A friend of mine who
teaches elementary school recently told me that he used the Rimskey-Korsakov
"Russian Easter Overture" as a 'creativity starter'
for kids in his class. I immediately thought of a dozen other
pieces which I thought would do as well, and after a couple of
days came up with this short list. Most of these pieces are approximately
3-5 minutes long (some may run longer) and is primarily 'up beat',
but not unremittingly so. Each of these pieces has some sense
(I think) of dramatic tension, and expresses some sort of 'plot
arc'. Each one is also decidedly 'programmatic' or vividly descriptive
of a mood, character, place, or series of actions.
- Adams, John. "A
Short Ride in a Fast Machine". This piece, by America's
- composer, is often
played at young person's concerts. Mr. Adams says it was inspired
by a ride he took in a friend's Ferrari, which he ended up wishing
- Bloch, Ernest. "Scherzo
Fantasque". Although not specifically programmatic,
- means the composer
did not have a specific descriptive intent), I find this is a
terrific 'halloween' piece. It's got dancing diabolical bits
and dark and spooky bits, compellingly sandwiched together. This
is the first of several pieces I'm going to recommend with similar
names, which all roughly translate as 'fantastical joke".
- Copeland, Aaron. "John
Henry". This is the first of three pieces on this list
- describe trains. This
one does so with the cleaver use of the melody from the old folk
song "John Henry". Copleland is known for composing
music using themes from the american west, and this piece clearly
describes a steam locomotive from the old west days.
- Gershwin, George. "Cuban
Overture" An exciting musical tour of Cuba, which
- begins with a wild
flourish, moves on to a sultry slow dance, and returns to the
first theme for an upbeat ending. A good supplement to the study
of Latin American culture.
- Glier, Reyngol'd. "Russian
Sailor's Dance" from The Red Poppy ballet. A classic
example of the
- 'starts slow, gets
faster' dance number. This is a good piece to inspire kids to
get up and move, and it's a good Russian character piece.
- Honegger, Arthur. "Pacific
231" This is the second train piece, written in 1923.
- another American train,
but a distinctly more modern and urban one.
- Lalo, Edouard. "Scherzo"
This is another non programmatic piece that really
- sounds like an adventure
movie sound track. Non programmatic numbers like this are great
imagination starters, as they are open to an unlimited range
- Respighi, Ottorino.
"La Befana" ("Epiphany Eve in Piazza Navona")
from Feste Romana
- (Roman Festivals) A
piece very much a parallel to the Rimsky-Korsakov overture, as
- both portray the secular
street festival associated with a religious holiday. This one,
instead of being Russian, is decidedly Italian, and jugglers,
clowns, drunks, singers, and parades are all vividly portrayed
in this composition.
- Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolay
Andreyevich. "Russian Easter Overture" This
- festival begins with
a somber Russian Orthodox hymn, but soon breaks out into a brilliant
and dynamic festival scene, with a rapid, exiting pace and brilliant
- Rossini, Gioachino.
"Storm" (2nd mvmt.) from the overture to William
Tell You and
- your kids have already
heard the 4th movement, or 'Gallop' from this piece, it's generally
known as 'the Lone Ranger music'. You've all probably heard the
3rd movement, 'Dawn', too, and think of it as classic cartoon
music. This portion of the overture describes a chase through
the forest on horseback during a thunder storm. Exiting stuff!
- Saint-Saens, Camille.
"Bacchanal" from Samson and Dalila Admittedly,
- romantic portrayal
of middle eastern music, but not an entirely uninformed one,
an Saint-Saens spent quite a bit of time in North Africa. This
is a dance that starts quiet and gets louder and wilder as it
goes on. This piece also contains a well known cartoon 'snake
- Sibelius, Jean "En
Saga" The composer who helped to establish the modern
- Finland, wrote this
piece to embody the spirit of the Norse Saga, great heroic tales
of far journeys, mighty battles, and great deeds. All these things
can easily be imagined in this work. Challenge your students
to write their own heroic sagas after listening to this music.
- Suk, Joseph "Scherzo
Fantastique" The third 'fantastic scherzo' in my list,
this one has a
- more romantic tone
to it, but is exiting none the less.
- Villa-Lobos, Heitor
"Little Train of the Caipira" Our third train,
this one climbing
- through the mountain
jungles of Brazil. Villa-Lobos, like Aaron Copeland, worked the
folk melodies of his native land into his compositions, and these
add to the the brilliant orchestration that so vividly portrays
the thick jungles, steep mountains, and the tiny steam locomotive
climbing through them all.