I will confess that I am a music nerd. I was homeschooled and participated in private Suzuki strings from the time I was 5 to when I was 10 and my parents allowed me to quit cello to take piano lessons. I loved to practice and eventually taught myself to play several other instruments. Majored in music education, LOVED my music history and theory classes, taught piano lessons and public school general music and choir, and all around pretty much breathed music and music ed.
Fast forward to becoming a homeschool mom……. I have been sucked into the website archive.org and researching all the music education methods used during the time of Charlotte Mason! It is FASCINATING! For those of you with little knowledge of music education, I will give a short and sweet timeline of the highlights through the age of this branch of music ed!
9th and 10th centuries: Monks began to write notation for Gregorian Chants. Guido d’Arezzo developed a system for a diatonic scale. (The precursor to “do re mi fa so….”)
Aimé Paris (1798–1866) developed the Galin-Paris-Chevé system of counting rhythms. (Similar to the “ta ta titi ta” that a lot of us grew up with!)
Sarah Ann Glover (1785 – 1867) developed a sol-fa method (sol-fa or solfege is the name for the “do re mi fa…. system.)
Reverend John Curwen (1816–1880) borrowed the ideas of Paris and Glover to create the teacher manual for Tonic Sol-fa
Zoltán Kodály (1882 – 1967) borrowed the Curwen method with Jeno Adam to create a music education system for children in Hungary.
Katinka Scipiades Daniel (1913 – 2010) Studied with Jeno Adam and brought the Kodaly system to the USA where it has flourished and grown internationally!
Since the Kodaly system is tried and true in modern music education, when my friends and I put together resources for your homeschool music we will most likely follow the modern Kodaly method that has been passed down through the last several decades by wonderful music education instructors such as Sister Lorna Zemke, Jill Trinka, John Feierabend, and others.
For posterity, I do want to share with you what I have learned from the Curwen publications! It is really interesting to see where part of our musical heritage originates!
My first experience with solfege or sol-fa was in my college sight singing classes. With my piano background, I had no trouble learning the system and excelling in the class. I eventually was the student director to our university children’s chorale which was heavily influenced in Kodaly. Hearing the children warm up with solfege exercises and sight sing harmonies using only hand gestures was fascinating to me and I loved learning more through Kodaly workshops and clinics! My curriculum as a teacher was also influenced by Kodaly in many singing exercises but I never actually went to the source to read more. What I have found on www.archive.org feels like a treasure chest! I know the modern systems for teaching music are working and successful, but it is really interesting to take a peek at the past and see what was working for them and how our modern education has evolved from this system.
Charlotte Mason wrote about the sol-fa system in her Volumes and there are articles referenced on the Ambleside Online site. I encourage you to go and read for yourself here and here. Also, there is an article/book review on the Afterthoughts blog here that gives another personal look into what Miss Mason may have implemented in her classes. In the first link to the Ambleside website, it is mentioned that the method used by the PNEU schools was similar to what our modern day Kodaly lessons may look like.
Basically, what I have deduced from my research into what kind of musical education Charlotte Mason would have recommended is the method of Tonic Sol-Fa used during that time. And fortunately for us, the publications are public domain and most are available online!
What I’d like to do in this first blog post is show you how beat/pulse/rhythm was introduced to students during this time. In my next post I’ll share a portion on the Curwen sol-fa system of do, re, mi, etc. And finally, in my last post I’ll give a brief comparison of the Kodaly method of Sol-fa to the Curwen method that we’ll learn about here!!
The Curwen system used lines, colons, and commas to show strong and weak beats. (click the picture to enlarge.) I find that so refreshing that my personal opinion is that music education must start with beat awareness! I love the next segment of how important it is for the teacher to show the steady beat while singing. My kindergarten students eventually were pros at identifying beat vs. rhythm!
The excerpt below was fascinating to me because the author talks about how certain methods were thought to have improved the counting system, only to be discarded and to return to the first system by the Galin-Paris-Cheve which was tried and true!
I may need clarifcation from experts on this next section, but from what I understand, the “pulse” is a quarter note and all the other divisions of the beat are established from there. So, if you were to divide the beat in “half” you would have eighth notes. Here’s the page with the beat divisions.
And how wonderful is it to see a hand chart for rhythm?! I have used my fingers to show students the number of measures in a phrase to help them memorize a song (listen to the first section and then echo me….now listen to two sections and echo me…… etc.) and I will hold up my fingers and tap the pulse while they listen and sing. I find that the Kodaly stick notation is actually a better method for visually representing rhythm, but this chart is just too cool!
And the last excerpt that I will leave with you for this post is the statement that ALL TEACHERS CAN LEARN TO TEACH MUSIC!!! Believe in yourself if you are a homeschool mom with doubts that you can teach music and singing in your homeschool! Check out some of my folk song lessons and I’ll try to do some more videos on Facebook to inspire you and your kids!
If you would like to read some of the old texts, here are the archive.org links: