HISTORY CURRICULUM GUIDE
• The Russian Revolution of 1917 had a significant effect on everyone, including artists and musicians. Prokofiev was concerned about the effect the political unrest in the country would have on his career, as well as interested in seeking career opportunities outside his native country, and in 1918 he decided to travel to the United States. He remained abroad for 20 years, accepting commissions from ballet and opera companies first in the US and then in Europe, performing concerts in many other countries as well.
• After the Revolution, from 1922 to his death in 1953, Joseph Stalin ruled Russia. Everything was controlled by the state, including what art and music was allowed to be created. In the 1930s the Soviet government created a “Composers’ Union” to keep outside influences out of the music of the Soviet Union and to keep an eye on all of the composers and their work to make sure it was “acceptable.” The government wanted traditional music written, not anything new or different, and the composers needed to keep to Russian themes and elements if they wanted their music to be endorsed by the government, and thereby performed. Prokofiev had become somewhat more traditional in his composing over the years and after weighing the decision to compromise by sticking with those traditional ideas or be true to some of his more non-traditional musical ideas, did decide to conform to some extent to the Soviet influence. “Peter and the Wolf” certainly fit in with the more traditional style, and was written after Prokofiev returned to his native land in the 1930’s.
• Watch this link of pictures and advertisements from the time of the Russian Revolution. (K+) The song, a Russian patriotic march, is sung by the Russian Army Chorus and has an interesting history, which you can find here.
• What would it be like as an artist or composer to have to follow the government’s rules in order to create? Do you think you would choose to compose what fit in with their orders and therefore be able to stay in your homeland, or move to a place that allowed you freedom to create what you wanted to? Discuss this with your family. (3+)
• The Disney movie “Anastasia” tells the fictional tale of a girl who is the only surviving member of the Russian royal family after the revolution. (In actuality, no member of the royal family survived.) Rent the movie with your family. Visit this website to see a family review of the movie. (K+)
SCEINCE CURRICULUM GUIDE
• Sound is created by vibration. Pluck a stretched rubber band, tap lightly on a glass, blow across a bottle. Each of these make a unique sound through vibrating materials or air, and the vibrations travel to your ear in waves. Visit this science website to see what a sound wave looks like, do an experiment to see how sound travels then visit “The Soundry” to experiment by creating your own sound wave to see how its shape affects the sound. (2+)
• Pitch is determined by how fast the object vibrates- the faster the vibration, the higher the note. Did you ever wonder why adults have lower voices than children? Or why your dad and grandfather have lower voices than your mom and grandmother? Bigger things, or instruments, vibrate more slowly and so have lower sounds than smaller ones. A piccolo sounds higher than a flute, a violin sounds higher than a cello, etc. Peter’s theme, on the upper strings, is higher than the grandfather’s theme, on the bassoon, to show that Peter is younger and smaller than his grandfather. Wouldn’t it be silly if their sounds were reversed?
• Stretch a small rubber band between your fingers and pluck it. Try the same with a longer, thicker rubber band. What do you notice? (K+)
• Play on a xylophone. Tap the lowest note and the highest note. Notice the difference in size. (K+)
• Sing a siren sound with an “oo” vowel. Lighten your voice and see how high you can go and then slide down to the lowest you can go. Now have your sibling or a friend try. Then your mom and dad. Who can sing the highest in your family? The lowest? (K+)
• Watch this video to learn about how sound is produced and how it travels (choose the “Study of Sound” video). (2+)
• Choose an animal from the story (bird, duck, cat, or wolf) and find out more about it. What kind of animal is it? What are its characteristics? What does it eat and in what environment does it live? Draw a picture of it and read books about it. Use the following links to get more information and ideas:
* Classification information for kids
* All about ducks
* Bird identification game
* About cats
GEOGRAPHY CURRICULUM GUIDE
• Prokofiev was a 20th century Soviet composer- many say the best of his time. He was born in a part of Russia which is now an independent country - the Ukraine. He was a child prodigy, much like Mozart, though he was somewhat of a musical rebel and his music wasn’t always accepted immediately! He traveled extensively both for musical reasons and political ones, but his homeland always held a special place in his heart.
• Print out this map and trace Prokofiev’s travel route over his 20 years abroad. Use a small sticker or a stamp to mark each location and then number them and connect them with a ruler:
* Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Siberia, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Paris, London, Berlin, Brussels, Moscow.
* (Prokofiev certainly performed in many more cities than listed above, and visited many of them more than once. This is just an overview of some of his significant career travels.)
• Find out more about the Ukraine and Russia with these activities and links:
* Cultural links can be found here, including holidays and a traditional Russian recipe. (K+)
* Visit this webpage for some printable coloring pages of Russian images, including Russian nesting dolls and the balalaika instrument. (K+)
* You can find printable coloring pages here, including a map and flag of Russia, a Russian home, and Russian foods. (K+)
* Visit this site to find traditional Ukrainian games, holiday information and a recipe for traditional potato pancakes. (K+)
* Make your own lapbook of Russia using the resources on this website. Links include counting in Russian, songs and poems of Russia, children’s folk games, animals and plants of Russia, and more. (1+)
* More Russian resources at “The Homeschool Mom”. (K+)
* Links to a Russian recipe and Ukrainian songs. (K+)
LANGUAGE ARTS CURRICULUM GUIDE
• Choose one of the characters in Peter and the Wolf to portray. Write a monologue (here’s the definition of a monologue) for you to present as your character explaining the story from your perspective. Describe what you see, hear, feel and think. Tell what you think about each of the other characters. Practice your monologue and dramatically read it to your family and friends. (2+)
• What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? Write a different ending for the story. Use your imagination and make it your own. Explain how you would change the mood of the music to reflect the new ending. Would you change any instruments in any of the themes? Play them slower or faster, softer or louder? Think creatively, like a composer, to add to the drama of the ending you choose. (1+)
• Russian and Ukrainian folk stories:
* The Wolf and the Kids (Ukrainian folk tale)
* Links to many Russian folk tales
* Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka) had their origin with this story.
* Book links for Russian fairy tales.
* Another Russian folk tale book can be found here.
• Choose a favorite story of your own- pick an instrument for each character. Perhaps make instruments using materials from around your house. Explain why you think the instruments would match each character. Put on a musical play for family and friends. Use these suggestions or links below for ideas: (2+)
• Make instruments of your own: Instrument-making activities for preschoolers; how to make a “Box Harp;” dozens of instrument-making ideas can be found here including guitars, percussion instruments, flutes and more.
• Ideas for stories to use (many can be found in your local library):
* Beatrix Potter “Squirrel Nutkin”
* Beatrix Potter “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”
* “The Story About Ping” by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese
* “Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson
* “Knufflebunny” by Mo Willems
* “Going on a Bear Hunt” (traditional story)
* “The Little Red Hen” (traditional story)
• The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet. You can see the Cyrillic alphabet on this webpage along with the equivalent sounds (or approximate sounds, in some cases) in English. If you want a challenge, see this puzzle page. Begin at the top left corner, read each word with it’s “clue”. If you follow in order you will make it through the whole Cyrillic alphabet by the end of the page! (Answers are at the end of this unit study.) (3+)
ART CURRICULUM GUIDE
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a Russian painter, a contemporary of Prokofiev. He was fascinated with the power that music had over its listeners and thought music was a superior form of art to visual art. He felt that music, since it disappeared once played and you couldn’t “see” it, tapped into the inner emotions and imagination more fully than painting or drawing or sculpture could. Kandinsky moved from representational art (that has a definite image or subject that you can recognize, like this painting) to abstract art (with fewer to no recognizable images, like this painting) as his painting progressed.
* Get a book of Kandinsky’s art out of the library and copy a painting that you find most interesting. Or look at the paintings on this website for a catalogue of his paintings. (1+)
* Make a color wheel and learn about primary, secondary, and complementary colors. (There are some activities and information about color wheels and color mixing here and here, and a lesson about complementary colors on the Crayola website.) Then draw or paint something using what you learned about colors. (K+)
• Russian and Ukrainian crafts: (K+)
* Pysanky Ukrainian eggs
* Egg Matryoshka Dolls
* Coffee Can Nesting Dolls
* Faux Faberge Eggs
MUSIC CURRICULUM GUIDE
• Many composers in Russia around the time of Prokofiev wanted to create music that sounded very “Russian”. They were very proud of and inspired by their country. They used folk tunes, unusual scales, and techniques of their native land to create compositions that reminded their fellow Russians of the uniqueness of their country. One specific group of these “nationalistic” composers was called the Moguchaya Kuchka- “Mighty Handful”, or “Russian Five”. Their names were Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui (pronounced kyew-ee), Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin. They were, in some instances, privately taught and most had other careers prior to, or concurrent with, their musical ones.
• Listen to music of any of these composers. Get CDs from the library or a used book store. Here are some good suggestions with which to begin: (K+)
* Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” - This set of pieces is programmatic music, meaning it was composed to represent actual objects, in this case paintings Mussorgsky saw. Draw a picture while you listen to some of these pieces.
* Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Overture” - See if you can identify the instruments as you listen.
* Borodin, selection from the opera “Prince Igor”
• The men in the Trio Voronezh on the CD use three Russian folk instruments: the domra, balalaika and the bayan.
* The domra is a stringed instrument in the lute family. The most common one has three strings and it is often used to play the lead melody in folk ensembles.
* The bayan is a type of accordian with buttons instead of a keyboard. See a virtuoso bayan player on this video.
* The balalaika is a triangular-shaped string instrument also with three strings. There are many sizes of balalaika, from a tiny, seldom-used piccolo instrument to the large bass instrument with an end pin like a cello which is played by a member of the Trio Voronezh. Watch this video to see another balalaika player.
• Here’s a website with many instruments to make on your own. (K+)
• Russian folk songs/dance videos- Kalinka, Kalinka- Russia army choir, folk song and dance (K+)
• Links to other songs/works by Prokofiev- Sarcasms for piano (quite different from Peter and the Wolf, isn’t it?), Romeo and Juliet- ballet scene, March from “Love for Three Oranges”, Symphony #1 “Classical” (K+)
• Program music is music that tells a story, or is associated specifically with something outside the music (a painting, character or event). Peter and the Wolf is obviously wonderfully-composed program music. Absolute music, in contrast, is music that was simply written for its own sake, without trying to express anything but the music itself. In visual art, paintings, drawings or sculpture that do not try to represent something specific are called “abstract”. Wassily Kandinsky (mentioned above) thought that art should be able to exist for its own sake - simply for color, line and shape- just like music can. Listen to these examples of program music and absolute music:
• Program Music
* Symphonie Fantastique “March to the Scaffold”
* Vivaldi “4 Seasons”- Winter
* Holst “The Planets”- Mars, the Bringer of War
* Eric Whitacre “Cloudburst” Listen to the storm toward the middle and end of this piece.
* Beethoven Symphony #6, mvt. 4 “Storm”
* Copland, “Hoedown” from “Rodeo”
• Absolute Music
* Chopin etude
* Rachmaninoff “Vocalise” (by a fellow Russian)
* Mozart Symphony 40
* Brahms Symphony 1
• Each instrument in the symphony orchestra has a unique sound. You hear many of these as “characters” in Peter and the Wolf- Peter’s theme is played by the strings, the cat’s by the clarinet, the duck’s by the oboe, the bird’s by the flute, the grandfather’s by the bassoon, the wolf’s by the french horns, and the hunters’ by the timpani. To study the instruments in the orchestra further, visit these links: (K+)
* Orchestra lapbook
* Arts alive instrument lab - explore the instruments in the orchestra
* New york phil - interactive site to hear and study instruments and their sounds
* Dso kids- another listening site for the orchestra with real instrument sounds
* A quiz on the sounds of the orchestral instruments
* Currclick musical instrument families cards (free)
* Montessori materials - instrument and composer cards (fee)
* phil peter and wolf link (with themes- scroll down to play each character’s theme)
MATH CURRICULUM GUIDE
• Prokofiev wasn’t just passionate about music, he was also crazy about chess. He followed the world of chess and chess champions very closely and was even famous for once beating a friend of his, famous chess champion Jose Raul Capablanca. Do you know how to play chess? If you don’t, now’s a perfect time to learn:
* Chess for Kids (This link includes rules of play and printable, make-your-own chess board and pieces.) (2+)
* Read a little about Prokofiev and his passion for chess on this website. (4+)