Guided Listening #3: Mountains

For this Guided Listening, you will need the following:

A copy of these teaching steps
Audio asset: Excerpt from Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds
Image asset: Lawren S. Harris, Rocky Mountains (LCD projector for class viewing)
All assets are provided below.

I. First Impressions

  • Listen to the depiction of mountains in the Audio asset: Three Atmospheres by Normand Symonds. This comes from the beginning of the second movement “Mist and Mountain.”
  • Think of adjectives that can describe this music and also a mountain in mist.

II. View and Listen

  • Look at the image asset: Lawren S. Harris, Rocky Mountains. What do you see?
  • Listen to the excerpt again while looking at the sketch. Think of the long sounds being represented by long lines, and the shorter, louder sounds being the jutting mountain.

III. Perform as a Graphic Score

  • Split the class into groups of five to ten singers and/or instrumentalists. Have each group prepare a performance using Harris' sketch as a musical score.
    • Use thinner lines for quieter sounds and thicker lines for louder sounds.
    • Try adding notes at the beginnings, endings or in the middle of the lines.
  • Discuss: Do the performances sound like a mountain? How can each group make their version sound even more like a sonic description of a mountain?

IV. Create

  • Ask each student to choose and sketch a favourite landform, body of water, or type of vegetation from the Canadian Landscape.
  • Have each student make a graphic score incorporating the sketch.
  • Decide as a class on a trio of available instrumentalists that can perform these pieces.
  • Ask students to think about how they can have their score direct the musical sound while also depicting their chosen landform (or body of water, vegetation).
  • Have a concert of the landscape-inspired pieces.
  • Discuss the effectiveness of each piece.

Excerpt from Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds (0:00:59)

Excerpt from Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds - Play now

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The second movement of Symonds' Three Atmospheres is titled Mist and Mountain. He makes use of fanfare-like brass with large pauses to depict the geography, and light string drones with an accompanying heart beat rhythm to portray the mist and mood.

This is a Lawren S. Harris sketch of the Rocky Mountains.  The black and white depiction draws attention to the shape and somewhat foreboding shadows cast by the almost unreal size of the mountains.

Lawren S. Harris, Rocky Mountains
This is a Lawren S. Harris sketch of the Rocky Mountains. The black and white depiction draws attention to the shape and somewhat foreboding shadows cast by the almost unreal size of the mountains.

Credits and Copyright

  • Audio asset: Excerpt from Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds
    1987, Norman Symonds
  • Image asset: Lawren S. Harris, Rocky Mountains
    National Gallery of Canada
Virtual Museum of Canada

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