The Imperial Flute
In the hopes of capturing the imaginations of my students and keeping them engaged as we work through our Composing Music textbook, I will spin a Scheherazade-esque tale that requires the students to create/perform new compositions that will get them out of tight scrapes.
Author William Russo provides the seed for our story in the very first paragraph of Chapter 1:
You have been captured by the Lorac, a bloodthirsty clan ruled by the notorious King Edrevol. Unless you are able to impress the king with your Imperial Flute skills, you are told in no uncertain terms that you will become cat food for the court lion!
The Imperial Flute can only play four tones, and Edrevol is partial to songs in 5/4. Therefor, you must create/perform a song at the feast tonight that is limited to the following tones and rhythm:
Pitch limitation and rhythmic limitation are useful compositional tools! By limiting your choices, you can focus on one thing at a time and prevent feelings of overwhelm that can sometimes arise when you’re looking at a blank page or trying to decide how to proceed with a composition.
My private teaching practice has taught me that kids (and most grown-ups!) are usually much more willing to attempt song-writing if I give them bite-sized writing prompts and game-ify the process instead of giving them free reign right off the bat. The initial boundaries help them feel safe to experiment and explore without fear of failure, and they also love to test those same boundaries when they get tired of their limited choices!