The Orff Schulwerk Approach To Music Education Education Essay

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The Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education was guided into existence by the German composer Carl Orff (1895-1982) and Gunild Keetman in Central Europe in the early 1920s. It is an approach developed to teach music to children as if they are learning a language. It is a philosophy that includes an element of "play" in order to help the children to learn music at their own level of understanding. It is a way of introducing and teaching children about music on a level that they can easily comprehend it. "Since the beginning of time, children have not liked to study. They would much rather play, and if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child's play." [2] The approach encompasses as well music as movement and is mainly based on activities that come naturally to children. One should think of singing, clapping, but also dancing. This concept, open to all kinds of exploration, is based upon the believe that the historical development of music is apparent in every individuals life. It therefore makes use of a set of percussion instruments like the glockenspiels, bells, tambourines, cymbals, etc. that reflect a relatively natural sound/rhythm. According to Orff, rhythm was the most important part of music; rhythm is what movement, speech, and music all have in common, "rhythm is what ties these all together to make what Orff called elemental music". [3] 

The inventor of this influential method of music education for children, Carl Orff, was born on the 10th of July in Munich, Germany in 1895. According to Moser's Musik Lexicon he studied in the Munich Academy of Music until 1914. After this short introduction to music he served in the military in the First World War. His dedication to music continued after the war; he held various positions in the Mannheim and Darmstadt opera houses, he returned to Munich to further study music and from 1925 onwards Orff was the head of a department and co-founder of the Guenther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich. At this Guenther School he worked with musical beginners which gave him lots of opportunities to develop his theories related to music education. Besides being a master in developing a new music education, he was also a composer. In 1937, Orff's Carmina Burana was received with great success in Frankfurt, Germany. This was a composition of a scenic cantata based on 24 poems that were discovered in the medieval collection Carmina Burana: Cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris cantanæ comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis ("Song of Beuern: Secular songs for singers and choruses to be sung together with instruments and magic images.")

When looking at Orff's work in Music Education it may be said that what he did was overwhelming. His work on this field started in the 1920's; Carl Orff came in contact with Mary Wigman. This work relation led him to Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, a musician and music educator who developed eurhythmics. When comparing the Orff-Schulwerk approach to Dalcrozes' it actually turns out that they are very similar to each other. The main difference can be found in the use of the instruments; Orff focuses on education through percussion instruments whereas Dalcroze uses the body as an instrument. His focus was on turning the body into a well-tuned instrument.

With the founding of the Guenther School in 1924, together with Dorthee Guenter, Orff created a highly interesting environment for him to start elaborating in detail on his ideas. The main focus of the school was to coordinate the teaching of gymnastics, dance, and music. "Orff believed that music, movement, and speech are not separate entities in and of themselves, but that they form a unity that he called elemental music." [4] So in short: elemental music consists of speech, movement and music tied together via rhythm created by children for which no special training is required. "This means that, when a child is young, he is similar to a primitive human being - at least musically - in that both are naive and rely primarily on natural rhythms and movement to make music." [5] Although this theory has not been very widely accepted by most music educators, this is where the Orff method of teaching music begins.

" Elemental music is never just music. It's bound up with movement, dance and speech, and so it is a form of music in which one must participate, in which one is involved not as a listener but as a co-performer." [6] 

The approach is based upon the idea that music should be learned in the same way a language is learned. So the earlier the person starts, the easier and quicker the learning-process will go. Perhaps it is more logical then to compare the learning of music to learning a mother language. For this reason Suzuki calls this approach the "mother tongue approach". Comparing both learning-processes and building on the knowledge we have from language learning, a child should start listening to music, then imitating the music and later in life the child will learn how to interpret the symbols used in written form.

Speech is one of the key elements in the Orff approach which makes the approach different from the others. Dalcroze, Kodaly, and Suzuki didn't used speech in this way. Orff believed that speech is an inherently rhythmic action that reflects perhaps the most natural way for a child to transform from speech to rhythmic activities (clapping or tapping) and later to song (playing of an instrument). Even after a child has learned how to play an instrument the process of adapting his philosophy continues. They continue for example with the introduction of meter, accent, and anacrusis (upbeat) within different speech patterns, followed by reinforsement in other activities, and last but not least the studying of all this in a musical context. One leads directly to the next, the experience children will have with singing follow directly from what they learned concerning speech. With melody as an extension of rhythm.

The second key element of the Orff approach is music. Whereas Suzuki uses a common core repertoire for students of the same instrument worldwide, the Orff approach is based on Folk music and improvisation. Since everything in the Orff approach is pre-planned, also the learning and the use of the voice as a musical instrument asks for a detailed schedule. Students will learn to use solfege in a very specific order. When learning the intervals, a pentatonic scale is used in order to stay closest to the native tonality of children. Besides that it appears to be that the use of the pentatonic scale gives students confidence when improvising. After all. It is very difficult to improvise and sound bad when someone is restricted to use only the notes available in the pentatonic scale. Confidence, or constant affirmation, seems to play a crucial role to a child's development.

The last key element of the Orff approach is elemental movement. Movement is seen as the part of the approach that makes it easier for children to become expressive. "In general children are more able to express their thoughts and feelings throught movement and painting than through words." [7] With the use of movement, a lot of imagination is involved (as children have an overwhelming imagination). The key is to relate those observed actions in some way to music and to build musical concept out of them. The challenge is to encourage the most suitable activities for expressing feelings. One could think of walking on tiptoe, hopping over imaginary obstacles, or spinning to the point of dizziness; activities that are actually disapproved by parents.

As a part of rhythm, the shoelace that ties together the three elements, instruments are introduced. The use of percussion instruments is closely related to the Indonesian gamelans. Which make mainly use of percussion instruments such as the xylophone, metallophones, drums and gongs, and many more. These instruments allow great flexibility, not only for children who have visual handicaps but also for children with hearing handicaps. [8] 

Karen Petty, president of the New York City Chapter American Orff-Schulwerk Association, says: "The most important instruments used in making music in the Orff-Schulwerk approach cannot be purchased in any music store, yet you carry them with you all the time. They are the body and the voice: the body for expressive movement, dance, and body percussion and the voice both for speaking - as in rhythmic speech - and singing. There is a lot that can be done through the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education even without the specialized instruments associated with Orff. Language and movement, improvisation, rhythm, melody, form, and expression can all be explored without the support of the Orff instruments. That is not to say that the Orff instruments don't bring a special magic to the mix, but the philosophy can be in full effect without them." [9] 

The end goal of this philosophy is to encourage and develop the musical creativity of a child. "Where traditional Music Education dictates that a child must learn to read music right away in order to be a self-guided and independent musician, the Orff method focuses on the creative and expressive side of music." [10] 11