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MUSIC TEACHERS: If you can get copies of these recordings (i.e. from your local
library, high school music teacher, local university music library, etc.), these
listening guides can be used to help your students gain a stronger appreciation for
specific musical aspects of the concert pieces. Also, their enjoyment may be
enhanced if they have some familiarity with the pieces. We strongly suggest that you
listen first to the pieces with the guides so that you become familiar enough with
them to take your students on a musical journey of the concert program. Hopefully,
your listening pleasure will also be enhanced in the process.

Note-taking Skill Activity: To teach students note-taking skills, try the following before
using one or all of the Listening Guides.

•Consider reading the background sections aloud to students before listening to the
pieces, asking them to take notes.
•Then have the students retell the information to a partner, each sharing what they
•Afterwards, have them go back to their desks and write a short summary.
•Discuss what they learned from their notes as a class.

Listening Guide 1: Billy the Kid: Celebration Dance

History: William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, was a murderer, outlaw, and
cattle rustler (someone who steals cattle). Like Aaron Copland, he was born in Brooklyn,
but then Billy, along with his mother and brother, moved out to Silver City, New Mexico.
From 1876 until his death in 1881, he was a wanted outlaw. Legend has it that Billy “had
a notch in his pistol for twenty-one men” but history tells that it was probably no more
than 4.

About the Music: In 1938, Aaron Copland wrote Billy the Kid for the American Ballet
Caravan. He developed the piece in part by using old cowboy tunes. It is written as a
SUITE. A suite is several music pieces strung together that are usually written for a dance
or ballet (such as the Nutcracker Suite). There are MOVEMENTS or sections, like
chapters in a story. You’ll hear the movement called Celebration Dance. In this part of
the ballet, the posse (search party) for Billy the Kid, and their cowgirls, are dancing and
celebrating the capture of the outlaw.

Billy the Kid is in RONDO form or ABACA. Musically, that’s like a triple decker
sandwich with the A section like the bread! But A here is a tune that is repeated
throughout. You’ll first hear the main tune (A), then a new musical section (B), then a
return to the first tune (A), then a new musical section (C), and then back again to A!
Now, using the guide below, try to listen for the different sections.

Celebration Dance starts the A section with the two wind instruments, OBOE and
BASSOON. The oboe plays a bouncy little melody (A) with the bassoon playing a
harmony underneath. The TEMPO is quick and the DYNAMIC LEVEL (loudness) is
PIANO (soft). The tune grows louder as other instruments join in: first the flutes, then the
brass and finally the strings can be heard underneath.

Next, listen for the B section. Now, the strings take up the new tune with tuba and other
low pitched instruments booming beneath.

Now listen to the return of A. Listen for the syncopated (off the beat) rhythms.

Next listen for the new C section. Hear the higher pitched instruments like the flutes,
piccolo, and even glockenspiel, while low tones are played underneath. Again, the
dynamic level (loudness) drops to piano briefly, before…

The brass enter to repeat the A theme again with the timpani booming a steady beat. A is
repeated by the whole orchestra (tutti), now playing fortissimo (very loud). Listen for
the repeated phrase (3 times) as we come to the end followed by a dramatic crash of
drums and cymbals!

Listening Guide 2: Appalachian Spring: Variations on a Shaker Hymn

Background: While Copland was working in Hollywood writing music for movie scores
he received a commission to write yet another ballet score for Martha Graham, a very
famous modern dancer and choreographer of that time. Ms. Graham titled the ballet
Appalachian Spring only two days before it opened!!

About the Music: Appalachian Spring is the story of a newlywed couple moving into
their new farmhouse in the Appalachian Mountains. In the music, you can hear the folk
songs of the Appalachians. Copland uses on a Shaker melody in particular called “Simple
Gifts.” But Copland writes variations of the tune, meaning you’ll hear it again and again
in different ways.

Geography Task: Locate the region known as Appalachia on a US map.

NOTE TO MUSIC TEACHERS! You will find the music to this Simple Gifts on the
BPO website. Sing it with your students before the concert.


You’ll first hear the melody of “Simple Gifts” played in four variations (four ways).
Listen to how each one is slightly different. As you hear it pass through different
instrument families, locate each on the map of the orchestra (pg. X)

The tune starts in the WOODWIND FAMILY (flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons). It opens
with a single clarinet playing the melody in a quick, mezzo-piano (medium soft) manner
accompanied softly by flute and piccolo.

Next, we hear the first variation as the music changes to a higher key and the tune is
played now by the oboe and bassoon. Can you also hear a triangle?

In the second variation, listen as the strings come in with the tune, playing smoothly and
half as fast, while the piano and glockenspiel play a steady pulse underneath. The music
is growing louder as more instruments join in. You’ll notice they have cut the tempo in

In the third variation, the brass section enters as the trumpet takes up the tune while the
strings sweep up and down in excite accompaniment.

After this, we have a brief interlude—kind of like a musical bridge—when things quiet
and slow down a bit as the winds again take up the tune.

And finally, we hear the fourth variation with the majesty expressed by the whole
orchestra (tutti) playing fortissimo (very loud) and even slower, with the heavy beat of
the timpani under them all!

Question: Which part of the music sounds the most like mountains? (beginning, middle,
or end). Explain why you think so.

Bedrich Smetana and The Moldau

Bedrich Smetana (1824 – 1884), was one of the first nationalistic composers –that he
wrote music especially for his country, Bohemia (today, the Czech Republic). Bohemia,
at that time, was being ruled by a foreign government, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Just
as the United States wanted to be free of England’s rule in 1776, so did Bohemia want its
independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Bohemia finally became free,
Smetana’s music helped the nation be proud of its new identity.

As a young child, Smetana took his first music lessons from his father, a brewer. A child
prodigy at age 6, he even played piano before the Austrian Emperor! Smetana grew in his
desire to become a musician. He worked hard for years to earn a living as a concert
pianist. But life for him was hard. He married and had children, but three of his four
daughters died, and not long after, his wife died as well.

Smetana’s most famous works include a cycle of symphonic poems called Ma Vlast (My
Fatherland). A symphonic poem is a piece of music that a composer writes about
something he/she really likes, a poem or work of art or natural feature. In this work,
Smetana writes about a river called the River Moldau. The Moldau runs through the city
of Prague. You’ll hear this piece at the concert. Smetana continued to write works
inspired by his country’s history and scenery.
Geography Task: On a map of Europe, find: Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Moldau
River, the city of Prague.

Listening Guide 3: The Moldau

This guide is excerpted from Classical Music for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott

The music begins with two flute solos representing the two mountain streams that are the
source of the great river. As the river grows in size, so does the sound of the orchestra,
with one instrument entering after another until a mighty river of sound flows. Listen to
the beautiful melody as the river flows through the woods where hunting horns are heard;
through fields where dancing is taking place at a wedding celebration (listen for the
dancing rhythm); through a nighttime scene of water and wood nymphs; over great
rapids; through the great city of Prague; and finally off into the distance.

Question: If you were going to write a symphonic poem that described New York
geography, what would it sound like? Fast or slow? Loud or soft? What instruments
would you use and when would they enter?

Claude Debussy and La Mer

Biography: Debussy (1862 – 1918) was one of a group of composers known as the
Impressionists. He tried to portray the mood and atmosphere of a place much the way that
painters such as Monet and Renoir did.

Teachers: View some paintings from the Neoclassical and Impressionist paintings with
your students. Have them observe the loose brush strokes characteristic of this “new”
style compared to the finer, more photographic style of the earlier period.

To write music as Impressionist composers painted, Debussy needed a new musical

language and so he experimented with new ways to produce sound that were different
from what audiences were used to hearing from orchestras! Many audiences thought his
music sounded weird, but his techniques are much more common today. You could say he
was ahead of his time!

Achille-Claude Debussy was born in a small town near Paris. His parents didn’t have
much money, but he had a happy childhood nonetheless. At the tender age of 10, he went
to Paris to study at a famous conservatory. Within a few years, he shocked his professors
with “bizarre” harmonies that broke all the rules! One teacher asked him what rules he
DID follow, and he replied, “None—only my own pleasure.” His teacher replied, “That’s
all very well, provided you’re a genius.” I guess Debussy had the last laugh!

Listening Guide 4:
At the concert, you’ll hear the second movement of Debussy’s greatest orchestral work,
La Mer (the Sea). Debussy had a great love of the sea. In fact, his father wanted him to
become a sailor. Does this music create a picture of the sea for you?

This movement is called Play of the Waves, and certainly the composer did a good job of
letting us hear ocean waves rising and falling playfully. This piece will sound different
than some other pieces you hear at the concert. There is no definite melody, or tune, it’s
not a piece you can sing along to! Also, many instruments come in and go so that the
music shifts constantly within the orchestra. In fact, as soon as the piece begins, several
instruments are already “tossing about” the musical sounds—flutes, an oboe, an English
horn, bassoons, a glockenspiel (like a xylophone except metal), harp and strings.

Two things you can listen for are

1) The many different instrument TIMBRES (kinds of sounds) that Debussy uses
to create his impression of the sea
2) Debussy’s famous whole tone scale will be played at different points in the
music. Play a whole tone scale so the students can hear what to listen for. Listen
for the harp playing it by running up and down in a scale (glissando). It’s a sound
you’ve probably heard in movies, often when something magical or dreamlike is

Ferdinand Grofe and Grand Canyon Suite

Biography: Ferde Grofe (1892 – 1972) was born to French parents, Emil and Elsa von
Grofe, in New York City. The family then moved to Los Angeles. It was natural for Ferde
to become a musician—his father was a baritone and actor, while his mother was a cellist
and music teacher.

At only 14, Ferde left home to work at various jobs—as a bookbinder, truck driver, usher,
newsboy, elevator operator, lithographer, typesetter, and a steelworker! In his free time,
he studied violin and piano. By age 16, he started playing “gigs” (odd jobs for
musicians). He especially enjoyed playing jazz.

Never heard of him? Well, you’ve probably heard something that Grofe orchestrated
(arranged a song for an orchestra) but don’t know it. Have you seen Fantasia 2000? Grofe
orchestrated Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Still, George Gershwin was the composer so
what exactly did Grofe do? Well, Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue as a piano piece;
then Grofe arranged the music and wrote out the parts so a whole orchestra could play it!

Grofe also became a composer. He liked to write about his life experiences with pieces
like Rattlesnake, Harem, and Persimmon. In fact, a friend even challenged him to write a
piece about a bicycle pump, so he wrote two: Variations on Noises from a Garage and
Free Air.

Listening Guide 5:
At the concert, you’ll hear the third movement of one of Grofe’s most famous works:
Grand Canyon Suite. The orchestra will play the movement called On the Trail. Listen in
this piece for all the tempo changes!
This movement is called On the Trail. Picture a cowboy on his pony with his pack burro
traveling down the canyon path. We first hear the thunderous HEE-HAW and a funny
little violin cadenza (a fancy solo for an instrument) where the violin sounds like the
stubborn mule being woken up to being the journey. The group moves along cactus-
covered trails over a jogging clip-clop rhythm with the oboe playing a tune on top. Next
we hear the cowboy singing (the French horn) a beautiful melody. You’ll hear the donkey
getting stubborn a few times. And then the melody reappears lush and full as the trio
views the beautiful canyon scenery. Is that a waterfall nearby? (Listen for the rippling
sounds in the flutes). The journey continues and after a while, you’ll hear what sounds
like an old-fashioned music box. They are approaching a house that may contain food and
shelter. He rides faster! Then we hear a sudden, dramatic ending!

Antonin Dvorak and New World Symphony

Guess what? Like Smetana, Antonin Dvorak (1841 – 1906) was also a Bohemian! His
childhood was filled with the same country folk music and rustic dances as was
Smetana’s. Dvorak’s father was a butcher, but he also played an instrument called a
zither, a string instrument a little like a dulcimer, and young Antonin often played
alongside his father.

When Antonin was 16, he moved to Prague where he first heard of Smetana’s music. He
liked how Smetana used the folk music of Bohemia to write new music and decided he
wanted to do the same. His music was immediately popular with audiences.

At age 51, Dvorak was invited to come to American to take over a big New York Music
Conservatory. But while here, he missed his home terribly. He spent a lot of time in a
Bohemian colony in Iowa. Since he was drawn to folk music, he was keenly interested in
American’s folk music, particularly that of the Native American and Native American
cultures. In fact, you can hear the influences of those cultures in his famous work,
Symphony No. 9, From the New World, which he wrote in America. At the concert, you’ll
hear only the first movement.

Listening Guide 6:

This music has a very famous form called a SONATA, or ABA, which generally works
like this:
Exposition (A)
Development (B)
Recapitulation (A again)
Coda (end)

Theme: A tune or melody that can be heard and developed throughout a piece of music.

Introduction: (about 2 minutes) This section is a slow (adagio) introduction to the main
melodies you’re about to hear in the Exposition. Listen for the dramatic changes in
volume and tempo.

Exposition (A) (almost 3 minutes) Now you’ll hear the first tune or THEME 1, first in the
horn, then the oboe, then the strings, and finally the brass. After about 1 minute, listen for
the flute playing a bridge between Themes 1 and 2. The bridge takes us to THEME 2
after another minute—a soft, gentle melody played by the flute, then taken up by strings
and then brass.

Development (B) (about 4 minutes)

In this section, a composer brings back the main themes and starts to “play” with them.
First we hear a return to Theme 1 by the French horn, then the oboe. After about 1
minute, we hear the bridge music again played by the flute and strings. After another
minute, we hear Theme 2 played by the flute, strings, and finally the brass. After another
minute, Dvorak weaves the two themes together—can you hear them?

Recapitulation: (A) (about 3 minutes) We are returning to the beginning where the 2
themes are “restated”. That’s why this is called A again. Can you identify Theme 1, the
bridge, and Theme 2 as you heard them in the Exposition section?

Coda: This means “tail” in Latin and so is our big finish!