Ludwig van Beethoven (with a teacher)
This activity is for classroom use. Your teacher will have further material to use alongside the clips and information below.
SECTION 1: How do you feel?
Composers, when they write music, can make a listener feel different emotions. A composer often chooses a specific note that is the centre or ‘home’ of the music. You can feel when a piece has finished, because the composer brings us back to the ‘home’ note at the end. This home might seem bright, dark, happy or sad. The tonality of a piece of music tells us where the home is found.
Listen to these four pieces of music and describe how they make you feel:
Major tonalities usually have ‘brighter’ homes and minor tonalities usually have ‘darker’ homes. Listen to the pieces again. Using the handout, are you able to find the right home for each one, depending on whether the music feels bright (major) or dark (minor)?
SECTION 2: What’s the question?
All the music you have just listened to is by the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven. He was quite a grumpy character but a brilliant composer, and we know a lot about him. In small groups, read the facts about his life and then see if you can work out the question from your teacher’s answer…
SECTION 3: Da-da-da-DUHM!
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is one of the most well-known pieces of classical music. Many people can identify it from only the first few notes! Listen to the opening and see if you recognise it. What is it that makes this piece so effective and easy to remember?
A short musical idea is called a ‘motif’.
When composers have a really good motif, they can use it in many different ways. Often they write an entire piece based on their one short musical idea. Listen to Audio 6, which is the very beginning of Symphony No. 5: how many times does Beethoven use his motif here?
Listen to the opening motif once more (Audio 7 below). How many different notes are there and how does Beethoven use pitch?
Remember that ‘pitch’ is to do with how high or low the note is.
SECTION 4: Master of the motif
You are now going to compose your own piece of music using a short motif. Are you able to create an interesting composition, which uses only one idea?
Composer: A person who writes music
Dynamics: The volume (degrees of loud and quiet) in a piece of music
Motif: A short musical idea that is used throughout a piece
Pitch: Whether a note is high or low
Rhythm: A combination of notes that are of different lengths or durations
Tempo: The speed of a piece of music
Tonality: The relationship to a tonal centre or ‘home’ in a piece of music
All media credits – titles, composers, artists, sources etc. – may be found in the Teacher Sheet, accessed from the Info box at the top of this page.