This Guido D’Arrezzo composer study is a perfect accompaniment to a medieval unit study. Guido D’Arrezzo was a Benedictine monk and one of the most influential music theorists of the Middle Ages. Practical in nature and wanting to make learning music more accessible and efficient, Guido laid the foundation for our modern system of music. Specifically, he developed the hexachord system, solmization syllables and music notation. Owing to this, Guido enabled singers to classify, sight sing and visualise the music they were learning. For a very extensive look into his life, read this.
Do Re Mi is a biography of Guido’s life as a monk, as he tried to have his notation idea taken seriously. The thing that strikes me each time we read a biography of a great person is the parallels seen between all of them in terms of their passions and goals. It seems to take dedication, to the point of near insanity, in order for these great things to be achieved. Vincent Van Gogh said, ‘I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.’ Whilst Guido didn’t lose his mind, he was single-minded in his pursuit of his dream (to be able to teach songs to a choir without the choir first having to hear those songs).
We watched this short video:
And this one:
This video illustrates an interactive resource called The Tale of Guido D’Arrezzo. This is well worth a look at, especially if you can borrow it (it is quite expensive).
Comparing Guido to Other Great Men
We reminisced over Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel (studied whilst we learnt about creation) and Champollion and the hieroglyphs (studied during our time in Ancient Egypt). We talked about whether it would be better to lose one’s life or one’s happiness (or indeed one’s mind) if it meant gaining notoriety and fame. With this in mind, we looked at each of these people and their motivation. Overall we found that it was never fame they were after, that fame would probably be too fickle to have caused such deep-rooted passions. By digging deeper we found a compulsion towards their goal regardless of the consequences, regardless of any loss. Finally we discussed what, if anything, would drive us in that way, and if, in actuality, it would appeal to any one of us to be driven thus.
Guido, throughout his life, had one staunch supporter. We remembered that was the case with Van Gogh (brother) and Champollion (brother). We discussed how not everyone is called to greatness. That those who are could not achieve their goals without somebody supporting them. I led the talk and questioned the children but, much like doing an artist study, there are no right or wrong answers. I want my children to have the confidence to think and to have the freedom to process those thoughts.
Listening to Guido D’Arrezzo’s Music
Once we had learnt all we could about the actual composer, we started to listen to his music. We listened many times over the weeks and familiarised ourselves with it. We discussed how the music made us feel and whether we liked it. I asked how it might reflect the times it was composed in. Most of the time, though, we just silently letting the music wash over us.
Guido d’Arezzo’s music is chant music. It is religious and contemplative in nature. It caused some strong emotions in my children, especially my girls. Thomas didn’t like it- it was too solemn for him! The girls said it reminded them of my dad, who died a few years ago.
Making some Guido D’Arrezzo Composer Study Notepads
I always like to record what we are learning and always in the form of note pages. I have a few favourite places to go. Nadine at practical pages has made some perfect note pages for us. See: http://practicalpages.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/music-appreciation-log-sheet/ and http://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/famous-musicians-biography-blank.pdf
Here are our completed note pages:
Here’s a close up of Charlotte’s note page. I always love to read her work:
I asked the children afterwards whether they found this way of learning and reflecting useful. Surprisingly (for me) there was an enthusiastic and unanimous squeal of ‘yeeess!’. Given that I didn’t really feel confident in my ability to lead this study, I think it’s been rather successful 😁