This awesome idea came to me from Nettle's Notes, via Crafty Crow (see my sidebar), and I decided to try it out with the girls before attempting it with the homeschool choir/music class that Dan and I lead.
First we assembled a collection of jars (we used six, which seemed manageable) - three for each girl. With chopsticks, they tapped on the jars for a while, figuring out what part of the jar made what kind of noise, and which jars made the lowest sound, which the highest. As you can see from Eliza's face, just this activity was a delight!
Each girl also had a small pitcher of water, and they began experimenting with filling, playing and emptying the jars. Finally they had each settled on sounds they liked - my only requirements were that each jar had some water, and no two pitches were the same.
Next they worked together on putting the jars in order, according to pitch, highest to lowest. It was helpful when the pitches were close together for us to match the pitches with our voices - this made it clearer to the girls which was higher, and which lower.
And now for the color! Each girl chose three colors from our set of watercolors, and began dying the water in the jars with the colors. Now each jar had its own pitch and color.
I had prepared a couple of sheets of paper with empty "notes" for the girls to fill in with paint. With all six colors at hand, they commenced to painting in their notes. Interestingly, because I had followed Nettle's example and made my notes along a line (which I liked, as it reminds me of a note on a line of a staff of sheet music), the notes were all divided in two, which led to the girls choosing two colors for some of their notes. They alternately played two jars at a time, like a chord, or kind of trilled the notes, playing the two jars back and forth for a beat or two - it was beautiful!
The hardest part of this activity was taking turns, but once we got to actually playing the music and not just experimenting with the sounds chopsticks make on jars, tables, chairs, etc, the girls were respectful and enjoyed listening to each other. It also helped that I dubbed myself "conductor" and had the power to start and stop the sounds if I needed to for a moment!
This piece of Eliza's was interesting - she went back and forth between playing the chorded notes (in a kind of trill) and single notes - it was nice to see a pattern emerging. Initially, the girls approached this part as an art project, rather than a music project, just painting colors in a way that was pleasing to them. It was only after the first "composition" that Eliza chose to work on a pattern or melody.
We'll definitely do this again, and I'm interested in figuring out if this is too large and messy a project for our choir class...it would really complement the things we are doing nicely!