There are four Web shows in the Beethoven Rocks! Series:
Meet Mr. Beethoven, where you’ll get to know more about the man and his music.
- Get the story on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, with its famous “da-da-da-DUM.”
- Explore his Pastoral Symphony (this page), which paints a scene of country life using music.
- Learn about an important section of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, called the “Ode to Joy”— and maybe you’ll even sing along!
Check them out!
Subscribe to this audio series:
Painting Pictures with Music
Beethoven purposefully painted pictures with his music in his Sixth Symphony, which is often called the Pastoral Symphony. In our audio story, we take a closer look at two parts of the Pastoral. One is a happy scene, called “Peasants’ Merrymaking,” when the farmers gather in a field for an afternoon of eating, dancing and relaxing. The other scene is “Storm,”-- in which Beethoven paints a musical picture of a storm that brews in the distance, coming closer until it is right overhead.
Get ready for a trip to the countryside!
Musical Terms You Should Know
Symphony: A long work for orchestra in three or four smaller parts called “movements.”
Motif: A short rhythmic or melodic idea that is repeated in a composition.
Sonata: A musical composition for one, two, or three instruments in three or four movements.
String quartet: A group of four musicians, usually two violins, a viola, and a cello.
Listening to...Symphony No. 6, Pastoral
The Nature of Music
Beethoven purposefully painted pictures with his music in the Pastoral Symphony. Think about the nature you have around you, or places you have visited or seen on television-- like the woods, national parks, farm land and other places with trees, birds and rivers.
As you listen to this music, try to pick out the ways Beethoven created sounds of nature. Can you describe specific images to musical fragments (parts of the music)? For example, there might be musical fragments, or parts, that sound like birds, trees, creeks, sunshine, and other parts of nature.
In our audio story, we take a closer look at two parts of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. One is a happy scene, called “Peasants’ Merrymaking,” when the farmers gather in a field for an afternoon of eating, dancing and relaxing. The other scene is “Storm”-- in which Beethoven paints a musical picture of a storm that brews in the distance, coming closer until it is right overhead.
Picturing the Dance: What do you think?
During the first half of the story, you’ll hear music that sounds like people having a party. It starts slowly as people arrive, and picks up as the dancing begins. In the audio story, you’ll learn about how Beethoven used pitch and rhythm to illustrate these ideas.
One way to think about pitch is that it travels in steps, jumps, or leaps. During the "Peasants’ Merrymaking" section, listen for the parts when pitches travel in easy steps and small jumps. You can also...
- Listen for a shifts in the beat and the playful quality of the rhythms. How does the music change? Does it change the way you feel?
- How does the mood change with the shifts in key? Do you feel that a major key suggests a brighter mood?
- Think about the types of instruments Beethoven used during this section. Which instruments can you hear? Why might he have chosen them?
Picturing the Storm: What do you think?
In the second half of this exercise, the music changes from the happy mood of the "Peasants Merrymaking." The storm starts slowly, and then builds. Think about any storms you have seen-- do you remember seeing clouds in the distance, then getting closer? What happens as a storm gets closer?
During the "Storm" section, listen for pitches that take great leaps instead of small steps or jumps. Besides changes in pitch, think about how Beethoven used other tools to make this musical idea come to life:
- Listen for the impact of a minor key. How does it make you feel?
- How does the beat change? Listen for more aggressive beats and irregular rhythms.
- Beethoven also used silence as part of the music. What do you think about the way Beethoven shifts from too soft to too loud? Does silence change the way you feel?
- Compare and contrast the types of instruments Beethoven chose to perform during his storm.
When you are done listening to the story, try the Quick Quiz listening game. How did you do? What clues helped you discover the right matches (or what made you miss)?
For the Educator
Bigger than You Might Expect
There’s a lot to cover when teaching about Beethoven and his music. The resources in this set contain information about composer Ludwig van Beethoven, and listening activities relating to three major symphonies (the 5th, 6th and 9th.) The activities are designed for grades 4 and up, and may be presented by the classroom teacher or music specialist.
The listening activities in this player were originally created to support the National Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert Beethoven Rocks! Some of the clips reference the concert— specifically the “Ode to Joy” sing-along practice track— but this will not impact most classroom uses.
In addition, our Elementary Music advisor, Russell Nadel of the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public School system, has shared SMART Board files that incorporate and extend these resources for interactive whiteboards.
Listening to...Symphony No. 6, Pastoral
The Nature of Music
This activity helps students hear the sounds of nature incorporated into Beethoven’s score for the “Pastoral” Symphony. Students learn how Beethoven utilized musical dynamics and imagination to illustrate nature, focusing on two selections, “Peasants’ Merrymaking” and “Storm.”
Picturing the Pastoral
- Tell students that Beethoven purposefully painted pictures with his music in the Pastoral Symphony. Many children have limited experience with nature on such a grand scale; if this is the case with your students, warm up by asking students to share experiences of national parks, nature walks, etc.
- Prior to listening, remind students that pitch travels in steps, jumps, or leaps. Ask them to listen to changes in pitch and describe these changes.
- Discuss how shifts in key, as well as volume, instrumentation and silence, are tools for the composer.
- While playing the Listening Activity, listen for the sounds of nature in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Encourage students to attach specific images to musical fragments and to consider the musical choices Beethoven made in each section. Musical phrases might suggest birds, trees, brooks, sunshine, etc.
- After listening, lead a short reflection. Ask students to describe what they “saw” and heard. Discuss the tools Beethoven used to create mood in each selection and compare the two scenes.
Play the Listening Game on Track 5 in which students are asked to recognize musical fragments used by Beethoven to depict his country setting and rainstorm. If time allows, ask the winners to share specific “clues” from the music that helped them decide. Correct answers are: (1) a calm, sunny day in the country; (2) a storm brewing in the distance; (3) dancing peasants; (4) a heavy thunderstorm overhead. Students should listen for violins sounding like rain; the timpani for thunder; and cellos for the sound of wind.
If you have time, you may want to extend this activity with a hand-on studio activity. Invite students to draw pictures of the country setting and to identify which orchestral instruments might be used to depict the scene with music.
Students can revisit their country scene by drawing a rainstorm directly on top of it and by identifying which instruments might depict the elements of rain clouds, thunder, and lightning. If classroom teachers lack access to computers, the same exercise can be accomplished with drawing paper and crayons.