The Perfect Match: Music and Primary Document Pairing

“We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it. Oh, we’re not gonna take it anymoooore.”

While preparing for the upcoming school year, Twisted Sister’s epic protest song began playing as I read the Declaration of Independence. Obviously my mind drifted to imagine Thomas Jefferson and John Adams letting their hair down and dancing around the streets of Philadelphia during a break from drafting the epic document. I realized then that I serendipitously uncovered something that I could use in the classroom – pairing music to primary documents to demonstrate understanding!

I spent the rest of the afternoon matching songs with historical documents – Washington’s Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, and even Andrew Jackson’s Bank of the United States veto message. I then moved on to pairing music with events and felt that if George Washington crooned Coldplay’s “I will Fix You” at the Constitutional Convention there would not be a dry eye in Independence Hall.

Clearly, if there was an essay contest of “what I did during my summer vacation,” this day alone would have put me in the running.

While the idea was fun, I had yet to figure out how to actually use it. After mentioning the concept a month or so later on Twitter,  tech-guru Greg Kulowiec, he works for EdTechTeacher, suggested the app Spreaker might allow me to play around with this concept. Spreaker is a free iPad app that allows you to mix two tracks (and a microphone). Armed with an album of historic speeches and my iTunes playlist, I went to work finding “the perfect pair.”

For the next hour I explored the functionality of Spreaker and went to work mixing one of my favorite speeches – Winston Churchill’s Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech – with Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia.” After an hour which included no blood, toil, tears nor sweat (it was actually quite simple), this is what I came up (second attempt)!

While I am toying with the idea of giving students the option to use this to demonstrate their understanding of primary documents, I have not yet put this into action. Currently, I have it planned for a 4th quarter assignment with my juniors. I will surely update this post when I have some student samples!

So check out Spreaker and let me know what you think! And if you have done an activity like this, let me know too! And if you have ideas for perfect musical pairs, let me know in the comments. That’s always a bit of fun!

One day I do dream of having students auto-tune historic speeches. That is not something that I have figured out yet (although I do mention it to my students, in case they can figure it out).

Related Posts ~
Absolute Monarchy’s Ultimate Playlist

About Michael K. Milton

I teach students Social Studies at Burlington High School. When I became a teacher, I believed that students would frequently give me apples. This has not happened (not even a Red Delicious ~ a name which is a misnomer). However, my school has given me a MacBook Pro and an iPad in an effort to right this wrong (I assume). I'm very lucky to work in a 1:1 school.
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5 Responses to The Perfect Match: Music and Primary Document Pairing

  1. Great post! I actually taught social studies and would use Muse’s “Uprising.” I would make the students listen to the song, then hand out lyrics, listen again… then apply it to what ever revolution was appropriate at the time. Students would then provide historical examples that would match the lyrics. Would have love to taken it further, mashup, music videos, etc. But, you’re on to something here… excited to see/hear what you do next.

  2. William says:

    Michael – I stumbled across your blog the other day and added you to my RSS feed and boy am I glad I did. I have several teachers that love incorporating music into their history classrooms, and they will absolutely love this idea.I am passing it along to them, and I guarantee you I’ll get some student samples. I’ll share whatever they make with you!

  3. Pingback: Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

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