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Not Noise, Music
Ages 9 to 12
Find the musical instruments that are lurking all over your house.

What You Need

A collection of simple objects found in the home that can be used to make musical sounds. Possibilities include:

Cooking Pots Turned Upside Down and Drumsticks
  • Jars or drinking glasses containing different amounts of water
  • Squeeze bottles or other sealed containers with rattling material such as uncooked beans, popcorn, lentils, or dried peas
  • Newspapers
  • Brooms
  • Deck of cards
  • Balloons

What to Do

  1. Begin by inviting your children to share their musical tastes. Have them play samples of their favorite kinds of music. Ask them what they like most about their musical choices. The lyrics? The beat? The sound of the instruments?
  2. Next invite them to close their eyes and try to pick out all the sounds around them from indoors to outdoors, and then name the sounds they have heard.
  3. Now send everybody off on a timed scavenger hunt around the home. Tell them to look for common, everyday objects that can be used to produce sounds. Assign a specific kind of sound to each family member. Examples include the following kinds of sounds: soft, loud, rattling, relaxing or soothing, a sound that makes you feel like dancing, and a sound that makes you feel happy (or some other feeling like sad, frightened, excited, etc.).
  4. When time is up, have everyone gather together in one place to share the results of their search and explore the range of sounds each object makes.
  5. Using these household objects, try some or all of the following suggestions as a way to build an ensemble feeling to your music-making: make soft sounds to create the effect of leaves or snowflakes falling in a forest; make loud sounds to create the effect of a busy construction site; make a succession of sounds that builds from soft to loud and then soft again.
  6. For this last suggestion, try creating the effect of a train approaching from the distance and then rolling down the line; of a jet plane taxiing down the runway and then taking off and flying; of a volcano rumbling, erupting, then simmering down; or of a huge ocean wave building, breaking, and ebbing away.
  7. Now you're ready to start your own musical jam using these everyday objects as your instruments. To give your jam session a sense of structure and to avoid having it break down into noisy confusion, have one person keep a consistent beat while others join in with their own sounds.
  8. After you've had some practice, try changing the beat, or rhythm. Remind all the players to listen to one another as they add their sounds to the ever-changing music you are all creating together.

What Else You Can Do

  • Decide upon a specific natural or urban environment (rain forest, coral reef; dance hall, restaurant, shopping mall). Discuss which types of sounds would be found in the environment you have chosen. Then try creating a "sound picture" of the environment by using your objects/instruments.
  • Create an original musical piece in a particular rhythmic style such as salsa, hip hop, rhythm and blues, or reggae.

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