Exploring the Middle Ground: Visit #3

Next Wednesday will be our final visit of three to our Museum “classroom.”

In planning this visit, I involved the students more directly than before. After our second visit, we brainstormed some ideas for our third visit.  Those ideas included the compositional process (in our class, we wrestle with attributing intention to the composer when we really shouldn’t, but if we knew about the compositional process we could sometimes attribute intention to a composer), authenticity (viewing the “real” work as opposed to reproductions and what does that mean in music), and –more generally– picking favorite works in the museum to explore. The class showed the most interest in investigating the compositional process. I sent that idea back to the museum educators and they replied with various options for studying the process of creation. None were ideal, most were exciting to us, and here’s what we chose:

In this visit, we will explore the process of creation by looking at 13 sketches, an oil sketch (shown above) and the final product for a painting. The piece of work we chose is Jiawei’s “Climbing Over the Great Snow Mountain” (1977). This very large painting (58 3/8 x 47 ¼ in.) is currently in storage, so we are unlikely to get to see it in person and will instead examine the finished product projected on a wall (hopefully at something close to the correct dimensions!). This inability to study the finished work in person was the only one that made this study less-than-ideal. We chose it anyways because of the huge number of sketches that are available (as opposed to our other choices, which had only a few sketches each).

I was going to have students hypothesize about what they would see in the sketches (providing them with a digital image of the finished painting) and write informally about it in their GoogleDoc. I had invited the museum educators to suggest pre-visit assignment(s) and they came up with a terrific one that I never would have thought of: have students create a single image that is supposed to communicate our school’s mission. Before they start, they should think about what is important about the mission and how they can represent that facet.  One hurdle is that our school does not have a concise mission statement that I could find (!!). But I was able to locate a series of bullet points that are mission-like. For Monday’s class, they are to create the image and write informally about the rationale for their choices.  We will discuss the process during Monday’s class.  I told them I would also make an image, which –like my students– puts me way out of my comfort zone (yay middleground!).

Visit: I’m not sure how the structure will work since I’m now back on even ground with my students in terms of access, expertise, and experience. I’m looking forward to learning alongside them. This session will be primarily taught, I suspect, by the museum educators. I imagine we will share a few emails ahead of time, but that they will be mostly taking leadership of this class!

Post-Visit: After the visit, I’m hoping to work with some facsimiles of Beethoven sketches on something we’ve studied. That would be a great way to transfer the skills/knowledge!

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