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Blues Music

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					Cross-Curricular Music Project
The Blues and Composition (from Dark Blue to Light Hearted)
by Peter Stone at St Gregory’s School, Kent

Project Outline
The project looks at one genre of music and the diversity within it. The development and changes within a genre of music are inseparable from the technological, social and political influences that have shaped it. These rich cross-curricular themes will be explored during the course of the project. The core outcome is to compose and make digital multi-track recordings of students’ compositions in a variety of styles within the genre. These are to be put on to a CD for which students will design and create the cover art and sleeve notes. Students will then consider how to market their product.

Genres of Music
Activities • Listen to a variety of blues music arranged in chronological order to show the development of the genre and to demonstrate the diversity. (For each piece students note how the music makes them feel, what they think it was about, what instrumentation was used.) Define the term ‘genre’ in relation to musical style • Objectives To develop a vocabulary including words that convey emotion, some specialist vocabulary is used for music according to custom and convention. To create mind map for the above or create a glossary To appreciate that a musical genre can be a broad church in which there can be much diversity, however always with a common thread. To identify the themes and style that create the common thread within blues music.

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Discuss what characterises the genre of blues music
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Literacy

The Birth of the Blues
Activities
• Develop theme of the experience of slaves taken to the USA, discussing the trials and tribulations and the attitude of the slaver nations. Citizenship

Objectives
• To understand where slaves were taken from, their journeys and living conditions and understand how this gave birth to blues music as an expression of melancholy and hopelessness. To understand the success of many of today’s powerful nations was based on the exploitation of less-developed nations and consider the moral implications. Consider whether positive discrimination is fair as part of reparations or conscience easing? To understand that blues music is an expression of the slaves’ experience.

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Discuss discrimination and positive discrimination, citing examples from history and present day.

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Develop a list of words that describe all facets of the slaves’ experience. These will be used to generate song lyrics.

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Links
Slavery Africans in America Declaration human rights

Key tasks to be undertaken by individuals or small groups of students – findings to be presented to whole group at next session

Research the history of slavery

Define discrimination and positive discrimination

KEY TASKS
Look at the lyrics to Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones; compare and contrast to current ‘gangsta’ rap’s misogynist lyrics Find out about the use of blue in art, colour therapy and research into the environmental effects of colour.

Key Task Review
• Students present key task findings to whole group and discuss before undertaking the following activities: Activities •Add to the list of vocabulary describing the slaves experience in the light of the task review and use this to generate song lyrics •Examine the impact of Christianity on the slaves’ experience and its impact on the lyrical content and style of blues music. English / Literacy Objectives •To write a poem about the slaves’ experience as a basis for the students’ first song

•To define gospel music

Rhythm
Activities • Show students how to use a programmable drum machine to generate a variety of rhythms • Objectives Students learn to programme a drum machine and learn to engender emotions using rhythm

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Give examples to students of differing kinds of music, for example:
military rock funky tribal latin

The 12-Bar Blues
• The most common format for blues music is made up of the I – IV – V notes of a scale • These are most commonly arranged over 12 bars. For example, in the key of A: A/A/A/A/D/D/A/A/E/D/A/A
Twelve bar blues chord progressions I C D E IV F G A V G A B

F
G A B

Bb
C D E

C
D E F#

Try experimenting by using major, minor, 7ths and other chord voicings to give different effects; also try varying the number of bars to give different song structures for example 16 or 18 bars.

Melody and Improvisation
Minor pentatonic scale This is the starting point for playing the blues. The scale uses five notes that are minor or perfect intervals.

Extra notes can be added to give more of a ‘blues flavour’. Flattened fifth, this creates the classic ‘blue note’ sound.

Alternative Variations
Major third.

Major second / sixth.

Using Accompaniment Software
Activities
•Use Band in a Box or other accompaniment programme to play a 12bar sequence in a variety of styles, tempos and exploring major and minor keys. •Try to replicate the ‘feel’ of the different styles of blues music heard earlier in the project or even invent new ones. •Try playing melodies on top of these accompaniments. • • •

Objectives
To familiarise with software To identify different music styles, both contemporary and traditional To be able to replicate music they have heard To examine the different emotional effect of major and minor keys To use software as a tool for rehearsal and improvisation

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Band in a Box demo link

Writing the Songs
Activities
• Discuss and give examples of meter in prose and how, when combining this with music, syllables and bar values must combine to produce a comfortable and melodic combination. Rhyme – examine alternative rhyming conventions, for example couplets, alternate lines, no rhyme, etc.
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English

Objectives
To understand the importance of meter and rhyming patterns when writing lyrics
To appreciate the range of possible rhyming schemes – present as a mind map To explore alternative words, phrases and metaphors to convey ideas, emotions and to help with meter and rhyme To complete a composition on the theme of slavery in a style consistent with that of early blues music, adapting their poems on slavery to form the lyrics. To understand that the job of a composer is to write the music and lyrics. They may wish to perform the music themselves. However, if they write only what they can play, this may limit the creative possibilities. Using more experienced musicians may result in a better overall performance.

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English

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Students use the slavery poems as a basis for lyrics over a 12-bar structure, taking into account meter and rhyme Using the backing software, devise a melody for the lyrics

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Multi-Track Recording
Activities
• Students are shown a simple demonstration of multi-track recording. This can be done using a computer-based system or a standalone digital recorder. Students discuss the advantages and disadvantages of being able to record in real time versus by building up a song track by track. Students experiment by quickly recording a number of tracks themselves. •

Objectives
To appreciate advantages of multi track such as being able to record at varying times or places with any number of musicians, and that mistakes can be corrected after the event. To appreciate that an ensemble playing together may achieve a good ‘vibe’ that cannot be achieved by building up piece by piece. To gain hands-on experience of multi-track before the recording of their songs.

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Free multi-track recording software

Key tasks to be undertaken by individuals or small groups of students – findings to be presented to whole group at next session
To research the effect of Christianity on the slaves’ experience and the change from hopelessness to hope in gospel music.

To research the influence of Martin Luther King on black civil rights.

Key Tasks
To research the historical process of emancipation of slaves in the USA To research the impact of Abraham Lincoln on the abolition of slavery

Links
Martin Luther King Abraham Lincoln – abolition of slavery

Feedback of Findings
Students assigned the four tasks on the previous page should present their findings to the rest of the group so members of all groups understand the full range of issues.

This process of sharing information and mutual moderation should continue throughout the project at key points.

Examples of work can be accessed from slide 19 included here.

60s Art – Design CD Cover
Alongside the recording of the music, students will design cover artwork for their finished CD. In the 1960’s, after the blues had become popular with both black and white Americans, European musicians also started to play blues music. For this reason, the students will research and use 1960s pop and op art for the CD cover artwork.

Writing and Recording 4 more tracks
The students should compose a further four tracks. The nature of these recordings should reflect the changes both society and technology have made to blues music.

For example, Gospel – Rhythm and Blues – Rock and Roll – Rock – Funk – Soul – Hip Hop – R & B.

Intellectual Property and Royalties
Discuss with students the principle of ownership of intellectual property, how the originator may benefit from and defend their rights to income from their ideas. Give some examples of both literary and musical plagiarism (e.g. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison and The Ghost Busters theme tune by Elmer Bernstein). Students can create a spreadsheet to show who had contributed to each composition. It also allowed them to calculate and allot for each student a percentage of the intellectual property of each composition according to input. Costs of production could also be recorded and balanced against sales to calculate profit to be distributed according to percentages.

ICT

Maths

Examples of students’ work:
• • • • • • • Extract from Martin Luther King’s speech End of International Slavery End of American Slavery Gospel mind map Music and emotions ‘A Reward in the Long Run’ (Gospel Funk) Colour research and therapy Writing lyrics ‘Look Like Me’ (Rock) ‘Walkin’ Out the Door’ (R & B)

CD Design
Click below to see students lyrics and hear their compositions
'All Shades of Blue' (Traditional Blues) ‘Black and Blue’ (Rhythm and Blues)

Lesson Plans & supporting information
Lesson Plan 1 Lesson Plan 5
Lesson Plan 2 Lesson Plan 6

Lesson Plan 3

Lesson Plan 7

Lesson Plan 4

Lesson Plan 8

Assessment: • • • Glossary Test to assess learning outcomes Evaluation of whole project

Acknowledgements
Images
One of the objectives of this project was to understand the concept of intellectual property; this concept applies to visual images as well as music and the written word.

Images used in this guide were taken from the website of the Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/082_slave.html, whose website states it is unaware of any restrictions on the use of these images for educational purposes.

Technical Information
Our recordings were made using Zoom MRS4, Cubase and rhythms developed using Rolland DR20, Groove Agent and Yamaha DW55.

All shades of blue
Captured and taken away from home Nothing to do and all alone Hunger is growing too hard to bear What have I done to deserve this dispair Battered and beaten all shades of blue Can’t run or hide what can I do Working out here the sun is so hot If you stop they just leave you to rot I am so dirty I feel unclean How can these people be so mean? Battered and beaten all shades of blue Can’t run or hide what can I do My eyes are weak can’t keep them open Please help my heart is broken I feel so hopeless so sad as well For what I just can’t tell Battered and beaten all shades of blue Can’t run or hide what can I do

Black and Blue Cramped and packed into a confined space Hunger and despair on each mans face Sickness and smells in the musty air Praying and hoping for someone to care I’m black and I’m blue But does that really bother you Travelling thousands of miles across the ocean Rocking and swaying in a sickening motion Taken to work in the USA Hot and dirty every week every day I’m black and I’m blue But does that really bother you Leaving behind our family and friends Wishing this nightmare would come to an end We are beaten our wives are raped Hopeless and lonely not knowing our fate I’m black and I’m blue But does that really bother you

A reward in the long run

Working all day my hands are sore Working all day my hands are sore Now I’ve found God I’ve got something to live for My life has changed and it feels real strange My life will never end I’ve been working all day in the scorching sun I’ve been working all day in the scorching sun Been to church now our hope has begun Our hopelessness turned to happiness My life will never end

On our journey we have some hope On our journey we have some hope With God on our side were gonna cope Every faithful girl and boy will have a heart filled with joy My life will never end
Jesus will be there when we arrive Jesus will be there when we arrive Remembering our faith will keep us alive People don’t cry I don’t care if I die My life will never end

God is with me that’s why I’ve prayed God is with me that’s why I’ve prayed I‘m goin’ to heaven when I lay down my spade There’s a place called heaven where I can live for ever My life will never end
God will be waiting when the day is done God will be waiting when the day is done Hope in my heart helps me carry on There’s a place where I can rest a place where I feel blessed My life will never end

Look Like ME! You make us wear clothes that we just don’t like All we want to wear are shoes that say Nike We want to wear jewellery to make us shine Just by wearing a ring were crossing the line Hear my plea I just wanna look like me I’m not tryin’ to draw attention I still risk a detention The uniform we wear is so colourless Wearing our own clothes we can express We desperately need to wear bling bling And we deserve girls trousers that don’t ming Hear my plea I just wanna look like me Its just I’ve got a passion for fashion There’s no comfort in our footwear We all have blisters and we wanna swear We have uniform dark clothes and shoes Look at us we’ve got the blues Hear my plea I just wanna look like me No individuality with this style brutality Please help us we can’t stand it no more We’re literally begging down on the floor What we say comes right from the heart We hate our uniform we want a fresh start Hear my plea I just wanna look like me Why does school dare to question what I wear

Walkin’ out the door

Walkin’ out the door I know that you are upset That our house is up for let You drove me crazy I couldn’t cope Do you really expect to go and elope? I couldn’t cope with you anymore So now I’m walkin out the door
You know how much I loved the cat Your reckless driving means now he’s flat If only we had eyes to see we really were not meant to be I couldn’t cope with you anymore So now I’m walkin out the door Now I’m engaged to another man Try to cope as best you can Unlike you he has some fashion sense He spends pounds you spent pence I couldn’t cope with you anymore So now I’m walkin out the door


				
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