Hearing and Creating Polyrhythms
Parkland High School
TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:
Electronic Musical Instruments
A computer with sequencing software interfaced with a MIDI keyboard
Prior Knowledge and Skills:
Students should have the ability to read and follow the percussion part to a Grade 4 level band arrangement.
NAfME Standard of 1994 Addressed:
NAfME Standard of 1994: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
NAfME 2014: Creating
NAfME Standard of 1994: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
NAfME 2014: Responding
NAfME Standard of 1994: Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture
NAfME 2014: Connections
1. Percussion parts (or conductor scores) to Quincy Hilliard’s “Variations on an African Hymnsong”.
2. A sequencer file which includes each of the 5 percussion parts recorded into separate tracks from measures 38 through 57
3. A sequencer file which has no recorded data, but several tracks set up to General MIDI Channel 10 and default patches set for percussion sounds. (This file should be in a simple duple meter such as common time, rather than the alternating meters used in the band score.)
1. The students will hear and observe each of the five rhythmic lines used in the Allegro section (measures 38-57) of Variations On An African Hymnsong by Quincy Hilliard.
2. The students will hear the combination of the lines in the percussion score creating a polyrhythm.
3. The students will create their own polyrhythms by recording them into the sequencer.
(IF A MIDI LAB IS UNAVAILABLE THE FOLLOWING STEPS COULD BE DONE BY THE TEACHER ON ONE COMPUTER AS THE CLASS OBSERVES):
1. The teacher will describe polyrhythms, including their origins in African music and how they are used in this piece. If available, a recording of the piece can be played for the students.
2. Students will be instructed to open the sequencer file entitled African Hymnsong (sequence file with recorded percussion parts).
3. Students will be instructed to listen to each of the 5 percussion tracks individually by manually toggling each track on and off while they follow the corresponding part in the written music.
4. The class will discuss how the individual percussion parts are used and their feelings on how well this technique works.
5. Students will be instructed to open the sequencer file entitled Your Creation (sequence file with settings already established, but no recorded lines).
(IF A MIDI LAB IS UNAVAILABLE THE FOLLOWING STEP COULD BE ADAPTED BY HAVING THE STUDENTS COMPOSE THEIR POLYRHYTHMS ON STAFF PAPER):
6. After a brief explanation of how to record data in the sequencer, students will build their own polyrhythms by recording percussion sounds into each of the 5 given tracks. Students will be limited to one percussion sound per track, but may explore any of the percussion sounds available on their MIDI keyboards.
Students will play their creations for the teacher and the class. The class will discuss how well each creation works as a polyrhythm, including the strengths and weaknesses of each sequence.
Future lessons would include creating more complex polyrhythms with a wider variety of timbres, including nonpercussion instruments. Students would also learn to improvise and complose simple melodies while using these polyrhythms as accompaniments.