An Examination of Rhythmic and Melodic Building Blocks Present in the Music for Children Volumes...

December 4, 2009 / By: Megan Sullivan Tietz

The intent of this thesis was to determine the rhythmic and melodic elements that could be extracted for curricular implementation as found within the building blocks of selected pieces from Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman’s Music for Children.  The research questions examined: (1) the common rhythmic and melodic elements sequenced within a variety of established models; (2) the rhythmic and melodic building blocks present in selected examples from Volumes I, II, and IV of Music for Children; (3) the way that these building blocks should then be sequenced to reflect the earlier curricular models.  Fifty-five short pieces representing pentatonic, hexatonic, and modal melodies were selected for analysis.  Each of these pieces was analyzed in terms of its rhythmic and melodic building blocks, which were then indexed rhythmically based on meter, or melodically, based on the tonal center of the piece.  Finally, the most identifiable element of each piece was determined and sequenced to correlate with the earlier curricular sequence analysis.  
The findings demonstrated that six curricular sequence models (using examples from Orff Schulwerk, Kodály, and classroom textbook series approaches) included many similar musical elements for instruction.  These sequences were, overall, much more similar than they were different, both in terms of rhythm and melody.  The building blocks extracted from the volumes pieces also had many examples of overlap and consistency.  The identifiable musical elements present in the building blocks were directly translatable to the melodic and rhythmic sequences from the established models. 

The results of this study indicate that the rhythmic and melodic elements found within the Music for Children Volumes can be directly translated into the curricular sequences that music teachers are expected to teach.  Because of the elemental style in which these pieces are composed, they lend themselves easily and naturally to elaboration, expansion, improvisation, and composition.  Therefore, materials that we already use to meet the Orff Schulwerk process for teaching – imitate, explore, improvise and compose – can now be seen to serve a dual purpose in teaching curricular elements.