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Grade 5 Concert "The Noisy Paintbox" - A Celebration of Sound and Color

Grade 5 Concert "The Noisy Paintbox" - A Celebration of Sound and Color
Tanya Olander

“Think of a color. Any color. What sound do you hear?” If you think that is an unusual question, you’re not alone. And up until just recently, so did our Grade 5 students - until they learned about synesthesia. 

The central theme of Grade 5’s recent music unit revolved around the concept of timbre—or tone color—something that gives each instrument its unique character. To delve deeper into this thought-provoking concept, the students went on an exciting journey into a world of sound and color with the intriguing story of abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky as their guide.

Through the book "The Noisy Paintbox" by Barb Rosenstock, students learned how Kandinsky’s unusual gift of synesthesia enabled him to hear colors and see sounds. When the students were first presented with the concept of tone colors and synesthesia, many were in disbelief. 

Knowing this was a challenging concept to grasp, ES Music Teacher Ms. Doyle took small steps with the students. They started by exploring the interactive website Play a Kandinsky, where students could click on parts of the artist’s paintings and listen to musical representations of his artwork. 

A Collaborative Exploration of the Arts

To prompt a deeper learning experience and reflection, the students embarked on a creative exploration made possible by the collaboration of several of our specialist teachers. ES Music Teacher MaKenzie Doyle and Music Teaching Assistant, Ms. Thi, worked closely with ES Art Teacher Alisa Blundon and her Teaching Assistant, Ms. Mai. 

“Making connections to other disciplines enriches students' learning experiences and opens up their minds to a more meaningful appreciation of the Arts. It allows more students to get involved and take interest,” shares Ms. Doyle.

By responding to different pieces of music visually, the students let their art represent what they heard. They considered how various musical elements might translate into colors and shapes and whether the music sounded fast or slow, high or low, melodic or rhythmic. Their art evolved over several days and resulted in the final painting that inspired the music for the concert. 

Art Teacher Alisa Blundon explained, “We analyzed several of Kandinsky's paintings and discussed the meanings behind the different colors and shapes, exploring questions like ‘How can a color express a feeling?’ ‘How can we paint a sound?’ ‘What shape is excited, nervous, calm?’ 'What color is confused, or angry, or funny?'”

The students shared their ideas about the tempo, melody, and rhythm of their final artwork: “The bouncing melody sounds like squares that are bouncing off the yellow triangle. The yellow triangle represents the cheerful melody in the background. A rattle instrument sounds like the squares would shake while moving.” Along with their choices of percussion instruments, Ms. Doyle used their feedback to compose the music for the concert. 

Collaboration, Creation, and Experience 

Lastly, as a result of their work, Grade 5 students invited their parents to a performance of their finished work. The colorful palette of sound, ranging from edgy tones of black and grey to melodic silky smooth hues of yellow, was brought to life by the students’ movement and instrumental pieces. 

The concert was a mesmerizing display of color and sound, a testament to the students’ hard work and our educators’ dedication. Parents were treated to a performance where synesthesia came alive, thanks to the combined efforts of our music educators, including Leon Corpening and Ranya Ayache. 

We eagerly anticipate the innovative paths our students will take after this immersive experience and celebration of the arts!

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