Film Friday – Star Guitar as a Listening Map
Sometimes you need to mix up your music listening examples. We’re not doing our kids justice if we only stick to classical. We need to engage students with music that is culturally relevant and prepares them for a lifetime of music-making. I want to instill in my students a love for music and I want them to leave our school system feeling like they are empowered to join in the music-making process for the rest of their life. Yes, it would be great to have a student go on to get a music scholarship to college, I hope that some do! But, I would be just as happy if a student came to me in 20 years and told me that they are part of their local church choir or play in a little band with their friends on Friday nights. With that in mind, I want to engage kiddos with music that is compelling and ensnares their curiosity while still teaching them solid content.
Star Guitar is a song by The Chemical Brothers that was made into a music video by the director Michel Gondry.You might remember Gondry’s name if you’ve been through the rest of this blog or explored through the other “Film Friday” posts because he also came up with and directed the music video “Around the World” for Daft Punk that I wrote about a few months ago (you can find the link to that HERE). He’s a master of film making and has come up with some really stunning videos and other projects.
“Star Guitar” has no words but is catchy and sounds very current. You could almost imagine hearing it on the radio or on a film soundtrack. When I first watched the music video, I quickly realized that it was an awesome example of a listening map. In case you’re not familiar, a listening map is a visual representation of a song and provides the student a tangible outline to follow. It shows them what they’ll hear in the song and helps students follow along and engage with each piece. Listening maps can be complicated or simple, depending on the song and the creator of the map.
Most listening maps are 2d visual representations of sound but this music video links images with sound so that visual cues on the screen match the music. The idea of the video is that you are in a fast moving train looking at the terrain as it quickly passes you by. As you watch this video you can tell that what’s happening on the screen matches everything that’s happening in the music. When the music slows, the train slows; when certain sounds repeat, certain objects show up over and over on the screen; when sounds ebb and flow the picture might go from night to day or might show the cross section of a hill. It’s a really creative and interesting process to show the progression of sound in a visual way. There are times when I’ll notice something in the song because I see a recurring pattern of objects and sometimes vice versa. Most of all, the video gets your kids thinking and is a great hook and segue into a lesson on listening maps. Doubtless they’ll want to see it twice and honestly, that’s not a bad idea. They’ll see so much more the second time around that they wouldn’t have noticed the first time. I know I did!