From A Capella to a Marble Machine, Thinking Outside the “Music” Box

Welcome to a new series of posts I will be updating every week to highlight what is covered from week-to-week in my music classes* at Open Magnet Charter School. As much as possible, I will post audio and video recordings shared in the classroom and provide additional resources for learning beyond the classroom.

*Note: Students in Green cluster will typically follow their own unrelated curriculum, which is designed to more broadly introduce our youngest students to more basic music concepts. More on that in the future!

This week, my students are being introduced to the second of three themes we will cover this year: “Music is Connected“. The specific lesson topic is “Thinking Outside the ‘Music’ Box”.

Students will be encouraged to think differently about music. Our lesson will connect music to science. And, we discover the idea of inventing new musical concepts and tools.

Here are a few of the inspirational videos that will be shown to students this week:

PARENT NOTICE: Videos are occasionally truncated or censored for showing to young students in the classroom. However, the videos below are in their original form and may rarely contain material deemed inappropriate. Parental guidance is suggested when viewing these or any videos posted to my web site and especially when following suggestions of related videos on YouTube once the initial video has completed. I, unfortunately, do not have the rights to post altered videos on this site.

Pentatonix – Evolution of Music

Since showing a picture of Pentatonix as part of my class rules, watching this group in action has been much requested by many students. It turns out, they are a great tie into this topic. The form of music they sing, a capella (just voices) has been around for over a millennium. However, they follow a more recent trend of using their voices beyond just to sing words. They also create the sounds of various instruments!

Wintergatan – Marble Machine

This video is part of the reason I have personally been inspired to think outside the box musically. The musician Martin Molin created a machine with 3,000 parts that uses 2,000 marbles to play various instruments. It took him over 14 months to complete this impressive invention. More about it here.

Speelklok Museum – Ancient Musical Instruments

On the YouTube channel for his band Wintergatan, Martin Molin explores the Speelklok Museum in The Netherlands. This is where he found his inspiration for the marble machine. The museum is filled with ancient musical instruments and especially unique musical inventions. Clips from the “100 Year Old Self-Playing Violin” and the “Self-Playing Orchestra” videos were shown in class. This playlist is maintained by Martin Molin and will presumably be updated with new videos as Martin posts them.

Bonus Playlist – Marble Machine Song Covers

Martin Molin not only built the impressive marble machine, but he composed the song that it plays. This has inspired many other YouTubers to create their own machines. And, many have made cover versions of this song. This playlist is filled with over 70 of those videos. It was not shown in class, but it is definitely worth checking out! Videos chosen for this list are maintained by the Wintergatan band and out of my control, so parental guidance is strongly suggested.