Discovering Summer through the Eyes of Composers

Discovering Summer through the Eyes of Composers

This series of activities is designed for kids ages 7–11 to have a personal experience with two works of classical music. The first four activities can each take anywhere from five to 15 minutes (or more), depending on your child’s interest. Activities 1 and 3 can be paired together for a 15-minute activity.

How do you experience summer?

One thing all humans have in common is that we experience four seasons each year—spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Depending on where you live and what your surroundings are, however, the seasons can be different for everyone. We may even have similar surroundings as somebody else, but specific ideas, sights, sounds, or feelings stick out to give us our own unique interpretation of each season.

Since we’re in the middle of summertime, let’s explore what makes summer unique for each of us! There were two composers we’ll hear from later in this blog who both wrote music about summer. Before we hear how the composers expressed their experience of summer through music, we should do a few activities to figure out how we individually interpret or experience summer in a way that’s unique to each of us.

Activity 1: Discovering summer with our five senses

For this first activity, we’ll need to use all five of our senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. You can take as long as you want to explore the things you notice for each of the five senses, but take at least one minute for each.

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Activity 2: Discovering summer with our words

The things you discovered about summer using your five senses are unique to you and your experiences during the season. Try making a poem out of some of the ideas that stuck out to you about summer. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme, but it can if you’d like! It could be as short as three lines (like a haiku) or as long as 14 lines (like a sonnet), or even longer! It’s up to you and your creativity to share your thoughts about summer through words.

If writing a poem seems overwhelming, start out by writing three words that you think best describe summer. After you have those, make a sentence to describe each word!

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Activity 3: Discovering summer through music

Listen to two pieces of music below, both written to depict the composer’s experience of summer. Remember that everyone uses their senses differently to experience their surroundings. Based on the music you hear, imagine the types of experiences a composer might have been trying to share through their music. You can scroll through photos of different landscapes to spur these ideas.

Share your thoughts about what images of summer (whether below or otherwise) with a family member and compare with their ideas. See if you heard different kinds of summer sounds in the music!

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Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons—Presto from Summer

This is one of three sections from the Summer concerto that Vivaldi wrote.

William Grant Still’s “Summerland” from Three Visions

This work was originally written for piano, but it was later arranged for many combinations of instruments.

Activity 4: Learn about the composers

A composer is a person who writes music. Composers draw inspiration from everyday things or people—just like you did when you wrote your poem about summer. The two composers, whose music you just heard, lived more than 200 years apart, lived on different sides of the world, and spoke different languages. But they both had a gift for expressing their ideas through music.

Both composers also drew inspiration from composers or other types of artists who came before them. Does anything about these composers and their lives inspire you to do something (music, art, writing, cooking, dance, etc.)?

William Grant Still

William Grant Still’s “Summerland” from Three Visions was originally written for piano (the version you just heard in Activity 3), but Still’s arrangement of this work for flute, violin, viola, cello, and harp will be performed by the Houston Symphony on Saturday!

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Antonio Vivaldi

You’ll hear Vivaldi’s musical representation of all four seasons played on Saturday night. Summer is the second season that will be played.

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Did you know? Vivaldi wrote poems about all four of the seasons before writing music about each of the seasons! Vivaldi imagined the following story when he wrote the music for Summer:

Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat, men and flocks are sweltering, pines are scorched. We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard. Soft breezes stir the air, but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead. His limbs are now awakened from their repose by fear of lightning’s flash and thunder’s roar, as gnats and flies buzz furiously around. Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn.

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