Lesson Plans for Listening on Three Planes
to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major


By listening to and writing about J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C Major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, students will learn:

1) to listen more deeply (on three different planes)
2) to read music (rhythm and melody)
3) the basics of what they will need to compose their own music
4) how to write an analysis of another piece of music (one they choose)
5) how to compare Bach's prelude with a piece of music that they have chosen

Materials needed:

1. One copy for each student of the score, the resource page, rhythmic analysis sheet, and melody graph.
2. 50 or 100 transparencies for the copy machine
3. Enough transparencies for six groups (of 3 or 4) in each class of the rhythmic analysis sheet and the melody graph
4. Copy of the score on transparencies
5. Overhead projector and screen
6. Wet-erase markers for transparencies (3 or 4 different colors)
7. CD player
8. CD of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, Prelude No. 1 in C major.
9. Aaron Copland's What to listen for in music (first two chapters).

Session One

1. Listen on the Sensuous Plane and Freewrite

Listen to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, then freewrite for 10 of 15 minutes. Write anything that comes into your head without thinking much. Try to respond to the music on the "sensuous plane."

2. Write a "focused" sentence, then freewrite again (while listening)

Listen again to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier.  Re-read your freewriting from the first table, and write a focused sentence.  This should be a sentence that summarized your entire freewrite. Make it a strongly worded sentence, one that can be argued with. Then freewrite again, this time begin with your focused sentence. Do this Focused freewrite for 10 of 15 minutes. After you begin with your focused sentence, write anything that comes into your head without thinking much. You are moving toward the "expressive plane" of listening.

3. Readers of the focused sentences, then some of the writing (Expressive Plane)

4. Do the math and discuss the Resource Page

5. Begin "Fractional Analysis of the Rhythm..." (Sheerly Musical Plane)

Session Two

1. Write metaphors to describe this music (Expressive Plane)

Listen again to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier.  This time write a metaphor that describes what you think Bach was trying to express in this piece of music. Respond to the "expressive plane" of listening. Complete this sentence:  "If this music were a _____ , it would be..."  Then freewrite for 10 or 15 minutes, explaining why this metaphor fits the music.  You may need to choose a couple of metaphors to complete your writing.

2. Review Resource Page

3. In groups of 3 or 4 complete a transparency for the "Fractional Analysis of Rhythm..."
All students in the group need to be ready to present.

4. Presentations of Rhythm in Prelude No. 1 in C major.

5. Listen to the sheerly musical plane--Describe Rhythm

Listen again to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier. This time pay attention to the "sheerly musical plane."  Study your rhythm bar graph for each of the three lines of melody in the first three measures. Describe the rhythm in each of these lines. For example: the bottom rhythm beats out a very regular, even beat of "one-two, three-four" with a half note repeated in each measure. There are no rests. Describe where the rests are, and what notes are used to present the rhythm in all three of the melody lines presented in this piece of music.

Session Three

1. Discuss C major scale, Do-Re-Mi..., number of measures, and melody graph

2. Learn to read the spaces and lines on the clefs of a musical score

3. Begin graphing one of the three melodies

4. Begin writing a letter to a friend (Continue for homefun.)

Listen again to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C Major from the Well-Tempered Clavier.

Write a letter to a friend of yours who loves music.

1.  Describe the 3 Planes of listening that Aaron Copland identifies in Chapter 2 of his book, What to Listen for in Music. He writes: "In a certain sense we all listen to music on three separate planes. For lack of a better terminology, one might name these: (1) the sensuous plane, (2) the expressive plane, (3) the sheerly musical plane."

2.  Give examples of your own experience of listening in these three different ways by describing your work this week. We listened to, wrote about, and analyzed J.S. Bach's Prelude No 1 in C major.

3. In your letter to a friend, quote from your first freewriting to show what your response is to Prelude No. 1 on the sensuous plane. What was your first response to this music, without much thinking or analysis?

4. Quote from your second, focused freewriting and your writing about a metaphor (or two) to show what you think J.S. Bach was trying to express in this music. Choose particularly meaningful sections of your writing from earlier this week to show your answer to this question about the expressive plane of listening: What mood or general concept or theme is expressed in this music?  

Aaron Copeland writes: "Music expresses, at different moments, serenity or exuberance, regret or triumph, fury or delight. It expresses each of these moods, and many others, in a numberless variety of subtle shadings and differences." 
Look up the in this quotation in a dictionary, and see if you might use any of them in your letter to a friend. Do any of these words fit what you think Bach was trying to express in Prelude No. 1?

5. Next, explain to your friend what Aaron Copland is talking about when he writes about the "sheerly musical plane" of listening. Describe for your friend your group's "Fractional Analysis of the Rhythm..." and your strand's entire "Graphical Analysis of the Melody..." Describe two things about these graphs: (1) How did you make them? (2) What do the graphs look like, and what do these representations of the music help you to understand about the music.

6. Be sure to end your letter by explaining that we listen to music on all three of these planes at the same time. Again, Copland writes: "I have split up mechanically the three separate planes on which we listen merely for the sake of greater clarity. Actually, we never listen on one or the other of these planes. What we do is to correlate them--listening in all three ways at the same time. It takes no mental effort, for we do it instinctively."

Bring it all together. What has it been like for you to listen to this Prelude over and over, and on different planes? Tell your friend what this experience makes you think and feel about Bach's music now.

Session Four

1. Review reading notes on a staff

2. Complete "Graphical Analysis of Melody..."

3. Presentations of "Graphical Analysis of Melody..."

4. Listen on a sheerly musical plane--Respond to the Melody

Listen again to J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C Major from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Pay attention to the "sheerly musical plane" again.  This time study your graphical analysis of each of the three lines of melody in all 35 measures of this piece of music. Describe each of these lines of melody. For example: the bottom melody has four parts. The melody falls like it's going down a hill, and it hits bottom at the end of each section. Then, after rising for a short time, it falls down even further than before.... Describe how all three melodies move in this piece of music.

5. Finish letter to a friend.

6. Put all of the writing in the Speakeasy Caf´┐Ż, Event 23, Tables #1 - # 6.

Created by Paul Allison, [email protected]. Last Updated 4/25/01