Monday, October 20, 2014

A Happy Ending for the Three Blind Mice. Why folk music?

You child might be asking you: Why were the mice blind? Why did the farmer's wife chase them!?  What happened next!?

Rest easy once you've heard the extended story with pictures and happy ending, in this online (and offline) storybook by John Ivimey. The mice even end up with a pet cockroach…so friendly!

History of Three Blind Mice

This nursery rhyme became mainstream in children's literature in the 1842 publishing of "The Nursery Rhymes of England". However, it was originally written with music in 1609.  It is speculated that the origin of the tale of the mice came from the Catholic Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary), Henry VIII's only surviving daughter, who was known for her merciless hounding of Protestants.  The story could relate to Mary's 1555 execution by burning of three Protestant bishops.  The mice's blindness could be interpreted as faithlessness, alluding to their rejection of Catholicism.

Mary Tudor is also featured in the nursery rhyme "Mary Mary, quite Contrary", enjoyed by our Sound Beginnings Students.  The 'silver bells' and 'cockle shells' in the garden likely referenced torture devices like thumbscrews, and the 'maids' referred to The Maid (a pre-guillotine device for beheading).

Why Do We Sing Nursery Rhymes?

Let's Play Music adopts many Kodaly concepts of music education.  Authentic folk music has short form, pentatonic style, and simple, repetetive language.  The clear, simple, musical styles in nursery rhymes provide the perfect foundation for mastering beginning rhythmic and melodic skills.  Mastery of skills and concepts in progressive levels of difficulty is critical for the long-term musical success desired by Let's Play Music families.  'Three Blind Mice' is a melody that has withstood the test of time; any tune with poor melodic or rhythmic qualities would not have been passed from generation to generation for over 400 years!

"Kodaly felt that simple, expressive forms of nursery songs and folk music were most suitable for children because they were living music, not fabricated or contrived for pedagogical purposes. The language of folk music tends to be simple, drawn from speech patterns familiar to children even before they enter school."


"Kodaly felt a close relationship between the music of the people and the music of great composers. He believed that a love for the masterworks could be cultivated through a knowledge of and a love for one's own folk music."

Folk music plays an important artistic role for each musician: providing a cultural musical background.  In the Let's Play Music effort to educate the whole musician, we practice singing several folk songs to provide students with an ageless cultural background from which to draw from as they begin creating their own music.  

A fantastic way to understand the simplicity and richness of folk music is to peek at samples of folk music from several different cultures (click here).  You'll notice that each cultural video shows simple music, with only a few musicians, using instruments characteristic of their country.  Folk music often takes place outside for anyone to dance to.  Now that you've joined Let's Play Music, you'll have many opportunities to play and dance to folk music, too.

Let's Play Music also adheres to the 9 National Standards for Music Education.  Standard number 9 is: understand music in relation to history and culture. We offer a valuable string to the past when we teach children that music has been around since before even their parents were born!  Music has a role in life beyond just entertainment, and even beyond music education.  Your music teacher might let your child in on the secret that today they learned a song that is over 400 years old!  Back in that century, singing rhymes and songs to each other was the way people recorded history.  

A Little More Mi-Re-Do

Of course we love the simple melodies in folk songs since they give our beginning students the perfect complexity of tune to examine and identify.  Your child should be able to  hear and identify the mi-re-do in 'Three Blind Mice' and soon will be able to figure out how to pick out the entire tune, note-by-note on bells or keyboard from carefully listening and identifying solfeg. Encourage your child to 'mess around' with the bells, tell him that he just might able to figure out a well-known song, and chances are he'll come to you with a big proud smile once he gets it!

'Hot Cross Buns' is another easy mi-re-do tune you may want to sing and play with your child this week.  It actually ONLY uses these 3 notes!  (MRD, MRD, DDDD, RRRR, MRD).  If you let your child in on the 3-bell secret, and challenge him to pick out the melody, he'll master it like a jigsaw puzzle.  

Like any puzzle, we start with the easy puzzles that only have a few pieces.  Eventually your child's ears will be ready for more complex puzzles.  The ability to sing melodies from memory and pick them out on a keyboard is an exercise in relative pitch / intervallic ear training, some of the basic skills that Let's Play Music incorporates in our training of the whole musician.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.

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