Educational Focus
Students demonstrate their understanding of non-traditional composition techniques by composing and performing three-movement compositions using graphic notation and mixed genres.

Materials
Image asset: Graphic Notation for Remembrance Day
Video asset: Norman McLaren, Begone Dull Care, Caprice Couleurs

Lesson Map

I. Describe
• Give a description of graphic notation:

Graphic notation is a way of writing down music using non-traditional symbols to indicate sounds. It is often used in experimental music. It can use regular music clefs (with lines, shading, or chords dissolving into/out of pictures) but can also utilize shapes and sketching away from the staff. Graphic notation often intentionally leaves room for performer interpretation.

• Show the image asset of graphic notation created by a high schoo Read More
Educational Focus
Students demonstrate their understanding of non-traditional composition techniques by composing and performing three-movement compositions using graphic notation and mixed genres.

Materials
Image asset: Graphic Notation for Remembrance Day
Video asset: Norman McLaren, Begone Dull Care, Caprice Couleurs

Lesson Map

I. Describe
• Give a description of graphic notation:

Graphic notation is a way of writing down music using non-traditional symbols to indicate sounds. It is often used in experimental music. It can use regular music clefs (with lines, shading, or chords dissolving into/out of pictures) but can also utilize shapes and sketching away from the staff. Graphic notation often intentionally leaves room for performer interpretation.

• Show the image asset of graphic notation created by a high school orchestra class.
• Ask: What do you know from looking at this? (It starts with sustained unison, harmony is added, a fractured, staccato section grows, then drifts down, sounds become louder and more jagged with growing interval leaps, etc.)
• Share the teacher’s description of how it was created:

“This was composed for Remembrance Day. We talked about contrast in music and thought of contrasts that were just sounds. Then we discussed some thematic sounds, some specific notes, dissonances and then we just did trial and error until this finished product. It was super effective at the Remembrance Day ceremony.”

II. Model
• Write three contrasting words on the board (i.e. green, ecstatic, fast). Ask a student to choose one word and represent it graphically. Is it possible to play this graphic notation? Give it a try, using your voice or an instrument.
• Discuss ideas to represent with graphic notation. How can we represent the words with our instruments? How do we read graphic notation (left to right, down).
• Ask students for the type of sound that could portray the word. Is there a genre (jazz, hip hop, rock, reggae) that could be used to represent the word?
• Experiment with the student suggestions.
• Continue, and experiment with using simple volume, rhythm and style hand cues to conduct improvisations on the word.
• Ask students what sounds they felt represented the word best.
• At this point you will have a graphic notation and genre choice for one of the three words. You can continue by repeating the process with the remaining two words and choosing a different genre for each, and finally putting together a short performance of the three words from the graphic notation created. If you feel that the one word example is sufficient, move on to the next section.

II. Compose
• Divide the class into small groups. Each group will have the task of creating a three-movement composition.
Task Description:
     1) Think of a street corner near the school. What are the sounds you hear there?
     2) Write down three words to describe this corner.
     3) Match each word with a different musical genre. In your group play a short phrase or two of each genre.
     4) Compose a short melody with or without chords to represent each word. Play these melodies in your group.
     5) Make graphics that can represent each word. Try playing these graphics.
     6) Improvise short pieces using cue cards with words on them and some simple hand cues. (This is to explore the possibilities of sounds that can be prescribed by these cues. Sometimes the immediate reactions are the most interesting, but classes should also try discussing and trying again.)
     7) Improvise short pieces using cue cards with these words on them as a conducting tool. Try adding the use of simple hand cues for volume, rhythm and range.
     8) With each word decide how it was best represented: with the genre, the melody, the graphic score, or the improvisation.
     9) Put these choices together to create a performance piece.

III. Perform and Critique
• Have each group show the graphic notation they have created for their three-movement composition and then perform.
• Discuss, using the following prompts:
     o What is the overall effect of these compositions?
     o Were the genres easy to recognize? Why or why not?
     o Did you enjoy the process of using graphic notation?
     o What are the benefits of using graphic notation instead of traditional music notation? What are the drawbacks?

IV. Extensions
• View the video asset: Norman McLaren, Begone Dull Care, Caprice Couleurs. Notice how the music of Oscar Peterson has been interpreted through graphic scoring.
• Ask: How is graphic scoring different from graphic notation? (graphic scoring is more descriptive while graphic notation is prescriptive)

� 2010, National Arts Centre. All Rights Reserved.

A graphic notation of Remembrance Day created by the Orchestra students at Rosedale Heights School of the Arts in Toronto.

This graphic notation for Remembrance Day was created by the orchestra students at Rosedale Heights School of the Arts in Toronto, Ontario.

Rosedale Heights School of the Arts orchestra students

© 2009, Doug Friesen


Filmmaker Norman McLaren matches painting on film stock to a soundtrack by Oscar Peterson.

Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren often created images and sounds together by painting directly on the audio section of the film stock, and using these same shapes in the video section. Here he matches painting on the film stock to a soundtrack by Oscar Peterson. His lines, shadings, and shapes are a creative and inspiring match with the jazz trio.

Norman McLaren
National Film Board

© 1949, Norman McLaren


Learning Objectives

Breaking the Rules: Non-Traditional and Extended Techniques is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

• Learn about and experience non-traditional compositional strategies composers use to create new and distinct music.
• Consider the role of “breaking the rules” in music as a way to encourage important questioning of how we hear and of personal taste and interest.
• Make a personal connection with the challenges and enjoyment of non-traditional listening, composing, and performing.

Breaking the Rules: Non-Traditional and Extended Techniques begins with a series of exercises, each of which focuses on a non-traditional technique used by a composer to explore new ways of music making.

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