Artsource - Bang on a Can

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MUSIC

Artsource The Music Center’s Study Guide to the Performing Arts

TRANSFORMATION

ENDURING VALUES

®

CLASSICAL

1. CREATING (Cr)

CONTEMPORARY

2. PERFORMING, PRESENTING, PRODUCING (Pr)

EXPERIMENTAL

3. RESPONDING (Re)

MULTI-MEDIA

4. CONNECTING (Cn)

FREEDOM & OPPRESSION

Title of Work:

ARTISTIC PROCESSES

TRADITIONAL

THE POWER OF NATURE

THE HUMAN FAMILY

Cheating. Lying. Stealing. (1995) Performed by the Bang on a Can All-stars

they perform. Powered by a cutting-edge attitude, Bang on a Can is an undeniable force in the search for and creation of new music.

Creators:

About The Artwork:

Composer: David Lang, Founders: David Lang (b. 1957), Michael Gordon (b. 1958) and Julia Wolfe (b. 1958)

Background Information: Bang on a Can composes and performs pieces that reveal an exciting new hybrid of many musical styles, including rock, classical, folk, world and electronic music. American composers Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe founded the Bang on a Can festival in 1987, a one-week marathon of new and innovative music with no stylistic restrictions. The Bang on a Can All-stars bring this challenging music to life with a combination of instruments resembling a rock band: drums, bass, electric guitar, keyboards and cello. The All-stars music which is funky, gutsy and energetic requires no special musical listening experience to enjoy. Bang on a Can evokes a gamut of moods as they use musical sound to express feelings of joy, fear, excitement, anxiety and aggression in a raw fashion. Based in New York City, Bang on a Can developed as a reaction to a divided musical scene that made many musicians feel they didn’t fit in. Michael, David and Julia fought back by creating music that reflected their intellect, classical training, emotional spirit and urban consciousness. By combining the experiences of a rock show and a classical concert, they impact their audiences with a new sensation. Currently Bang on a Can has recorded numerous CDs that include: Industry; Cheating. Lying. Stealing.; and Big Beautiful Dark and Scary. The depth and talent of these musicians and composers is evident in the variety of music

David Lang describes Cheating. Lying. Stealing. as an observation of the darker elements within the human personality. The piece is a sequence of five sections that explore different musical textures and emotional limits. The music is filled with heavy and aggressive accents played by all the instruments at different times within the piece. The instruments you will hear are bass clarinet, cello, piano and percussion (marimba, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, and the brake drums of a car). Composed for four musicians, Cheating. Lying. Stealing. is filled with a wide variety of sounds.

Creative Process of the Artist or Culture: There is no lead voice in this music; instead each instrument participates in creating a variety of moods and feelings that drive the piece forward. It is a push-and-pull relationship, with each instrument becoming forceful for a short period of time, until overpowered by another instrument. This creates an atmosphere of conflict, struggle and anxiety. The musical phrasing of the piece suggests images of twitching, crying, whining, laughing and arguing. New York

Photo courtesy of Bang on a Can

“The variety of music in America is one of the great gifts of our time.” David Lang


Additional References: • Talking Music: (Book) Conversations with American composers by William Duckworth. Da Capo, 1999. • Marsalis on Music by Wynton Marsalis (Book w/CD, also available on video), Norton, 1995. • www.bangonacan.org

Discussion Questions: After listening to the audio: • How is this music similar or different to most musicplayed on the radio? Could this music be played at a party? Why or why not? • Were you able to recognize the instruments in the piece? • What does it mean to play music that is described as cutting-edge? What risks are being taken? • What is the opposite of cheating, lying and stealing? How could these opposite ideas be expressed in musical sound? What instruments would you include? • What art forms have you experienced? (ballet, rock and roll, orchestral music, jazz, opera, theater, poetry etc.) What were your feelings about the art you heard? • Does your attitude towards art impact your appreciation of art? How? Summary of the Music Scenario: Since the beginning of the 20th Century, American composers and musicians have been creating new and vibrant music. Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was one of the first, creating a unique hybrid of African rhythms and European harmonies in his Maple Leaf Rag, composed in 1899. Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was the first American composer to gain international acclaim, creating a simple, earthy sound that also borrowed themes and ideas from folk music. Duke Ellington (1889-1974) also had a distinct musical voice which he shared in his many compositions for the jazz Big Band sound. Over time American music developed many styles - blues, jazz, rock-’n’-roll, country, rap, hip-hop, and variations of classical music. As ideas evolve, these styles get mixed and matched in very exciting ways. In fact, rock-’n’-roll began as a combination of country music and the blues. The members of Bang on a Can are influenced by the constant musical activity that came before them and that still continues today. Audio-Visual Materials: • Artsource® audio: Cheating. Lying. Stealing. Composed by David Lang, from the 1995 album Cheating. Lying. Stealing. Performed by the Bang on a Can All-stars.

Multidisciplinary Options: • Divide the class into four equal groups. Have each group develop a simple rhythmic pattern. Figure out how to start and stop these patterns in unpredictable ways. Perform for your classmates. Try having more than one group perform at the same time. • With a partner, develop a story that will be accompanied by Cheating. Lying. Stealing. Keep in mind the emotional content of the piece. Allow the music to be a character in the story, by providing several spaces for it to play alone. Sample Experiences: LEVEL I * • Create a simple story with a beginning, middle and end for a piece of music. • Select a piece of music that appeals to you and express how it makes you feel through dance and movement. LEVEL II * • Create vocal sounds that represent a human emotion or human trait. • Listen to three to five differing styles of music - rock, jazz, blues, salsa, classical, etc. Discuss their similarities and differences. • Write the lyrics to a song about your life. Describe what the music of this song would sound like. LEVEL III * • Learn some techniques that help musicians communicate emotions on their instruments. • Examine the emotional content of three popular songs on the radio. What do these songs make you feel or think? • Ask older members of your family or community to share songs that make them feel happy or sad. Bring recordings of these songs to share with your class. *

Indicates sample lessons

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MUSIC

MUSICAL STORIES TRANSFORMATION

LEVEL I Sample Lesson INTRODUCTION: Listening to music can be very similar to listening to a story. As listeners we naturally interpret the meaning of the music we are listening to in some way. Music may conjure up images, ideas, memories, emotions and landscapes in our minds. Although Cheating. Lying. Stealing. is not a specific story, it does have a story-like quality. Emotions play a big part in this musical story, but they might not be the emotions that you expect. Music can help us use our imaginations, and with our imaginations we can create great things through drawings, paintings, songs and stories. OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes) Students will be able to: • Demonstrate a greater understanding of the connection between human emotion and music. (Connecting) • Identify the five main sections in the composition, Cheating. Lying. Stealing. (Responding) • Create an interpretive story to go with the musical composition, Cheating. Lying. Stealing. (Creating & Performing) • Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Responding & Connecting) MATERIALS: • The Bang on a Can All Stars Artsource® audio: Cheating. Lying. Stealing. by David Lang. PROGRESSION: • Give some background information on Bang on a Can. • Explain to the students that in music the word “lick” refers to an interesting or difficult short phrase. Musicians may compliment each other by saying, “Hey, that was a cool lick you played.” • Ask the students to give their impressions of the music and the way the musicians perform and interact.

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• Read the following example of a story that interprets the musical composition, Cheating. Lying. Stealing.

Cheating. Lying. Stealing. A Musical Story: PART ONE (The instruments will be characters in the story) All the instruments are home; the cello, bass clarinet, piano, marimba, triangle, bass drum and brake drums. Three notes sneak in to the house, soft at first then getting louder quickly. Bang! They’ve become an unreliable rhythmic phrase, starting and stopping, clanking and jerking. This music is different, but at least everyone is home and safe. After a few minutes the Piano becomes anxious and nervous and convinces the other instruments that they are in danger, “maybe this kind of music isn’t safe to play.” The instruments leave home. PART TWO - @ 3 min.50 sec. The Marimba starts mumbling and the Cello and Bass Clarinet begin to cry, they really didn’t want to leave home. The Piano twitches and the Triangle feels lost. Feelings and emotions become part of the music. Leaving home can be a little scary. PART THREE - @ 5 min. 45 sec. The Cello and Bass Clarinet regain their composure and devise a plan to get back, “ let’s try to remember the music we played at home.” The Brake Drums think they remember the way, “follow us.” PART FOUR - @ 6 min. 33 sec. Remembering that home is an unreliable repeated phrase; the instruments work together to find it. Things are sort of repeating unreliably but something’s not right, the Cello whines, “this is not home!” PART FIVE or One @ 9 min. 35 sec. During all of the arguing something happens. Bang! Home sweet home. The instruments remember their unreliable rhythmic phrase, starting and stopping, clanking and jerking. This music is different. Short moments of silence follow the music. The Cello laughs. Silence fills the room. • Draw two or more pictures to illustrate the above story while listening to Cheating. Lying. Stealing. The instruments may be drawn with arms, legs and faces. • Have students stand up and tell the class their version of the story using their drawings. EXTENSIONS: • Have groups of students combine their drawings to create other versions of the story. • Listen to another piece of music and create your own story for it. • Discuss how it feels to be lost, scared or nervous. When is it okay to feel this way and when is it not? 4


• Visit the Bang on a Can. website. www.bangonacan.org VOCABULARY: rhythm, emotion, instruments. ASSESSMENT: (Responding & Connecting) DESCRIBE: Describe the way you feel when you try something different. Describe the way you felt when listening to this music. DISCUSS: Discuss how different parts of the world might be different in the future. (school, fashion, technology, etc.). ANALYZE: Discuss the music you usually listen to (instruments, vocal, rhythm, etc.) and the music of Bang on a Can. How are they similar or different? CONNECT: What are some of the things that make you feel “at home.” Emphasis on: Common Core - CA State Standards for Language - Reading; Writing; Listening; Speaking

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MUSIC

LEARNING WITH OUR EMOTIONS THE HUMAN FAMILY

LEVEL II Sample Lesson INTRODUCTION: Part of the fun of music-making for musicians is searching for new sounds, new techniques and breaking the rules. Creating musical sounds and styles, then mixing them together to express real life feelings and experiences is part of the challenge of making music. Music gives us an opportunity to be childish, serious, playful and experimental, as well as to explore new ways to move beyond our current boundaries of musical knowledge. This is the way the Bang on a Can All-Stars make music. They do this by being brave and creative and looking for new ways to communicate through music. In Cheating. Lying. Stealing. we experience a different way of looking at our emotions. The music sounds like a feeling or a human gesture: anxiety, twitching, laughing, crying, etc. There are no words being spoken, but if we listen closely we can imagine what the instruments might be saying. Just like when a dog barks or a cat meows, we can get a lot of information through sound.

OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes) Students will be able to: • Discuss the connection between human emotion and music. (Connecting) • Identify the five main sections in Cheating. Lying. Stealing. (Responding & Connecting) • Create a piece of music using Cheating. Lying. Stealing. as a model. (Creating & Performing) • Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Responding & Connecting) MATERIALS: • The Bang on a Can All-Stars Artsource® audio: Cheating. Lying. Stealing. by David Lang PROGRESSION: • Give some background information on Bang on a Can. • Explain to the students that in music the word “lick” refers to an interesting or difficult short phrase. Musicians may compliment each other by saying, “Hey, that was a cool lick you played.” • Ask the students to give their impressions of the music and the way the musicians perform and interact. • Explain to the students that sometimes music transforms human emotions into sounds. In Cheating. 6


Lying. Stealing. the instruments may sound as if they are agitated, nervous, scared, whining or angry. • As a group name and describe at least ten emotions, being sure to include contrasting emotions. • Have each student pick one emotion and create a verbal sound that fits that emotion. i.e. Happiness equals laughter, the sound of being on a roller coaster- “wheeee,” the “yum” sound of eating ice cream, etc. • Each person shares their sound with the class as the class tries to guess the corresponding emotion. • Explain to the class that Cheating. Lying. Stealing. is not about those words but about all of the parts of the human emotional spectrum. What would be the opposite of Cheating. Lying. Stealing. ? • Provide some listening guidelines for your students as well as some techniques to help them stay focused on the music. (closing their eyes, creating mental images, etc.) • Listen to the musical composition, Cheating. Lying. Stealing. • Describe the emotions in Cheating. Lying. Stealing. • Describe how the instruments communicated human emotions to you. Be as detailed as possible. • Create a vocal music piece with the emotional sounds you used earlier. • It should have four sections of different lengths and be no longer that four minutes. • The first and last section should be almost the same, kind of like bookends. • Use some of the elements of Cheating. Lying. Stealing. in your piece. Sudden changes in mood, irregular starts and stops, short moments of silence, repetition, varied volumes of sound - loud and soft, etc. • Have each section explore a different emotion. • Be brave and have fun! • If you get confused go back and listen to Cheating. Lying. Stealing. and notice how it is organized. • Use the extension questions below to broaden the experience for you students. EXTENSIONS: • Write a short essay that communicates emotions to the reader. It can be about human interaction, a real or imaginary place, nature, etc. Be as descriptive as possible. • Listen to two or three different pieces of music and compare how they make you feel. 7


• Visit the Bang on a Can website. www.bangonacan.org • Search the Internet for more information on the people who are a part of Bang on a Can. (David Lang, Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe). What other projects are they involved with - not related to Bang on a Can? VOCABULARY: rhythm, emotion, repetition, interpretation ASSESSMENT: (Responding & Connecting) DESCRIBE: Describe the process you went through in composing your piece. DISCUSS: Discuss the problems you encountered in creating your vocal composition and how you solved them. ANALYZE: Analyze the different sections of your composition and how they were related. CONNECT: Discuss how expressing our emotions through art can be helpful. What kind of music do you listen to when you’re sad, happy, angry or nervous? Emphasis on: Common Core - CA State Standards for Language - Reading; Writing; Listening; Speaking

Bang on a Can All-Stars Photo courtesy of Bang on a Can

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MUSIC

ROUGH EDGES, BLEMISHES AND GRIT THE HUMAN FAMILY

LEVEL III Sample Lesson INTRODUCTION: David Lang takes a look at the darker side of the human psyche in Cheating. Lying. Stealing. and encourages us to examine all of our human traits. This music is not about being perfect, it’s about being realistic. We all have good days and bad days. By interpreting real life issues through art, we provide ourselves an honest but sometimes less painful mirror to examine our feelings, thoughts and actions. By acknowledging our imperfections we can lean towards the qualities that we favor: compassion, honesty, integrity, love and trust. We can also communicate the complexity of our inner lives and express more than one emotion at a time, for example: happy and scared, nervous and excited. When the full spectrum of human existence is embraced and appreciated, its reflection in art is also appreciated. When we can stop looking for sounds and textures that are strictly “harmonious,” and also look for some rough edges, blemishes and grit, then we can appreciate the imperfections that make life interesting and each one of us unique. OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes) Students will be able to: • Demonstrate insight into the process and ideas involved in creating a work of art. (Responding & Connecting) • Perform rhythms in a manner that is similar to Cheating. Lying. Stealing. (Performing & Responding) • Interpret emotions and human traits through music. (Performing) • Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Responding & Connecting) MATERIALS: • The Bang on a Can All-Stars Artsource® audio recording: Cheating. Lying. Stealing. by David Lang • Stopwatch or watch with a second hand. PROGRESSION: • Give some background information on Bang on a Can. • Explain to the students that in music, the term “lick” refers to an interesting or difficult short phrase. Musicians may compliment each other by saying, “ Hey, that was a cool lick you played.” • Ask the students to give their impressions of the music and the way the musicians perform and interact. 9


Introduction to Cheating. Lying. Stealing. “A couple of years ago, I started thinking about how so often when classical composers write a piece of music, they are trying to tell you something that they’re proud of and like about themselves: Here’s that big gushing melody, see how emotional I am. Or, here’s this abstract, hard-to-figure-out piece, see my really big brain. I am more noble, more sensitive, I am so happy. The composer really believes he or she is exemplary in this or that area. It’s interesting, but it’s not very humble. So I thought, what would it be like if composers based pieces on what they thought was wrong with them? I wanted to make a piece that was about something disreputable. It’s a hard line to cross. You have to work against all of your training. You are not taught to find the dirty seams in the music. You are not taught to be low down, clumsy, sly and underhanded. In Cheating. Lying. Stealing., although phrased in a comic way, I am trying to look at something dark. The piece is a series of unreliable, imperfect repetitions. There is a swagger, but it’s not trustworthy. In fact, the instruction on the score for how to play it says: Ominous funk.” -- David Lang, composer, Cheating. Lying. Stealing. Excerpted from Cheating. Lying Stealing. album liner notes. Used by permission.

• Read David Lang’s introduction to Cheating. Lying. Stealing. • Listen to Cheating. Lying. Stealing. • Ask the students which emotions they identified in Cheating. Lying. Stealing. • Explain to your students that emotions are conveyed in music by the way a musician performs on an instrument. The way they play a note, rhythm or chord is more important than which note, rhythm or chord they play. For example, a simple tune like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star can be played to sound sleepy, happy, sad, or even angry. Some factors that help to convey emotion in music are: tempo (how fast); volume (how loud); and intensity (how aggressive). This concept is easy to understand if we think about how many ways we can say “hello,” and how each way of saying it sends different emotional messages. • Learn the following rhythm.

/ 1

/ 2

/ 3

/ / and 4

• Ask students to create some interesting ways to play this rhythm. ( clapping, tapping pencils on desks, flipping through a book, tearing paper, vocal sounds, stomping feet, moving a body part, etc.) AS A CLASS: (Us a stopwatch or watch with a second hand/) • Play the rhythm without stopping for one minute, at an easy tempo and moderate volume. • Play the rhythm once every ten seconds for a minute and a half. (decide on a tempo - fast, moderate, slow) 10


• Play the rhythm very fast for thirty seconds. • Play the rhythm very softly without stopping for two minutes. (Decide on a tempo: fast, moderate, slow.) • Ask the class: What emotions or human characteristics might be reflected in each of the above rhythmic interpretations. AS INDIVIDUALS IN A GROUP: • Class plays the rhythm without stopping for two minutes. Various individuals may play the rhythm at any tempo. • Play the rhythm once every ten to fifteen seconds for two minutes. You can begin with silence. All rhythms should be about the same tempo. • Ask the class what emotions or human characteristics might be reflected in each of the above rhythmic interpretations? How are they different from the full group performances? • As a class, create a three to four minute performance of the same rhythm. Use the techniques you’ve learned or create some of your own. The performance may use more than one musical technique and there may be more than one technique happening at the same time. • Use the questions below to extend the experience for your students. • In small groups, create longer rhythmic phrases of your own and perform them for the class with specific emotions in mind. Ask what emotions or characteristics the class associates with your performance. • Write a short essay, poem or story. Incorporate the musical techniques you’ve learned in the way your work is performed. Try more than one approach to the reading. • Visit the Bang on a Can website. www.bangonacan.org • Search the Internet for more information on modern musicians or musical groups that share similar musical and/or social philosophies with Bang on a Can. (Louis Andriessen, John Zorn, Bjork, Glenn Branca, California E.A.R. Unit, Icebreaker, Kronos Quartet) VOCABULARY: rhythm, intent, instrument, interpretation, technique ASSESSMENT: (Responding & Connecting) DISCUSS: Discuss why it is easier to see the flaws and blemishes of others rather than ourselves. ANALYZE: Analyze how altering various elements of music gave the same rhythmic patterns a different feel or emotion. CONNECT: Discuss how you use music in your daily life to express, complement or contrast how you are feeling. Emphasis on: Common Core - CA State Standards for Language - Reading; Writing; Listening; 11 Speaking