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Music Education
Resources by Paula Downes, a lot of music by Andrew Downes

The Mother's Song

The fourth of eight cross-curricular lesson plans on Ballads for Christmas for Middle School, Secondary School, High School, KS3 children, with songs and animations, poetry analysis and writing, music analysis, art projects, documentary/film-making and more.

The Mother's Song
Animation by Paula Downes, music by Andrew Downes, Eskimo poetry translated by Peter Freuchen.

The Poem
It is so still in the house.
There is a calm in the house;
The snowstorm wails out there,
And the dogs are rolled up with snouts under the tail.
My little boy is sleeping on the ledge,
On his back he lies, breathing through his open mouth.
His little stomach is bulging round - 
Is it strange if I start to cry with joy?

Poetry Background
The Mother's Song is a traditional Eskimo poem translated by Peter Freuchen, a Danish explorer who had spent many years among the Eskimo people. The poem is published in his Book of the Eskimos (1961)which is crammed full of information on the history, life-styles, and rapid changes in this civilization's lives.

Watch this video to find out more about Peter Freuchen's extraordinary life:

Learn about the Inuit people at various different times in the videos below to see how climate change is affecting their way of life.



Climate Change: Present day

Climate Change Task
Find out the reasons why the environment is changing for our planet and see what can be done to reduce or slow down the process. Create a leaflet telling people how they can make small changes to their lives in order to save the planet, and explain why it is vital that they do this.  

Music Analysis
Listen to the music of the Inuit people in the following video. Notice the Inuit Song accompaniment on the drum.

Now listen to The Mother's Song again and notice that the composer has given the harp just one repeated note throughout to imitate the drum in a traditional Inuit song.

Now listen again and notice how the composer varies the vocal textures: sometimes you will hear unison singing, sometimes a two-part texture, sometimes three-part chords. Identify reasons for the composer's choices, for example sudden three-part texture with wailing descending bottom part for the word 'wail'. 

Why do you think there is a very long note at the end of each line?

Notice the way some phrases reach higher pitches than others and come up with reasons why.

The composer uses suspensions liberally in this song. These are dissonant leaning notes that are 'prepared' (present) in the chord before and resolve by falling by step. See if you can hear these on the words 'still', 'calm', 'wails', 'boy', 'strange', 'joy'. What effect do these suspensions create? Click for more help on suspensions.

Move on to Shepherd's Carol

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Music Education
Resources by Paula Downes, a lot of music by Andrew Downes

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