At this point, I know I want my students to think about music as a way of telling stories, passing on values of the culture, and to consider non-western ways of representing music. The Southcentral region of Alaska has Alutiiq, Aleut, and Athabaskan native representation, so I think it would be important for students to look at some of the similarities and differences of music in those different tribes. While, the lesson should only take 1 or 2 class periods (1 hour each), I would like it to be designed for older students, who probably have some background knowledge to music notation and performance. I have two main ideas for what students can do to obtain some discussion and experience with the essential question and resources below. I would love some feedback on either activity and am open to other ideas as well:
- Students will dictate an Athabaskan, Alutiiq, or Aleut, song by listening to it to discover the risks and difficulties in using western ways of notation to pass along non-western music. Then, after listening to and analyzing music from the different tribes, students will compose a short song based on the values, vocables, ornamentations, and pitch sets we’ve identified as a class.
- Students will compare and contrast the values and characteristics of the 3 main groups’ songs, and have a discussion about the various sounds inspired by animals, nature, or stories that make up the music. After broadening our definition of music (organized sound) students will consider a parallel example of organized sound by looking at a modern composer who has used different sounds (John Cage or Steve Reich) and then think about sounds in their world that could represent their values or stories.
EQ: How are the values of the native people in Southeast Alaska reflected in their music?
Resources for students include several modern videos of native dance groups, recordings collected of songs, and examples of western dictations of these songs. Here are a few videos that could be a starting point.