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15-Minute Music Lesson of Music Inspired by Rivers and Seas

If you are doing a study of the ocean or water for science, you’ll enjoy today’s 15-Minute Music Lesson of Music Inspired by Rivers and Seas.

15-Minute Music Lesson of Music Inspired by Rivers and Seas

15-Minute Music Lesson of Music Inspired By Rivers and Seas with Free Printable Pack, from Music in Our Homeschool

Composers of music, just like all artists have long been inspired by nature. It gives them ideas and spurs them on to create their works. Music has been inspired by animals, weather, the woods, and even the ocean, a river, or a stream. Let’s listen to four famous musical pieces that were inspired by a sea, two rivers, and an ocean animal: the shark! As you listen to the following music, see if they make you think of water.

The Moldau by Smetana:

Bedřich Smetana was born in Bohemia in 1824 and died in Prague in 1884. Smetana became known as the “Father of Czech music,” and all through his compositions we hear influences of his country’s folk songs, dances, and legends. In 1874, Smetana describes an excursion along Bohemia’s greatest river The Moldau from up in the mountains through forests and villages to where it joins the Elbe River. He said, ” I sailed in a boat through huge waves. . . . The view of the landscape was both beautiful and grand.” This experience was the inspiration for his famous symphonic poem (which is like poetry set to music without words) The Moldau (part of Ma Vlast).There are different scenes described in the program. See if you can hear these as you listen to The Moldau: hunting (horn fanfares), a peasant wedding (a Bohemian rustic polka dance), moonlit night (shimmering woodwinds and peaceful string melody). You’ll also hear a theme that sounds like the river flowing, which is sometimes rippling and sometimes turbulent.

The Beautiful Blue Danube, a waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr.:

Austrian composer Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899) became known as the “Waltz King.” At the end of the 18th Century, a new dance was sweeping through Europe called the waltz. It’s in 3/4 time and has the couple whirling around the ballroom. Strauss wrote many wonderful waltzes, but The Blue Danube written in 1866 about a river in Austria is one of his most famous. In this video, you’ll hear the music and see couples dancing the waltz.

La Mer by Debussy:

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was a famous French composer of the Impressionism era, which ran roughly from 1875-1925. You may be familiar with the visual artists of the same era, such as the French Impressionist painters Monet, Manet, and Renoir. Their paintings used a blurring brush technique, creating beautiful images without clear-cut lines. The same can be said of some of Debussy’s music. La Mer means “The Sea.”

Theme from Jawsthe movie, by John Williams:

John Williams (1932- ) was born in Queens, New York. He was drafted into the U.S. Air Force in 1952 and conducted and arranged music for the U.S. Air Force Band. After he left the Air Force in 1955, he attended the Juilliard School in New York City and worked as a jazz pianist before he began to compose soundtracks for TV and film in the 1960s. Later he became the Boston Pops Orchestra’s principal conductor from 1980-1993. He has been awarded numerous awards including five Academy Awards and twenty-two Grammy Awards. Which movies did John Williams compose music for? Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Indiana Jones, to name only a few. He wrote the music for the movie Jaws in 1975. The tune has forever made people think of fearful sharks!

Download a free 3-page Printable Pack to use with this 15-Minute Music Lesson:


Composer Sheet, Listen and Write (Tempo, Mood, Like it?, and Instruments/Voices), and Listen and Draw Online Music Courses

If you enjoyed this free lesson, you’ll love the full music appreciation courses available at The lessons about Smetana and Strauss are found in Music Appreciation of the Romantic Era. The lessons about Debussy and John Williams are found in 20th Century Music Appreciation.

And, if you’d like to spend some more time with watery music, here are. . .

Some other classical music inspired by or sounds like water:

  • Overture from Der Fliegende Hollander and Das Rheingold (Intro and first scene) The Rhein River and the Rhein Maidens by Wagner
  • Hebrides Overture and Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage by Mendelssohn
  • “Auf Dem Wasser Zu Singen” and “Die Forelle” by Schubert
  • Ondine and Jeux D’eaux and Une barque sur l’océan (A Boat On The Ocean) by Ravel
  • Orchestral score for Victory at Sea by Richard Rogers
  • Le Déluge (The Flood) and “The Aquarium” Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns 
  • Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams
  • Vox Balenae (Voice of the Whale) by George Crumb,
  • Waterfall by Jon Schmidt  
  • Fontane di Roma by Ottorino Respighi
  • Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes by Britten 
  • Sea Suite by Frank Bridge
  • Les Okeanides by Jean Sibelius 
  • Sea Drift and Summer Night on a River by Delius
  • “Dawn over the Moscow River” by Mussorgsky
  • Sea Pictures by Elgar
  • “Poème de l’amour et de la mer” by Ernest Chausson
  • “Les Chants de la mer” by Philippe Gaubert
  • First Piano Sonata “River Main” by Hindemith
  • “Dawn over the River Moscow” from the opera Khovanschina by Mussorgsky
  • “La source” by Armand Marsick
  • Symphony No. 2 (“Ocean Symphony”) by Anton Rubinstein
  • “Hebridean Symphony” by Bantock
  • Water Music by Handel (first played while floating on the Thames River)
  • “Raindrop” prelude and “Ocean”, “Torrent” and “Waterfall” etudes by Chopin

5 Days of 15-Minute Music Lessons:

  1. 15-Minute Music Lesson of Music Inspired by Rivers and Seas
  2. 15-Minute Music Lesson on Dvorak and African American Spirituals
  3. 15-Minute Music Lesson on Nursery Rhymes
  4. 15-Minute Music Lesson on Music Inspired By Shakespeare
  5. 15-Minute Music Lesson on Music Inspired by Outer Space


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