recess radio program

Carl Orff's Music for Children
    by John Cech


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You’re hearing a section from one of the most delightful musical albums ever made for young people -- Carl Orff’s Music for Children,” which was first released in the late 1950s. We wore out two copies of this recording around our household and always expected that there would be a CD version to replace our scratched up records by the time we became grandparents. That day has come for us, and this incredible music is still unavailable to the general public.

Carl Orff, the German composer, was born in 1895 and and died in 1982, He is best known for Carmina Burana, a dynamic, lyric homage to ancient medieval orchestral and vocal music. But it’s not generally remembered that, through the 1920s and 30s, until his work was halted by the Nazis, Orff developed a highly sophisticated approach for teaching music to children through rhythm and poetry, dance and simple instruments. Orff began with the human voice, and with the earliest songs that that voice sings in childhood -- nursery rhymes, street calls, game songs, and lullabies. His central idea was to find the music in the simplest things, in that which is overlooked and forgotten -- like the sound of a name. Orff also believed that children themselves should learn to make beautiful music from these basic elements.

Music for Children was a testament to this form of expressiveness that Orff thought was a birthright; children do all the singing, play all the instruments, and they let us marvel as they build their compositions from familiar, straight-ahead rhymes, to lyrical chorales and polyrhythmic cascades, until we reach a sublime conclusion -- one that would sweep our family away with sheer delight, day after day. If you have young children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews about, look for this album at your used record store or at golden oldies sales, and if you find it, don’t ever let it out of sight or ear shot. Make copies of it -- even scratchy ones like mine! -- for the nursery, the car, the cabin, the kitchen; and let its pure magic wash over you and yours:

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Copyright 2004 © John Cech

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."