece of paper, lay it with a landscape orientation, and label the top "Melody Map of 'The Swan' from Carnival of the Animals." It will look like the image below.

Melody map
Melody map
Katie Condon

INTRODUCE. “In "The Swan," the cello plays the melody while the piano plays a gentle accompaniment underneath. Imagine your pencil, marker, or crayon is the swan. Once you hear the cello's melody, use your writing utensil to glide from left to right, moving up a bit when you hear the notes in the melody move higher, and gliding down as the notes descend, or get lower. Move slowly and with small motions so you leave room on the paper. If you get to the edge of the paper, start a second line below the first.”

LISTEN. Press the arrow to play Carnival of the Animals “XIII. The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens, recorded by David Owen Norris, piano and Yuli Turovsky, cello.

Saint-Saens -- Carnival of the Animals XIII. The Swan
Camille Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals XIII. The Swan in the Depths of the Woods I Musici de Montreal; Yuli Turovsky, conductor

EXTEND learning

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

REPEAT. Invite students to listen again and use a finger to trace the map of the music's melody.

REVIEW. Ask your students to show their map to someone and explain what the line represents.

NOTICE. “As you listen to music over the next few days, see if you notice the melody and the melody's shape. Think about other parts of music that you might also map!”

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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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