One of the important things students will have to do under common core is to support a claim with evidence from the text. While this at first glance sounds like something that requires an article to read, music educators can strengthen students’ proficiency at doing this using printed music as the text. Anything that is real and that can be a source of information regardless of the discipline, can be considered a nonfiction text, so a choral arrangement qualifies. For example, take the 2-part choir song, “Antiphonal Deck The Halls” by Greg Gilpin. Once the students realize or are told that this is not the familiar holiday song they are familiar with, they can be given a claim to support or refute with evidence form the printed score. You might write this on the board: This song is great for making you happy, and putting you in the holiday mood.” Through spoken discourse, have students gather evidence from the score to support or refute this claim. For example, immediately, one notices that the tempo indication includes the word “brightly” followed by an exclamation point (Brightly!). If I think of other songs that I would consider bright, I realize that they are all happy songs that put me in a happy mood. According to the score, the tempo is mm=96, and the meter is six-eight. Over and over there is the lilting, cheerful rhythm of quarter followed by eighth note. At the tempo indicated, this rhythm sounds like children playing or dancing, and that makes the music sound happy.
The title might also provide evidence for this being a happy, festive song. The title indicates that the song will be antiphonal. When I think of antiphonal brass that I have heard in church or in concerts, especially at this time of year, the music made me feel excited, even giving me goose flesh. I also notice that by page 4, the words are now “Fa la la la.” Other songs I have heard that have fa la la sections were merry and bright, so I think this one with its fa la la section will be like that. I also know a more familiar music that is set to these same words, and that song is very happy, so this setting probably will have the same mood. Using evidence in the text to connect to other music or musical experiences brings the student’s response from responding to music to connecting. These are both content standards in the core arts standards for music.
The claim that I have presented could also be a prediction. I predict that this music will make me happy and put me in a holiday mood. Once students have found evidence in the text to support this prediction as described above, I then can play the music for them. The music they are hearing can also be considered a nonfiction text; it is real and it is the source of information. After hearing the song, students can locate musical events in the score, or describe them so that the class knows to which phrase or musical event he or she is referring, to support their position. For example, listeners might find that the first twenty measures do in fact sound happy and put them in a holiday spirit, but they might also find that the fa la la section is more contrasting and has a sort of calming, mellowing affect, making it less happy and less festive. The repetitions descending downward and the full cadence after four measures create more relaxation than tension or excitement. On the other hand, they might find that when the “A” section returns and coincides with a key change up one whole step, even more happiness and excitement is created, especially after the more mellow middle section. These are details that the students might not realize are there from reading the text, but discover from hearing the text. I could now use this discovery of the key change to propose another prediction. Because the key change provided added excitement, I predict that the music will get even more exciting at measure 75 where another key change occurs. The students can then once again gather evidence to support or refute this prediction upon hearing the end of the song.
By now, the students have used a good amount of information gathered from the text to support or refute claims and predictions. This in itself would be a good standards based lesson including music reading, music analysis, responding and connecting. If the class were then to go on to sing the piece, the students would have gained a valuable understanding of the music they are about to sing, knowing where the expressive peaks and valleys are, what the major rhythm patterns are, where the key changes are, and what the meter is. At the same time, students have gained proficiency in common core shift 2, something that can only endear the music teacher to the L.A. department and the school’s administration.