Painting the Music

I use this activity with my Kindergarten classes, usually right after "Painting the Box."  It differs from that activity mostly in that there is an outside "inspiration" guiding their painting, and in that they are more likely to "paint" images, whereas in "Painting the Box" they mostly paint decoration.  "Painting the Music" can only work with music, whereas music is helpful but not necessary for "Painting the Box."  Also, this is a somewhat less physical activity, which makes a change.


Choose a piece of music with a fair amount of emotional range.  Debussy is maybe a little too static for this exercise--Prokoffiev works better, or Wagner, or Mozart in his less mannerly moods.  Everyone responds to music differently, but the chances are if the music stirs a "story" in you, it will in your students as well.  Ballet music is particularly good, since it is by definition intended to tell a story.  Opera works too, but only if it is sung in a language none of the children understands.  You don't want the specificity of lyrics interfering with individual imaginations.  (For the same reason, you want to avoid music the children are likely to have heard before.)


Painting the Music

Everyone find a comfortable spot and sit.  Imagine you have a big easel in front of you, with a new blank canvas on it.  In your hand is a palette with every color of paint you can think of.


(Start the music.)


Listen to the music.  Listen especially to the feelings in the music.  How does this music make you feel?  What do you think it is about?


As you listen to the music, begin to paint what you hear.  Some of you will paint pictures, but some of you will probably just paint colors and shapes.  Whatever you hear is what you should paint.  Really listen!  Listen to the changes in the music.  Listen for characters and listen for events.  Whatever you hear, that's what you paint.


These paintings are really starting to look good.


(When the music comes to an end--or you make it come to one.)


Let's all finish up our paintings now.  They really look fantastic.  Everyone take your painting over to a wall and hang it carefully.  Then return to your seat.


(With Kindergarten and younger, I find that I can only play about five minutes of music before the paintings are done.  Older or more deliberate children can take much longer.  Use your best judgment.)


Sharing the Paintings

As in "Painting the Box," I give each student a turn to go to the wall, show us where his painting is hung, and share it with the group.  I coach the artists to be specific and descriptive, and I coach the "audience" to really "see."


When we're done I ask the students if they would like to leave their paintings to decorate my classroom.  Some do, but those who don't may "take them down," and "take them with them."


In some ways this activity is simpler than "Painting the Box," but I usually do it second because I use it to segue into other activities that use music for story inspiration.