Tim Ketterer

Music History

Grades: 9-12

April 20, 2010  



Unit Level Essential Question:

      1. To what extent did politics play a significant roll in Beethoven’s compositions?

      2. To what extent did Beethoven’s personal life affect his music?


Lesson Level Essential Questions:

1.     To what extent was Beethoven’s 3rd symphony a political statement?

2.     To what extent are politics represented in a similar manner within music of today?



1.     Students will be able to correctly describe the relationships of politics to Beethoven’s compositions. (New skills include: looking at the history that is surrounding Beethoven’s life, making critical connections, and evaluating the emotions conveyed in the music to determine how Beethoven felt.)

2.     Students will be able to make accurate connections between Symphony No.3 and the French Revolution.

3.     Students will be able to accurately make connections between the music of today and our societies political issues.



National Standard 6: Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.

National Standard 7: Evaluating music and music performances.

National Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.

National Standard 9: Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

Transformative Teaching Context:  Co-centered Traditional and Transformative Concepts

Learners’ Backgrounds:

Prior to this class, the students were taught about Beethoven’s life from birth to death, and listened to sections of major works chronologically as they were written. During their listening they were asked to write down what they heard (instrumentation and vocals) and they were asked to write down how the music made them feel (if they thought it was patriotic, sad, happy etc.) The students were then asked to volunteer their responses to the music in an open classroom discussion, and were asked to make minor inferences from the music on what they had just learned about Beethoven’s life. Students were then told that in the next lesson they would be taking a deeper look into the compositions of Beethoven and the political influences he had. Students were also told they would required to make connections of politics and music in present day society. All students have studied Beethoven in middle school general music, and all students have been through a review lesson so that all students are on the same page.

Classroom Climate:

Because this lesson will lead to the exploration of current day political issues, which can be sensitive material as it has the potential for students to find out disturbing information. I would like this to be a comfortable learning environment, where the students feel safe exploring and sharing their findings. I want students to take a closer look at what is going on in the world, and how music as an art portrays those events (same as Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 and the French Revolution). Some of the problems that I will face in my lesson will be school Internet censorship, where some information will not be available to my students. I am also aware that administration and parents may not favor this type of exploration. Parents might not want their child to know much of what they are going to find. That being said, I want my students to look at politics as one of the driving forces of musical composition and to also look at music as an art form describing these political events.

Initiation/Motivation/Engagement/ Initial Inquiry:

I will start this lesson by displaying pictures of political artwork on a projector. I will then ask them to write down some observations about the artwork. The students will then share with the class one or two of their observations. I will then put up a picture of Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 (just the title page, which is scratched and destroyed due to Beethoven “removing” the dedication to Napoleon Bonaparte after taking over the French government.) and ask the students, “So what do you think of this?” and initiate the lesson with a classroom discussion.

Learning Experience:

Students will start by analyzing the artwork that is being projected on the white board in the front of the classroom. When the picture of Beethoven’s 3rd is on the board I will ask them, “What do you think of this as a political statement?” I will then proceed to teach them about Beethoven’s 3rd and how it was in fact a political piece. I will explain that the scratched portion of the original score was a dedication to Napoleon for his victory in the French Revolution. I will then ask the students “Why was his name so fiercely scratched off the cover of the score?” If they cannot find the answer I will inform them that it was because later Napoleon over threw the French government. Which then caused Beethoven to scratch his name off the score and name the symphony the Eroica Symphony. I will then inform the students that many of today’s politics are represented in music.

Students will be broken down into small groups and begin researching recent political events that have been portrayed through musical composition. The Internet will play a key roll for this activity. Websites include The Press Association, Word Press, and YouTube (this is secondary after the students think they’ve found a song). I will also hand out the article: “Music Bridges the Political Divide Between China and Taiwan” –NYTimes.

I will then ask the groups to report their findings to the class. Students will need to explain what political event is being portrayed within the music. They will also need to explain how the music is portraying these events.

This will open up a class discussion that will further analyze the piece. Students in the class will be asked, “What else did you notice within the music that might portray part of this political event? Other than the lyrics, how does the music make you feel? To what extent this is an accurate representation of the political event? To what extent does “accurate representation” depend on a point of view? How would someone from the opposite side of the fence feel about what is going on? How would their music portray this event? Would it be the same or different?”

I will point out to the students that there are many different sides to the story, and the news often times doesn’t give both sides of the story. I will remind the students that it’s not their fault that they are only seeing half the story, and that many positive events that we celebrate throughout history may not have been “positive” in nature to all parties involved. I will tell them that it’s important to understand both sides of any political event, and how important this knowledge is for creating positive social and political changes. I will also inform students that the arts (music, painting, sculpting, photography) are often a window into what is really going on in the world, and they often times show multiple perspectives.


Meeting Diverse Needs of the Students (Cultural and Cognitive Differentiation):

  1. This lesson will be socially, culturally, and/or ecologically relevant because it focuses on political events that are relative to the students life. By having them explore political events, and the music that supports/doesn’t support these events, the students will learn that the positives and negatives of any political event are a matter of perspective. Perspective can directly relate to culture, social norms, and geographic location.

  2. By letting them explore the political events that are relative to their lives they students will gain interest in something that is important to their society. Classroom discussions will promote critical thinking about multiple perspectives, and at the end of class I will give them a supplemental packet of other political events and music that portrays those events so students can do more research on their own.

  3. I will work with the students individually that are struggling with these concepts. Do they having trouble understanding the relationships between the music and politics? Do they have trouble understanding what the political event was about?

  4. I will ask the student to look at these political events in a different lens, to gain the perspectives of the people who view the affair differently. I will ask students questions that will lead them to a deeper understanding of the different perspectives and how they are relative to socio-cultural privilege.

  5. By having this lesson be about current politics and giving the students the choice of what political event they will examine, will help students engage in this topic.


Students will answer the following questions in a class discussion.

To what extent was Beethoven’s 3rd symphony a political statement?

To what extent are politics represented in a similar manner within music of today?


Extended Learning Experience:

Before the next class students will watch the news and find a story that is portrayed in one point of view only and see if they can see the same story in another point of view. This event should have an effect on their community!



Throughout the discussion section of the class I will be able to informally assess the students’ understanding as they add to the discussion.


The students will be asked to find another perspective of the issues they presented in class, and they will be required to write an essay on their findings. They must support their findings with an example from media, whether is a news clip, song, movie etc.

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