Classroom Recordings

Orff at Roehampton Primary School

These pieces were made by a group of 12 children aged 10-11 years old from a school then called Roehampton Gate Primary School in London. They were part of a larger class who had experienced regular Orff activities in years 3 and 4, and continued in years 5 and 6 to take special pleasure in making music together in spare time. Any child in the class was allowed to spend play-times in the class room working as they wished, largely without the presence of a teacher. Usually, they simply improvised over a bass, or built ostinati to create pieces, or composed pieces based on rhymes or their own poems. This group became the most regular and were soon quite experienced, also working at more challenging tasks, the results of some of which are included here. With one exception (her mother was a double-bass player in a jazz group) they are ordinary, average children. Their particular advantage was that they had had the same class teacher – Diana Thompson – for practically two years and she happened to be a musician and an Orff-Schulwerk enthusiast. They did not spend an exceptional amount of time making music, but the Orff approach qualified everything they did.

1. Six-eight piece – resulted from the task of making a piece composed of three-bar phrases. The main tune consists of five three-bar phrases in all. In the middle section there is an improvisation on alto xylophone accompanied by bass xylophone with some clapping and finger snapping. The coda uses the sounds produced by striking the instrument boxes. Key: F pentatonic (FGA CD)

2. Aeolian piece

Work in the Aeolian mode develops quite naturally from using C pentatonic in its minor form (A CDE GA). The tune was composed first, the bass here being chosen from three or four possible versions. In the middle section the vocal part is improvised. Key: Aeolian mode (ABCDEFGA)

3. Dorian piece

This Dorian piece is built on one main tune and a bass ostinato. It is in the form of a simple set of variations, new instruments being added at each repetition. In the coda some of the rest values are halved and the texture becomes denser and denser up to the final climax. Key: Dorian pentatonic (DEF AB)

4. Short piece for three xylophones

Short piece for three xylophones arose from the rhythm of a speech exercise learned in class. The soprano xylophone improvises a tune to this rhythm over a syncopated bass xylophone ostinato. The alto xylophone contributes to the introduction and coda with a rhythm tapped out on the side of the resonance box and joins in with a more simple ostinato in the main part of the piece. Key: F pentatonic (FGA CD)

5. The damp, dark, cave

By contrast this piece is concerned with producing evocative sounds to support word imagery. The poem was a class composition, written after listening to some children making ‘atmospheric’ sounds on a wide variety of instruments, including some less conventional ones. To accompany the poem a more selective use of available sounds had to be made.

6. Bongo improvisation

Two drums, with complementary ostinato patterns, provide an accompaniment to a short improvisation on a pair of bongos.

7. Five-time piece

Five-time piece evolved after extensive class work in five-time speech rhythms and ostinato patterns. The various ostinato patterns were first built-up; then the main tune was added. It was difficult to agree about the third phrase of the four-phrase tune, so it was decided that the player concerned would improvise that phrase. The middle section has a contrasting, flowing tune, played in octaves. Once this tune has established itself, a glockenspiel improvises over the top of it.

Key: G pentatonic (GAB DE)