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  • Writer's pictureRobin Murphy

Elementary Kandinsky: Art + Music

One of my favorite activities of all time involves Kandinsky.

As you may or may not know, Kandinsky's work is heavily influenced by and based in music. Kandinsky is said to have had a condition called synesthesia, where two or more senses are linked and experienced at the same time. In his case, it seems that he experienced a visual effect whenever he heard music, which lead to some beautiful abstract paintings based on musical compositions.

I like to discuss Kandinsky with all grade levels, but here I'll focus on an activity I do mostly with the younger elementary grades. It starts with reading the book "The Noisy Paint Box" by Barb Rosenstock.

Reading picture books to the younger grades is probably my absolute favorite way to introduce lessons because it helps them enter the world of an artist or idea and understand some of the concepts we're about to dive into. Not to mention, it's a great attention-getter. "The Noisy Paint Box" not only introduces the idea of music and art together, but it also teaches students to follow their passions and celebrates creativity. It's also beautifully illustrated.

After we read the book, I start talking to the kids about what it would be like to be able to see the music we hear. What color would a trumpet sound like? What kind of line or shape do you think fast music would make, or what about slow music? This always leads to interesting discussions and associations.

The next thing I do is introduce the activity and ask them to create sections on their paper. for younger grades I have them fold the paper in 4ths, but in older grades we might to 6ths. Then, I explain that they're going to choose one section to draw in while I play some music. I tell them that they may not draw in any of the other sections yet, and that I only want them to draw shapes and lines - no pictures. This is a great time to introduce or review what abstract art is.

From here, I'll play a song for about 1-2 minutes and they have to draw an abstract drawing to go along with that song. I like to tell them to let their hand and their marker feel the music and start dancing. It's so fun watching them choose colors and move their markers to the music! My favorite types of music to play are instrumentals so they don't get distracted by words. Sometimes at the beginning of a song I'll ask them how it makes them feel (happy, sad, energetic, etc.) to help them get started. I've even created a YouTube playlist that I like to use for this activity below.

Between songs, I like to ask students to share what they've created with their table groups. It helps for them to see what's similar between their work and explain why they chose certain colors or shapes, lines, etc. We do this for a few songs (sometimes I even take a request at the end if we have time and room left on our pages) and end class by talking about which drawing they liked the best. It's so much fun to see their brains connecting Art and Music and starting to think abstractly! Click here to see a snippet of what the drawing process looked like during a kindergarten class.

I hope this is something you can draw inspiration from for your own classes! It's short and sweet but so much fun!

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