In-class Song Analysis with Nested Groups

Sometimes you get so excited about a teaching idea that you just have to share.

My Sophomore theory class is embarking on the topic of mode mixture for the next few days, so I thought we’d jump right in with some song analysis, specifically Schubert’s “Der Neugierige.” SPOILER ALERT: This fairly early song in the cycle Die schöne Müllerin is one of the first to subtly hint at the tragic fate that awaits the protagonist, and Schubert accomplishes this through the use of mode mixture.

The plan is to have my class of 18 students divide initially into 6 groups of 3. Each group will be tasked with addressing some aspect of the song (5 groups for the music and 1 for the text). After 10 minutes or so, each student is now an “expert” on that particular part of the song. They’ll then regroup into 3 groups of 6, each group member coming from a different smaller group. Each bigger group can now discuss the song as a whole, interjecting their findings and coming up with a complete(ish) analysis of the song. Finally, we’ll reassemble as a class and debrief, making sure we all noticed the mode mixture and the ramifications when considered with the text.

We’ll see how it goes this morning.

UPDATE: I think it went really well! For those that may be interested, here is how I divided the 6 groups:

  • Group 1: mm. 1-12
  • Group 2: mm. 13-22
  • Group 3: mm. 23-32
  • Group 4: mm. 33-42
  • Group 5: mm. 43-end
  • Group 6: Text Analysis (both independent interpretation and issues of the melodic setting, i.e. text painting)
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