Grade: other
Subject: Music

#3261. Movie Music Critical Thinking

Music, level: other
Posted Sun Oct 17 08:04:10 PDT 2004 by Jay McDowell (
Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA USA
Materials Required: Paper, Pencil, Television, VCR/DVD player, Audio System, DVDs and/or VHS tapes
Activity Time: approx. 20 - 30 mins.
Concepts Taught: The relationship between movies and music.

1. Anticipatory Set: The following questions will be on the board for students to contemplate silently while
the equipment is prepared: "What role does music play in movies?"

2. Activating Prior Knowledge: Students will be ask to watch and listen carefully to two
selected scenes from movies such as ET and Titanic as the teacher plays the movie/music as it was intended and then alters the soundtrack using music from other movies or various selections that are different from what the writer/composer chose for the movie being shown.

3. Presentation: Students will then be ask to carefully consider the music being played and in
their journal entry will be asked to answer the following question as well as the previous one: "Choosing one scene of the two we have just viewed -- explain which musical choice makes the most sense to you and explain why you believe the writer/composer did or did not choose the same piece. Students will be given 5-10 minutes to organize their thoughts and write a journal entry -- the entry will be handed in at the end of class as students are putting their seats away. When the 10 minutes is up -- students will be asked to hand in papers.

NOTE: When I did this lesson - I used the following clips and selections:

1. The last scene of ET when ET takes off, then dubbing in "Leaving Port" from the Titanic soundtrack.
2. The scene in Nat'l Lampoon Christmas Vacation when the Christmas lights finally light up on the house and the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, then dubbing in the "Humming Chorus" from Madame Butterfly (I think this selection might work if the movie clip is in slow motion).
3. The opening scene of the Lion King with the Circle of Life, dubbing in Hot, Hot, Hot from the Little Mermaid - if the timing is just right, it actually appears to fit quite nicely although the song is not long enough to fill the whole scene.

Also - I used this at the high school level but others have used a similar lesson for middle school. It forces the student to think critically and also incorporates some writing standards into a music related lesson - bonus points for administrators!