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Before and After: A Lesson in Aesthetics

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Aesthetics is a set of principles that inform the outcome of a work of art. Aesthetics taps into that part of our being that connects with beauty. Last spring, after reading The Mozart Season,  I knew the section of the story that would inspire the most creativity. I know this because I have seen it here, and here, and here. And when readers stumble upon this three page passage, well, Section 5 happens.

As the story goes, when Allegra and her mother's friend, Diedre spend an afternoon in the Rose Garden, well, music happens. Nestled atop a hill in the park is a silvery aluminum sculpture. There are tall columns and arched columns, smaller columns and water uniting them all: 

"It was Diedre who started the song. She began slowly, BONG bong Bong bong with her knuckles on the three big columns, walking between them."

Now I've seen some fantastic creative responses to The Mozart Season (some that have won awards), but when this past year, one of my students finished the book and brought in her Section 5 project to share, I marveled that, yet again, it was in response to this specific music making passage. 

And the project she brought in was not only "nique" (as Allegra and her friends would say), but also a perfect opportunity to share some tips to elevate the Section 5 project artistically. So following is a little make-over:

BEFORE

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With a cardboard box, some discarded bottles, aluminum foil, a few scraps of notebook paper, one green marker, Scotch tape, and a pitcher of water, my student made a musical instrument. While I have seen many musical instruments (even musical compositions) inspired by this little section of The Mozart Season, this one captured my imagination. Think "don't judge a book by its cover" for a moment. this little homely project surprised me with rich sounds made from filling the bottles with different levels of water and blowing gently across each the neck. Oh! I was simply tickled, "My favorite Mozart invention so far!" 

But the poor dear was in desperate need of a makeover. So I gave the maker a simple lesson.

  1. To begin, if you are going to use a box (and boxes are a great way to begin, always paint the box). Give yourself a blank canvas upon which you can build your idea. A coat or two of gesso or acrylic paint will do just fine.
  2. Use more than 1 art medium. Here for example, using green marker and green paint on both folded and crumpled paper makes the viewer read 'foliage" more clearly.
  3. Give the reader an anchor to the book where the idea originated by posting quotes around the project.  

You don't have to be an artist to make your idea beautiful. And, think about it, ideas are meant to be appreciated. So, go on, beautify.

 

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One last thought… There is a trend in all sectors of education to discount the reading of pure fiction. This is not wise. This quiet little story is, in my opinion, powerful proof why we all need to read across many genres, all kinds of stories. Every time I've led students through this purely fictional story set in a very real setting (the competition that Allegra is working toward is a real competition that happens annually in Oregon), they read a few pages and groan. But by the time they get to the end, they have a deep appreciation for the rich story and fodder for their creativity to unfold. 

-Kim

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