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Today’s piece is a great example of how attaching a story – even a very simple one – can make abstract classical music come to life for young children.
Allow me to introduce The Unfinished Pizza.
It’s a cold winter’s evening and you have just placed a call to your favorite pizzeria, ordering a delivery of your very favorite pizza. On its way to you is a pizza covered in mounds of melting mozzarella and perfectly tangy parmesan cheese. Your mouth is watering as you anticipate opening the grease-tinged cardboard box and taking in the savory aroma. You are starving. You. Can’t. Wait.
The doorbell rings. The moment has finally arrived.
You carefully set the box on your counter and slowly open the lid. You are ready to feast your eyes on a perfect circle of pizza goodness.
Only to discover…
Half the pizza is missing.
There is only half a pizza in your box.
You are confused.
Pizzas are always completely round, you think to yourself.
Where is the rest of the pizza?
WHERE IS THE REST OF THE PIZZA???!!!??
Believe it or not, this is exactly how I teach my students about Franz Schubert’s famous Symphony No. 8, nicknamed The Unfinished Symphony.
Just like the pizza was half-missing in our imaginary story, Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 was half-missing – in real life.
See, symphonies almost always have four parts. (Four slices of pizza, if you will.) Those parts are called movements, and Schubert’s 8th Symphony only had two movements. Not four. A symphony missing half its movements was just as curious to people as a half-pizza would be. It just didn’t make sense.
Franz Schubert wrote half a symphony, and no one knows why.
I love to invite my students to speculate…
- “He died!”
- “He got tired!”
- “He got bored!”
All common responses.
Then I lean in close.
And whisper to them:
NO ONE knows why.
It’s a mystery! And they ooh and ahh and laugh and don’t believe me.
It is silly and fun, but suddenly my students care why a symphony that is almost 200 years old never got finished. The story makes them care. It makes the music matter to them.
If you are wondering, there are actually several theories. The most common is that Schubert wrote two movements, set it aside because he became ill, and simply never worked on it again. Other people speculate Schubert was completely satisfied with the Symphony as it was, and he simply had nothing more to add.
It’s a classical music mystery, and my students get a kick out of wondering what really happened.
Play this piece around your home this week and see what your kids think about Mr. Schubert’s half-finished pizza…um, I mean, Symphony 😉
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