On a trip to the carnival in the 1800's when Saint-Saens lived, you would see lots of animals.
You might see an elephant like we listened to here.
Or you might see a lion, or some kangaroos, or maybe a swan.
But what about animals that are no longer living? At some carnivals long ago, fossils would be on display for people to see and wonder what the animal might have looked like and sounded like.
When Saint-Saens wrote his Carnival of the Animals, he didn't leave the fossils out. He wrote a very clever piece of music about fossils and if you listen closely, you can hear the fossils dancing around.
What to Listen for:
The Dancing Xylophone
To represent the fossils, Saint-Saens used an instrument called a xylophone.
A xylophone is made out of wooden bars that you strike with a hard mallet to play. It creates a bright, brittle sound that's perfect for portraying fossils.
Listen for the xylophone making the sound of the fossils dancing.
Hidden Songs in Saint-Saens' Hidden Song:
We already know from this post that Saint-Saens kept his work on The Carnival of the Animals a secret for most of his life. He was concerned that the silliness of the songs would hurt his reputation as a classical composer. Maybe he was right.
Saint-Saens hid some other songs inside the melody of Fossils as a musical joke. These songs were all old, or considered to be old-fashioned. The hidden "fossil" melodies include an opera aria, some old French songs, and one more you might recognize: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
As you listen, can you find the melody "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"? It's played by the piano. Listen closely!
You Might Also Hear. . .
Use this free printable to listen for some other sounds in the piece.
- What other instruments do you hear? (circle them)
- What words would you use to describe the music? (circle, and write your own!)
- What did the music make you think of? (Draw a picture)
This is my favorite video of The Carnival of the Animals.
If Saint-Saens was concerned about maintaining a serious image, he would not be pleased to see Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck's version of his work!
If you enjoyed this activity you'll love Sounds We Found: Classical Music Activities for Young Music Makers and their Families.
It's available here.
As always, I'm thrilled to answer any questions you have about this ebook.
Have a musical day!