Drawings by 6th Grade Children after listening to Sibelius

I came across this video while looking for Sibelius on YouTube. It is titled simply, “Sibelius Pictures” but the thumbnail gives a clue why it seems unusual. As you start the video, the video explains that these are “Drawings by 6th Grade Children After Listening to Sibelius”. The video is credited to Escola Frederic Godàs, a public school in Lleida, Spain.

Not entirely sure what is the context of this exercise, but what an interesting thing to see how kids would depict Sibelius’ music. It looks like the music used are standard warhorses, the “Intermezzo” from the Karelia Suite (as hinted by the many mentions of “Carelian” in some of the drawings), Finlandia (drawings of Finnish independence), and the “Valse triste” (“sad waltz”) from the music for Kuolema (“Death”). Not surprisingly, the children were probably clued in on the context, if you look at the many vivid (and sometimes amusing) drawings of the figure of Death come to claim its due.

Video and screen captures © Escola Frederic Godàs

I’ve been told more than once by fresh listeners to Sibelius that his music sounds like film music, particularly in the context of scenery expositions, such as sunrises. My standard answer is that it’s the other way around – generations of film music composers have copied Jean Sibelius. While Sibelius himself often wrote music with extremely pictorial leanings, his symphonic essays were the exact opposite – he denied any extra-musical intentions in them. Nevertheless, as listeners we are hard pressed not to hear nature in them.

As the composer himself once said, nature and life pervades everything he composes. I hope these children will find his artistic influence of lasting benefit in their lives. Now that they’ve tried their hand at Kuolema, I would’ve loved to see them draw Tapiola

Karelia and Kuolema – Complete Music

Sibelius in 1899

There is a reason, of course, why the popular Karelia Suite is a “Suite”. Its origins go back to 1893, when the Viipuri Student Corporation at the Imperial Alexander University arranged a fund-raiser event in aid of education in the Viipuri province, in western Karelia, Finland. The idea was to foster Finnish culture at this border area near Russia. Finland then was still under the dominion of the Tsar, and to put it simply, the Finns didn’t like that. The entertainment soirée took place at the Town Hall on 13th November 1893 and its highlight was a series of tableaux depicting scenes from Karelian history. Think of them as theatrical stage scenes, with decorations, props and music, all provided by Finland’s best artists. Early MTV. Continue reading Karelia and Kuolema – Complete Music