Learning Activity #1: Music for Sunrise and Sunset

Educational Focus

Students compose a sunrise and sunset soundscape, and contrast it with two landscape-inspired compositions by the Canadian composers Allan Gordon Bell and Norman Symonds

Materials

Image asset: Frederick A. Verner, Sunrise Over a Lake
Audio asset: Excerpt II of Spirit Trail by Allan Gordon Bell
Audio asset: Excerpt III of Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds
Audio asset: Sunrise Sunset Soundscape: Class Discussion
Audio asset: Sunrise Sunset Soundscape by students of Rosedale Heights School of the Arts

Lesson Map

I. Prepare

  • Share with students: Sunrise and sunset can be thought of as magical times of day, or at least as moments of transformation. Composers and artists alike have been inspired by the mood, sounds, and look of the sun rising and setting.
  • Ask: What kind of sounds can you imagine happening at sunrise?
  • Let's think of a location near the school that would be a good place to see a sunrise from – we'll use that location for imagining. Take a second to fix that place in your mind, and imagine the sun beginning to rise.

II. Create

  • Continue: Let's try to imitate the sunrise with our voices or instruments.
  • Imitate the sounds that happen just before the sun can be seen, during that moment, then after.
  • Let's try a few times, adjusting our composition to be a more and more accurate depiction of sunrise.
  • Allow time for students to experiment and then try the same for sunset.
  • Are the sounds for sunset different? What are the different sounds? Do birds make different sounds during sunset then during sunrise? (The time of year will impact the type of answers here.)
  • Discuss what we heard. Should we adjust our pieces a little?

III. Listen

  • Introduce the work, Spirit Trail by Allan Gordon Bell, and share that what they are about to hear is the composer's depiction of the horizon on the prairies.
  • Play audio asset: Excerpt II from Bell's Spirit Trail.
  • Ask: Does this sound like sunrise to you?
  • Show the image asset of Sunrise Over a Lake, by Frederick A. Verner. What do you see? What sounds do you hear in the painting?
  • Listen to the excerpt from Spirit Trail again, viewing the painting at the same time.
  • Ask: Is Bell's musical description of a sunrise similar to ours? How? How is it different?
  • Introduce the excerpt form Norman Symonds's Three Atmospheres as a depiction of a twilight prairie scene. Listen.
  • Ask: Does this sound like that moment just before the sun goes down? What sounds do you hear? How is this similar to and different from our depiction?

IV. Adjust and Record

  • Ask: How might we adjust our sunrise and sunset compositions based on what we heard?
  • Have students record and share their compositions with other classes and see if they can guess which one is which.

V. Review and Reflect

  • Listen to the audio asset: Sunrise Sunset Soundscape. What feedback could you give to the group of high school students who created this?
  • Listen to the audio asset: Sunrise Sunset Soundscape Class Discussion. What insights are shared about the creative process?

Frederick A. Verner, Sunrise Over a Lake. This is a watercolour depiction of a sunrise by Frederick A. Verner entitled Sunrise Over a Lake. From the National Art Gallery collection.

Frederick A. Verner, Sunrise Over a Lake
This is a watercolour depiction of a sunrise by Frederick A. Verner entitled Sunrise Over a Lake.

Excerpt II of Spirit Trail by Allan Gordon Bell (0:00:47)

Excerpt II of Spirit Trail by Allan Gordon Bell - Play now

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Here, close to the beginning of Bell's Spirit Trail for orchestra, the sun on the horizon is depicted by an ascending French horn solo which is followed by the trumpet.

Excerpt III of Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds (0:01:14)

Excerpt III of Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds - Play now

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In the opening movement of Three Atmospheres, entitled Loon and Lake, Symond's portrays this landscape with high, calm string drones and a repeating four note harp melody. Later, the woodwinds could represent wildlife in this beautiful scene.

Sunrise Sunset Soundscape by students of Rosedale Heights School of the Arts (0:01:57)

Sunrise Sunset Soundscape by students of Rosedale Heights School of the Arts - Play now

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Sunrise Sunset Soundscape: Class Discussion (0:01:58)

Sunrise Sunset Soundscape: Class Discussion - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (2.82Mb)

Credits and Copyright

  • Audio asset: Excerpt II of Spirit Trail by Allan Gordon Bell
    1994, Allan Gordon Bell
  • Image asset: Sunrise Over a Lake, Frederick A. Verner
    National Gallery of Canada
  • Audio asset: Excerpt III of Three Atmospheres by Norman Symonds
    1987, Norman Symonds
  • Audio asset: Sunrise Sunset Soundscape by students of Rosedale Heights School of the Arts
    Doug Friesen
  • Audio asset: Sunrise, Sunset, Soundscape: Class Discussion
    Doug Friesen
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