Live Music… in History Class!

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This month, 7th graders at Davidson Middle School had very unusual History class! Professional musicians Shira Kammen, Michelle Levy, and Jim Oakden played an assortment of medieval instruments for them (including vielles, harps, bagpipes, drums, recorders, and voice) as students learned about life and culture in Medieval Europe.
IMG_0048 The artists made a special effort to make the 1000-year old music relevant and interesting to Middle School kids. “If you ever want to make music for movies and video games,” Levy explained,  “you need to learn an instrument, and you need to know about Medieval Music.”
The artists showed a powerpoint presentation which illustrated concept art and music for movies like “The Hobbit” and video games such as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Braid”, and described how this media is influenced by Medieval art, music, and mythology. “To create a realistic instruments for an imaginary time that takes place long ago,” Levy explained, “artist John Howe drew Medieval and Renaissance instruments for Dwalin & Bofur to play in The Hobbit.” Students saw actual medieval illuminations of people playing instruments from important  Medieval manuscripts such as the Codex Manesse (Germany) and the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Galicia), followed by live demonstrations of those IMG_0054same instruments.
Through this multi-media demonstration, focusing on the main social structures in Europe during the Middle Ages and their impact on music and everyday life, students learned to identify where a piece might have been played in Europe and what role it served in the community, and they developed critical thinking skills and vocabulary while experiencing the music of the time on historical instruments. It was a history class they will never forget!

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