The Art of Noise

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12657

Some older folks remember their parents telling them to "turn off that noise!" when the music was too loud! Learn about a pioneer in awakening our ears to the symphony of "noise" sounds all around us!


Musical Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Most art galleries contain paintings and sculptures. If you were to make a gallery of great sounds, which sounds would you include?

Stop and listen to the sounds around you.

If there is music playing, turn it off or take a couple minutes and go to another room where the music won’t interfere. What sounds do you hear? Don’t think a lot about what is making the sound or what it might mean, just listen to the quality of the sound.

Write down five sounds that you can hear and three or four adjectives you could use to describe those sounds. The sounds might be short, long, choppy, smooth, buzzing, crackling, or other adjectives like the ones found on the page, Interesting Sensory Words, courtesy of Susan Nixon.

What you have just done is a study in timbre, pronounced tam-bur. Timbre is the word students of music use to describe the quality of sounds. This is pretty important for composers and performers to think about.

Learn more about timbre by watching a short video. As you watch What is Tone Color? (Timbre), from Chris Wright, Understanding Music, write down answers to the following questions:

  • What is another term for timbre?
  • What is orchestration?
  • How is timbre for composers like color for painters?

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Share your answers with your parent or teacher, then discuss the following questions together:

  • If you were to take on the task of classifying all possible sounds, how would you go about it?
  • What are the factors causing different instruments or objects to make different sounds?
  • What makes some sounds more “pleasing” than others?

Timbre has always been an important consideration for people who create music. In the history of twentieth-century music, composers and performers explored timbre as never before.

In the Got It? section, examine the theories and sound art of a revolutionary musical thinker.

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