Musical Instruments of the Ancient World

Musical Instruments of the Ancient World

For all the time humans have been able to hear, we have loved playing and listening to music. But when did we begin creating instruments with which to play this music? MUST Program Assistant, Megan, had the opportunity this summer to visit The Louvre in Paris and see some of the ancient Egyptian musical instruments in their collections. This got us thinking about the histories of the instruments play every day. Where did they come from? How have they changed? Join us on a brief trip through history, and learn more about your favorite instruments! The bodyThe earliest musical instruments were the human body itself! Singing, clapping, drumming on the body–the human body requires no storage, next to no upkeep, and little-to-no training to get started. No wonder it’s still one of the most common instruments today! Though techniques and styles have changed over the millennia (beat-boxing, or tongue-singing anyone?), the mechanism has remained the same! Early percussionOnce early peoples realized they could make sounds with the impact of one body part against the other, they began to experiment with using tools to make different sounds. Clappers, rhythm sticks, and percussion blocks made of shells, plants, or stone were used to keep time and accompany the voice. Egyptian cymbals at The Louvre In Mesopotamia, round 2500 BCE, images of instruments became common. Much of our knowledge of early instrument come from these illustrations and sculptures. The sistrum was an early metal shaker from Mesopotamia, with metal rings on adjustable bars, so the musician could adjust the amount of rattle that came from the shaker. These were later common in...
Nadia Boulanger and the French Influence in Today’s Music Education

Nadia Boulanger and the French Influence in Today’s Music Education

Music institutions in “interesting times” often turn to outside influence and perspectives to stay relevant. Music integration, popular music, and tech are all avenues institutions and music educators turn to for inspiration. The Aspen Music Festival and School, however, have turned to history, and to one place in history in particular. Paris, France has long been looked to as a center of culture. Since the middle ages, Paris has produced myriad famous musicians, composers, and institutions. Now Aspen is looking to this rich history to inspire the next generation of musicians in the United States. “We realised, looking at Paris, how many cities would there be where you have that richness through so many periods?” said composer Alan Fletcher, who is president and CEO of the festival. “Paris has been important to the world of music for centuries… I don’t see there being any decline [in this pattern]– there is, though, a decline in the way American musical life responds to Paris.” (source) Aspen’s music teachers are looking for clues to the prolific abundance of musicians coming from Paris in the 20th century by looking at one music teacher in particular. Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor, and teacher in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. Boulanger was perhaps best known for her years of detailed advice to Stravinsky, whose works she brought around the world as a conductor. She boasts a pupil roster which includes the names of musicians and composers such as Aaron Copeland, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Igor Markevitch, and Burt Bacharach. She influenced generations of young composers from her principal base for most of...
Summer at Oakland Feather River Camp

Summer at Oakland Feather River Camp

This summer, our Music Integration Director, Ami Molinelli, spent time at Oakland Feather River Camp bringing music to kids in the middle of the California wilderness.. The following is an account of the camp and it’s music teachers from Alexa Weber Morales.  It’s hard to stay inside after a week of living outdoors, swimming in creeks and mountain lakes, making music and dancing, reading, hiking, socializing and, before bed, seeing the Milky Way snaking across the star-spattered sky. That’s my life at Oakland Feather River Camp (http://featherrivercamp.com), where I’ve taught various classes and been the artist in residence during music week for the past 12 years. It’s a low-key family atmosphere, rustic and relaxing. It’s also kid heaven. They get dirty, learn to swim, play ping pong, board games and “Sardines”, and wholly entertain themselves away from electronic devices. Classes include: Group Ensemble, Beginning Ukelele, Beginning Brazilian Percussion, Salsa/Samba Aerobics, Voice Technique and Recycled Rhythm. I share vocal technique, lead early morning salsa aerobics, put together the final show lineup, and rehearse with the impromptu ensembles that form throughout the week. Joining me for the last several years are percussionist Ami Molinelli and guitarist Brian Moran. Read on for more about the teachers… AMI MOLINELLI – Brazilian percussion Ami Molinelli is a professional percussionist and educator specializing in Brazilian and Latin percussion, especially the pandeiro.  She is the co-leader of the Brazilian choro and jazz ensemble, Grupo Falso Baiano. Ami received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and has studied at the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador.  She has studied with master percussionists Michael Spiro, John Bergamo, Randy Gloss, and Guello to name a few. As...
Free Instrument Petting Zoo on a Rooftop Park!

Free Instrument Petting Zoo on a Rooftop Park!

  What? Is it Back to School again already? That’s right! For many Bay Area schools, students begin to head back in mid-August. Even though summer is starting to wind down, however, that doesn’t mean summer fun has ended for good! Don’t miss a FREE Instrument Petting Zoo on Saturday, August 11th at the Salesforce Park Grand Opening! Join us at the park’s children’s area for three hours of musical fun on the gorgeous rooftop park in downtown San Francisco. MUST has teamed up with the folks at Salesforce Park in downtown San Francisco for a month of Saturday music events. We kick off the Fall season with an Instrument Petting Zoo at the Salesforce Park Grand Opening on Saturday, August 11th, and continue the fun every Saturday through August with a MUST teaching artist leading songs on the rooftop park. What’s an Instrument Petting Zoo? It’s an opportunity for kids of all ages to explore new instruments and make some music outside. Our staff offers many instruments, including guitar, keyboard, accordion, tambourine, xylophone, castanets, bells, and many other percussion instruments. So come out and join us in downtown San Francisco for music and fun in the sun (or maybe in the...

Happy Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day!

Do you know what a hydraulophone is? How about a bladderpipe? You’ve heard of the sousaphone, but what about the zeusaphone? July 31 is Uncommon Musical Instrument Awareness Day, a day to celebrate odd, rare, experimental, and uncommon musical instruments. We’ve chosen three unusual instruments to share with you today, ranging from the electrifying to the stomach-turning to the nutritious. Next time you think about picking up a new instrument, consider one of these: Zeusaphone The zuesaphone is a “singing” Tesla coil, a kind of transformer circuit. Zuesaphones use electricity to produce a frequency that can then be turned into music, much like a theremin. The name is a combination of “sousaphone” and “Zeus”, the Greek god who hurls lightning at his enemies. The zuesaphone makes a buzzy, synth-like noise that sounds like it’s straight out of science fiction.   Bladderpipe The bladderpipe is a very old instrument dating to the middle ages. It is similar to a bagpipe, but smaller and somewhat more simplified. No bladder pipes have survived from the Middle Ages or from the Renaissance. However, they are pictured in various historical manuscripts. The “cap”, or bag, of the bladderpipe was make from animal bladders, which the musician filled with air in order to play.   The Vegetable Orchestra The Vegetable Orchestra is an Austrian musical group who use instruments made entirely from fresh vegetables. Their instruments, which are all of their own invention, include carrot recorders, clappers made from eggplant, trumpets made from zucchini, and numerous others, which are amplified with the use of special microphones. The instruments are made from scratch just one hour prior to each performance using the freshest vegetables available, then all ninety pounds of vegetables...
Making Music in the Garden, Part 3

Making Music in the Garden, Part 3

This post is a continuation of a lesson from June called Making Music in the Garden: A Summertime Lesson in Music Integration. View part 1 and part 2 here. How do you think nature and music are connected? Peas don’t just come from the frozen section in the groceries store, and music isn’t just for professionals on the radio. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it is easy to forget where the things we enjoy come from, and how we can take part in bringing these things to life. Do you, or I, or anyone know how oats, peas, beans, and melodies grow? We’re big into music integration at Music in Schools Today. Even though school is out and music programs are on a brief hiatus, it’s still important to integrate music into children’s everyday lives. Here is a taste of one of our programs, Nature of Music. This lesson integrates music into learning about nature in the garden, by planting seeds that will grow into delicious snacks in just a few weeks time. It’s a good way to get kids outside learning about the world around them, and about science and music. Try it this summer! Get outside, make some music, and learn something! In our last lesson, we planted pea plants and learned about the parts of a plant and what they do through singing the song Roots, Stems, Leaves. In this lesson, we will build on that knowledge, and introduce new information about how to take care of our pea plants! You will need: Xylophones, drums, or other percussion instruments The song Decomposition The Carrot Seed By Ruth...
Country Music Stars Encourage music education in schools!

Country Music Stars Encourage music education in schools!

Country music can be a polarizing genre–it seems you either love it or hate it. But if there’s one thing that both fans and opponents of country music can agree on, it seems, it’s the importance of music education. The Country Music Awards and the Country Music Festival were earlier this month, and when people weren’t talking about who won and who was headlining, they were talking about how music education helped them get their start in the industry. Headliner Keith Urban shared his experiences with music education as a child: “It was very important for me. I was really fortunate to go to a public school that happened to have a music room and a music teacher and I just thought that was the basic standard given in every situation, but you are seeing it more and more where they do away with that where they are cutting cost and it’s a big problem because it’s not some sort of fringe curriculum thing that you can just discard you know with so many kids who are musically gifted. That is the way in which they find their voice and self-esteem and identity, and everything is in that, so to do away with that is very very destructive for a lot of kids.” Urban, who grew up and went to school in Austrailia, shares perhaps a more global view of this issue. Austrailia’s school system is certainly different from those in the United States, however, they face many of the same problems as schools in the US when it comes to music education. 63 percent of schools in Austrailia offered no music instruction and only 23 percent had specialist...

The World Cup Brings the Music!

The World Cup is winding down again, and with that comes time for reflection on this year’s World Cup and previous years’. What better way to do so than to look back at the songs that defined World Cups of years past? For 2018, the official song was Live it Up by Nicky Jam, ft Will Smith and Era Istrefi. It’s a lively song reminiscent of Latin and Reggeaton cross-over hits from recent years such as Despacito and any number of Daddy Yankee or J Balvin songs. Live it Up has a rap interlude courtesy of Will Smith, perhaps hitting on the 90s nostalgia sweeping the Western world in 2018. But what about the first ever World Cup Song? That title goes to El Rock del Mundial by Los Ramblers, back in 1962. El Rock del Mundial is an Elvis-esque rock-and-roll song sung in Spanish with jazzy horn and guitar riffs throughout. The title roughly translates to “World Rock”, and was an early attempt at a unifying theme to bring multiple countries and teams together. The second World Cup Song was maybe a little too on-the-nose: World Cup Willie seems bizarre to modern ears, reminiscent of novelty songs of the late 1960s or perhaps the Sergent Pepper-era Beatles. Though perhaps the oddest thing is that this song may be making a comeback! According to an article on scotsman.com, streaming service Deezer has chosen the song to be England’s “secret weapon” in the 2018 World Cup. According to the article, Deezer has urged listeners to get behind the English team by “encouraging Brits to sing along to Lonnie Donegan’s World Cup Willie, the soundtrack to England’s win in 1966. A survey of 1,000...

Do you like American music?

Do you like American music? We like all kinds of music, But I like American music best. -“American Music”, The Violent Femmes Happy Independence Day! As you and family are barbequing, toasting marshmallows, and watching fireworks, no doubt you will also be listening to music–perhaps even American music. As a melting pot of many nationalities and backgrounds, American music is unique and quite interesting! Join us for a breif history of American music–and listen along! 1776- British soldiers sing “Yankee Doodle” to mock colonists, and Americans adopt it as their own tune. “Johnny’s Gone for a Soldier,” an adaptation of Irish folk tune, gains popularity in the newly formed United States.   1815- Francis Scott Key writes the poem The Defense of Fort McHenry, which appears in The Baltimore Patriot newspaper. One year later he puts the poem to the music of popular British song, To Anacreon in Heaven, and publishes The Star-Spangled Banner.   1850- Col. Sandford C. Faulkner believed to write music and words to The Arkansas Traveler, a song about a country fiddler, popular in the Ohio River Valley. The song is traditionally known to have had several versions of lyrics, which are much older than the copyrighted song.   1861-Julia Ward Howe writes a poem for Atlantic Monthly, “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” based on the hymn, “John Brown’s Body”; William Steffe later writes music to create popular Civil War song. Staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington on the night of November 18, 1861, Howe awoke with the words of the song in her mind and in near darkness wrote the verses to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Of the writing of the lyrics, Howe remembered: I...

Making Music in the Garden, Part 2

This post is a continuation of a lesson from June called Making Music in the Garden: A Summertime Lesson in Music Integration. How do you think nature and music are connected? Peas don’t just come from the frozen section in the groceries store, and music isn’t just for professionals on the radio. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it is easy to forget where the things we enjoy come from, and how we can take part in bringing these things to life. Do you, or I, or anyone know how oats, peas, beans, and melodies grow? We’re big into music integration at Music in Schools Today. Even though school is out and music programs are on a brief hiatus, it’s still important to integrate music into children’s everyday lives. Here is a taste of one of our programs, Nature of Music. This lesson integrates music into learning about nature in the garden, by planting seeds that will grow into delicious snacks in just a few weeks time. It’s a good way to get kids outside learning about the world around them, and about science and music. Try it this summer! Get outside, make some music, and learn something! In our last lesson, we planted pea plants and learned about how plants grow and are tended through singing the song “Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow”. In this lesson, we will build on that knowledge, and introduce new information about how our pea plants are growing! You will need: Picture of pea plant, labeled with plant parts Large paper with words “Roots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, Seeds” Activity: Review the previous...