Music and history/ELA lesson for students grades 6-12

The performance Crossings, a collaboration between the Rhode Island-based Aurea Ensemble and guest artist Yang Wei celebrates the deep and surprising connections between Eastern and Western cultures. The premiere of Crossings was presented by FirstWorks on April 23, 2017 at St. Martin’s Church in Providence. The below video was recorded during a rehearsal conducted a few weeks prior to that performance.

Watch Performance

Who are violist Consuelo Sherba and pipa virtuoso Yang Wei?

Consuelo Sherba HeadshotViolist Consuelo Sherba is the Artistic Director and a founding member of the performance ensemble Aurea. She has also performed with other orchestras across New England and around the globe. These include the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vermont Symphony, the Simon Sinfonietta and Boston Virtuosi. She is the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Pell Award, Pawtucket Foundation “Person of the Year” and was an honoree of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH). She teaches music at Brown University, the RI Philharmonic Music School and gives private lessons. A graduate of the LaGuardia High School for the Arts and City College of New York, with graduate work at U/Mass Amherst, the University of Wisconsin, and the Aspen Institute for Advanced Quartet Studies, Consuelo’s major teachers have been Felix Galimir, Bernard Zaslav and Philip Naegele, with coaching by the Juilliard Quartet, Fine Arts Quartet, Budapest Quartet, and Eugene Lehner.

Man in 3/4 profile holding a Chinese pipa musical instrumentYang Wei is a professional musician and a celebrated virtuoso on the pipa, a Chinese string instrument. He has performed worldwide as a soloist with various orchestras and ensembles, including the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma. Teaching students of all ages about the pipa and its over 2,000-year history is also a major focus of Yang Wei’s work. Wei’s musical education began in his native China at the age of six, when he started to receive instruction on several different classical Chinese musical instruments. At the age of 13, he focused his studies on mastering the pipa under the tutelage of Liu Dehai (1937-    ), one of the leading pipa musicians of his generation. By the age of 18, Wei went on to perform as a pipa soloist with the National Shanghai Orchestra.

In 1996, Wei moved to the United States, settling in Chicago. He has performed at prestigious venues worldwide, including the Ravinia International Music Festival, the Kimmel Center, Lincoln Center, and the Chicago Symphony Center, and was an artist-in-residence at the Art Institute of Chicago. Among his recordings are When Strangers Meet, New Impossibilities, and Song of Consonance: Master of Chinese Music, Vol. 1.

Kathleen Pletcher, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of FirstWorks, is also a trained musician specializing in piano, and an accomplished puppeteer. She has traveled all over the world as a performer and arts advocate.

Lessons for Grades 6-12:

Music: Understanding how music is influenced by interests, experiences, understandings, and purposes through learning information about the music, culture, historical era, lyrics, etc.
MU:Re7.1.5a, MU:Re7.2.5a, MU:Re8.1.5a, MU:Re9.1.5a
English Language Arts: Writing a Definition Essay, W-2, W-4, W-5, W-6, W-10

1. Watch the duo performance video provided.
2. Research the history of each instrument; the viola and the pipa. Write a short paper explaining your findings. Be sure to include the following information:
• Countries of origin.
• Original date/time period when the viola was created and when the pipa was created.
• What materials have been used in the construction of each?
• What different types of sound can each make?
• Compare/Contrast: How do they differ from each other? How are they the same?
• Who are the most well-known composers for the viola? For the pipa?
• Who are the most well-known viola musicians throughout history and in current times? For the pipa?
• Does each piece convey anything about the culture of the country of origin?
3. Elements of Music:
• Check those that apply to this duo performance:
o Beat/meter: __ duple __ triple
o Harmony: __ yes __ no
o Tempo: __ Largo __ Andante __ Allegro __ Tempo Changes
o Texture: __ one part __ two part __ three or more parts
• How do the elements of music and structural components identified for this performance affect a listener’s response?
• “Expressive intent” is defined as: the emotions, thoughts, and ideas that a performer or composer seeks to convey by manipulating the elements of music. In your opinion, what was the composer’s expressive intent for each piece?
• What key elements helped you think that was the composer’s expressive intent?
American Industrialization (1900-1914): SS.8.4-1
Reform, Revolution and Social Change (1900-1914): WHST.10.2-1
Causes and Consequences of World War I: WHST.10.2-2
Search for Peace and Stability: WHST.10.2-3
Progressivism (1890 – 1920s): WHST.11.1-2
Economic, Social, and Cultural Developments in the Contemporary United States: WHST.11.4-3
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-12.9
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-12.2
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-12.4

Have students view the artists’ discussion at the end of the video.
Have students research the following musical eras: Modernism, Nationalism, Experimental, writing a short explanation of each.
• What were the historic changes taking place around the globe that influenced these movements?
• Who were the main advocates of these movements? How did their work change in answer to the global changes taking place? How did this influence other artistic and cultural forms?
• What role did women play in these musical changes?
• How did the effects of World War I influence music?
• What ethnic cultures were embraced? Which were shunned?
• Research the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Discuss how this affected Chinese music practices.
• Choosing one ethnicity in your family background, research the influences of that culture on music and art during the early 20th century.

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