Listening IN - Homeless Harmonies

Not just listening
Children today are constantly surrounded by visual media. It's everywhere and with the immediate-changing images on any number of screens available to a child in any one moment, it is hardly surprising that they find it so hard to focus. Often, nowadays, any piece of music that is listened to is backed up with imagery of some sort. There are very few options to simply listen to music. While the images can enhance a musical moment, they can also detract from the main event. I like to encourage my pupils not just to listen but to listen in to the music they are discovering.

Homeless Harmonies
Recently, I played Homeless by #LadysmithBlackMambazo and #Paul Simon to a Year 3 class (7/8 year olds). I asked them to listen. We shared our thoughts afterwards (see the results below) and this prompted an exciting discussion and further lesson in harmony, Call & Response, texture and collaboration. While it is currently Black History month in the UK, this also felt like another fitting moment to celebrate such epic music. I challenge the responses would not have been as accurate if they had watched the performance (as above).

The power of isicathamiya
Isicathamiya is the traditional music of the Zulu people in South Africa. Rich in harmonies that seem to blend seamlessly, accompanied by the delicate footwork, or ‘Tip toe’ which is the direct translation of 'isicathamiya' and punctuated by vocal shrills and trills, flicks of the tongue and clicks that are unusual to the Western-influences and trained ear.

Music Lesson
We had fun with Paul Simon's "Somebody say" and “Somebody sing” and the subsequent responses (some of which were improvised). We explored the deep guttural breathing of the “Eeh-ha-eeh,ha eeh” section too and tried out some tongue-clicks and high-pitched trilling.

Here are the initial thoughts after one hearing of Homeless. I was impressed by what the children heard. Remember that there was no visual aid to support their listening:

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