What Is Elemental Music?
For a deeper dive, click here to listen to this Elemental Conversation with Victoria Boler
If you are like many music teachers out there you have probably heard the term Elemental Music before. You may have also wondered at some point in your life what that phrase means.
It’s one of those things that we hear thrown around at workshops at clinics at conferences… and even when people stop to explain what Elemental Music is, sometimes that definition can still feel fuzzy.
So is this question is very simply ….. What is Elemental Music?
There isn’t a standard definition for elemental music out there. Different pedagogues use the term in different ways and actualize it in their classrooms differently.
However, in general, there are a set of characteristics we can expect to observe in elemental music.
Characteristics of Elemental Music
Basic Musical Structures
Elemental music uses the most basic musical elements. This doesn’t mean that the music isn’t artistic. It just means that it uses foundational musical elements.
Elemental Forms and Patterns
Elemental forms are how we piece music together. A few of the most common elemental forms are aba, aabb, abba, and aaab.
For most people, the most naturally-occurring instrument is the human body. Elemental music is centered around the body as a way to express music through movement, speech, body percussion, and singing.
Where instruments are used, they are going to be the most accessible and the most natural extension of the human body. Often this means things like barred instruments and unpitched percussion.
Elemental music uses a combination of textures and sounds.
A hallmark of elemental music is that anyone can – and should – actively participate in it, regardless of their level of formal musical training. Elemental music uses basic musical structures so it can be as accessible as possible to any child, or any adult.
“Elemental Music is never music alone, but forms a unity with met with movement, dance, and speech. It is music that one makes one’s self, in which one takes part not as a listener but as a participant.”Carl Orff
At its core, elemental music is created by humans with the intention that other humans will participate in it. In this style, everyone has something to contribute. It is music that humans make themselves. They can make it in an ensemble with each other in a way that is organic, and in a way that celebrates community.
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