Mill Park Publishing of Eagle, Idaho was created in 2003 by author Elaine Ambrose.
The company facilitates fee-based book publication and marketing for local authors
and organizes writer's retreats.

Thursday, 11 August 2011 15:12

Beyond Captain Underpants: Music as Muse

Written by  Elaine Ambrose

In my collection of vintage books, I have a copy of a children’s book from 1886 titled

Please Tell Me A Tale. One story, Under the Maypole, has the following lines:

“This Mayday morning they will plant the Maypole on the green,

And hang it round with cowslip wreaths and blue bells set between;

With starry thorn, with knotted fern, with chestnut blossoms tall,

And Phil, the bailiff’s son, will bring red roses from the Hall.”

Can’t you just imagine little Phil proudly bringing the roses? The book doesn’t have any illustrations, and there are no batteries required or toys included, but children still love to listen to the lyrical stories.

I use this example in my writing class for local fourth grade students. Then I follow with an excerpt from a current bestselling children’s book, Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. In this particular version, the children rearrange letters on a sign to read: “Please Don’t Fart in a Diaper.” Laughter ensues, but it causes me to doubt the evolution of children’s literature over the last 125 years.

To inspire the students to write, I play a variety of musical selections. We begin with “No Blue Thing” by Ray Lunch. I instruct the children to close their eyes, listen to the music, and then write anything that the music inspires. The responses always are delightful.

“I’m running through the tall grass through a cloud of butterflies,” is a typical comment.

Then I play “Circle of Life” from the Lion King Soundtrack. Their expressions change as their imaginations play with the music. We then discuss how the music prompted images and thoughts. They are instructed to write what they envision.

For the remainder of the class, I play a variety of other songs, but I always end with the same two selections. “Adagio for Strings” by Samual Barber typically elicits strong emotions, even among the teachers. Once at Garfield Elementary, after the song a shy, little boy in the back of the room timidly raised his hand. “I see blue tears flowing down my wall,” he said. “Write about that,” was my response. He seemed pleased.

I end the session with “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. Often, most of the students will sit taller and smile wider as they listen with their eyes closed. The song prompts comments such as, “I fought the dragon, and I won!”

My classes lasts an hour, and I enjoy volunteering my time with the students. It’s my goal that they will use quality music (with an emphasis on quality), to inspire the muse within them. I want to challenge young people to temporarily laugh about Professor Poopypants but to wonder and write about characters as rich and provocative as Phil, the bailiff’s son. No batteries required.

Last modified on Thursday, 11 August 2011 15:29

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