Intern Journal: The Vivaldi-Bonanza Congruence
Have you ever listened to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons? If so, you can attest to the mastery with which the composer captures the essence of each season: the “Spring” concerto evokes images of budding flowers and babbling brooks, while the third movement of “Summer” resembles the violent yet ephemeral summer storm. But what if you were to listen to an excerpt from Vivaldi’s Baroque masterpiece with no prior knowledge of its “seasonal” context; how then might you describe the music? On the second day of music class, we did an activity that used music to engage the more creative, imaginative spirits of my students. I selected four audio excerpts of instrumental music to play for the kids: parts from Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Summer” movements were chosen, as well as from Yanni’s “Nightingale” and the Western classic “Bonanza.” While the students listened to each song, they drew on a sheet of paper (which was divided into four sections) what they felt the tune represented. The children then had the opportunity to present their drawings to their peers. The breadth and depth of interpretations was remarkable: while one boy likened the volatile brass emanations in Vivaldi’s summer movement to a battle ground, another declared that the forceful music mirrored the omnipotence of Allah.
“Nightingale,” by Greek composer, Yanni, hints at a far-Eastern inspiration and truly embodies the poetic “lament” of the songbird. Without any knowledge of the title of this song, one boy colored a flock of birds flying into the sunset, while the girl sitting just beside him suggested that if music could narrate the dusk over the Nabulsi hills, it would sound like “Nightingale.”
The fourth and final song was by far the trickiest for students to connect with: “Bonanza” is a Western classic, and although it personally brings back memories of driving through the American West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming), those not well-versed in “cowboy” culture would not respond with images of cowboys, horses, and lassos. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the children’s original responses, which included drawings of weddings, dances, and rolling hills.
The point of this class exercise was to illustrate to my students that music impacts every individual on the most personal of levels; and as such, it is one of the most powerful tools of self-expression. Learning to play music is not just about building a foundation in music theory or being able to find the right notes on the piano. The true musician is one who can harness his emotions, memories, and fantasies, and channel them into his performance.
Leila is an intern at TYO Nablus.