What do those words conjure up for you, “Of Glorious Plumage”? The first time I heard them was in a meeting where the task was to write a sample learning objective. It sounds technical and boring- “learning objective”, but it’s common vocabulary for educators . At the end of a long day (with limited energy and brain power left) the task still isn’t really that exciting, but I don’t like to waste energy on a sample. If I’m going to write one, I want it to be useful in the end.
I had the good fortune to be sitting next to Tom Boates, a music educator and orchestra conductor in my school. “Let’s write one for both of us,” I suggested, wanting to kill two birds with one stone. I was tired. Well, birds it was.
I asked what he was working on in class and it turned out that he was conducting a piece of contemporary music titled “Of Glorious Plumage” by composer Richard Meyer. It was written in the influence of the Impressionist movement in music. Whoa. Impressionism? Do we see a connection here?
By the way, I had peacocks strutting their tails in full fan in my head from the title, but Tom talked about eagles and terns on wing floating on thermals . Wow, how could our images be so different? That’s where listening skills come in. Once I heard the music , I understood his vision clearly. What power the extra sense has in our response to the world around us.
Needless to say, we collaborated on a lesson that combined visual art with music. Mr. Boates came into talk with my students about various genres of music Classical, Romantic and Impressionistic to set a context to creative development in music. He enthusiastically shared his art books on Impressionism and made connections to the visual applications of Impressionism. I worked with both introductory and advanced students to challenge them in two very different assignments. The advanced students researched their birds and created complete compositions to interpret their take on the music. The intro students also researched birds. They were each given a strip of brown wrapping four inches wide and ten feet long. Each created repetitive designs of birds and feathers and beaks and even habitat images across the strips of paper. Then all of the strips were woven into a huge nest in the main foyer showcase at the school.
The day before the performance, members of the orchestra were shown the art that their performance piece had inspired. So as it turned out, our learning objective did not “kill” any birds, but brought many to life in a creative collaboration.
Look around to see what others are doing and how it inspires you. It might not be another artist, but a chef or dancer. Open up a dialogue of possible ways to work together on a project that combines each medium in a common thematic goal. It could be designing a garden with a botanical expert or recycling water bottles into a art with an environment group. Seek commonalities with others that you think might be on different paths and see what a good brainstorm can create.