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AmblesideOnline: Music

Listen to classical music online! Charlotte NC's 24-hour commercial-free webcast

How Did Charlotte Mason Teach Music?

I've been interested in this question and have done my lazy woman's research on it (I asked an internet acquaintance and, I hope, friend, who is the only bona fide CM expert I know, and I spent a few minutes on a search engine).

I thought I'd share some of the results of my 'research,' because one aspect in particular does apply to AmblesideOnline.

The expert articulated some CM principles that I had understood and practiced, but could never in a million years have explained as well as she could. I'll try to paraphrase:

In music study the same principles apply as do in picture study, nature study, and nature notebooks. That is the principle of attentiveness and good observation. The goal is not to have children who can give a lecture on music theory. It is to have children learn to enjoy classical music and tell one piece from another just as naturally as they learn the difference between, say, The Farmer in the Dell and When the Saints Go Marching In - because they are both familiar with and fond of what they are hearing. The more they are exposed to good literature, the better they get at reading the themes and language of literature. In art and music, the more they are simply exposed to pictures and music, the more they learn to 'read' the themes of the world's classic compositions.

With reading we don't begin with the mechanics, the grammar and punctuation, nor we do we begin with a biography of Beatrix Potter before we read Peter Rabbit. With music, we should begin in much the same way - with simple exposure. Our children may read and be familiar with Beatrix Potter's children's stories for years before we would move on to Shakespeare, biographies, the history of "English Literature." So they can simply play around with music, listening to it, plinking away on musical instruments without being burdened with facts about the lives of composers, music theory, technique, and composition. In other words, those of us who do nothing much more than play the tapes and CDs, occasionally humming along, of each term's composers, need not feel guilty. =) You might try leaving the radio on your classical music station sometimes (we do this) and after a while you too will know the delight of hearing one of your children say, "Mom! That was Faure'!" And then you can know the humility of having to say, "who?" =)

Incidently, the PNEU's decision to include classical music in the program began very simply. One of the mothers in the program played classical music at home on her piano for her toddler. This came to Miss Mason's attention and she realized that quite young children had just as much capacity for enjoyment of classical music as they did for great works of art.

I know this is more than the original poster was asking about, but I found it fascinating and thought perhaps a few of our members might find it encouraging as well.=)

Regarding the more specific orginal questions - at some point CM's schools did use recordings on gramophones or victrolas. I'm not sure exactly when they started, but I've been told that one of the schools purchased a gramophone with some prize money (the school where the little girl who named the planet Pluto attended). Two interesting dates:

1889 - The Columbia Phonograph Co. was organized January 15 by Edward D. Easton with rights to market a treadle-powered graphophone; however, Easton would have more success selling music rather than business machines, especially cylinders of the popular United State Marine Band under John Philip Sousa. Easton produced the first record catalog in 1890, a one-page list of Edison and Columbia cylinders.

1904 - The Odeon label was created in Germany by the International Talking Machine Co. to sell double-sided discs that Zonophone had pioneered in South America in 1902, based on patent 749,092 by Ademor Petit, yet it was still impossible to put an entire symphony on a single disc that could play both sides for no more than 10 minutes. HMV in England recorded in 1903 the first complete opera, Verdi's "Ernani" on 40 single-sided discs. Odeon pioneered something called the "album" in 1909 when it released the "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky on 4 double-sided discs in a specially-designed package.

Those interested in learning more of recording history (I was surprised at how much was available at very distant dates) may read more from this website:


Question: Am I required to purchase the selections listed on AmblesideOnline's website? Or can I use something else?

Anybody can do music study - just choose a 'Best of...' CD.

Our composer selections were made by a few people who knew classical music, and didn't necessarily want to be limited to the most well-known-to-the-public pieces. One of our goals was a broad sampling of the composer's life's work, so children would hear pieces from the beginning, middle, and end of a composer's creative lifespan.

On a "Best Of" CD, you rarely get anything complete - not a complete symphony, or concerto, but usually just selections. "Best of" productions also seem to go in and out of publication, which would mean we'd have to make the selections more than once. Instead, we consult with our music experts on the best examples from the entire spectrum of a composer's work.

We aspire to the ideal. However, sometimes the pocket book trumps these ideal goals. Members are certainly encouraged to make substitutions as they have need, including 'Best of...' productions. We like to explain why we do something so that members can make more fully informed choices - but we love for those choices to be equally informed by self-confidence. =)


P.S. This Advisory member has also been known to make use of a 'best of..' CD during a financially tight term - though we supplemented by utilizing our local classical radio station's request-line. =)

We have been homeschooling around 14 years now. We've dabbled in a variety of methods, though when it came to the arts, we've always done some of the things Charlotte Mason suggests.

Whatever time period we were studying, I would select a composer that went with that time period. For the most part all we did was listen to the music. I have often made a rule that during school time the only background music that can be playing must be our composer. We really haven't done much more than that for our composer study. Every once in a great, great while we might read a biography. When available we've done the tapes like "Mr. Bach Comes to Call," and "Beethoven Lives Upstairs," though we've not gone out of our way to get them. When possible we've attended a concert - I think maybe five or so over the last fourteen years. But that's really about it. In some cases the girls have been interested in pursuing more study, but we just have not done much more than listen to music - and my two eldest teens are always amazing me with what they know.

Yesterday a musical piece on the classical radio station was unfamiliar to them, but they thought they recognized the style. They kept saying it sounded like Ravel, but not quite, and they were very puzzled. They would listen, and then speculate. As one would make a guess, the other would point out why it wouldn't be that composer, they'd both agree, and then repeat that it really reminded them more of Ravel than anybody, but it wasn't quite his style, either. Finally the piece ended and the announcer shared the composer's name. Turned out it was a composer we didn't know - but he'd studied under Ravel!

I'm not saying that we should never do more than listen to the composer- but I am saying that if that's all you can do - it's still pretty good. The point is, after all, to enrich lives. =)