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What Instruments are Used to Create Bird Sounds in Classical Music?

based on 6 ratings
Author: Kimberly Hutmacher

Grade Level: 6th to 8th; Type: zoology, music, social science

Objective:

In this project students determine which instruments are used to create birdsongs and birdcalls in classical music.

Research Questions:

  • Why do composers include music that sounds like birdsongs or birdcalls in their work?
  • What are the differences between birdsongs and birdcalls?
  • What instruments are used to create different birdcalls in classical music?
  • What instruments are used to create different birdsongs in classical music?

Materials:

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Pen and/or pencil
  • Lab notebook

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Use the Internet to research what kinds of birds are most commonly imitated in classical music. Choose three of these birds to research further and use in the project.
  2. Use the Internet again to research which classical composers are famous for using bird songs or bird calls in their works. Choose three composers that have works imitating the three birds you have chosen.
  3. Use an online database like www.learnbirdsongs.com to listen to the birds you have chosen. Listen to their rhythm and pitch. Listen for a rise in volume during the vocalization and record them. This rise in volume is called a crescendo. Staccato notes are short disconnected notes that stand alone within a piece of music. Listen for staccato notes and record them in your notebook
  4. For each composer that you have chosen, listen to a portion of one of their compositions that imitates one of the birds you have chosen. You can find many classical compositions that imitate bird songs and birdcalls at this website. Record the titles and segments of the compositions that you have chosen to evaluate in your notebook. Record your observations of the composition as you listen to it.
  5. Listen for the types of instruments being used to make each bird song or bird call. You may need to do some further research if you can't identify the instruments by ear. Record this information in your notebook.
  6. Now compare the real birdsong or birdcall to the piece of music. How accurate was the composer's imitation or impression? Record your observations.
  7. Analyze the data you've collected. Did the composers use just one or several instruments to imitate the bird sounds? Do you think that the level of complexity of the birdsongs and calls influenced the composer's choice of instrument(s)? Were you surprised by any of the instrument choices, and if so, why?

Terms/Concepts: bird song; birdcall; pitch, rhythm, imitate, crescendo, staccato

References: How Tweet It Is: Bird Songs in Classical Music

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