Musica Activa
An approach to music education

English adaptation and commentary by Judy Sills

Musica Activa is an adaptation by Judy Sills of Jos Wuytack's Musica Viva 2 - Expression rythmique, first published in French in 1982.

This book focuses on the element of rhythm within the pedagogical framework of the Active Method, based on the principles of Carl Orff.

"… Rhythm is the primordial element of all musical creation. It is rhythm which gives order and structure to music.

Everything in this book is concerned with bringing rhythm to consciousness. It shows the reciprocal influence of external and internal rhythms. It allows for a clearer understanding of affective, cognitive and kinesthetic domains. It suggests new ideas for use in an active, affective, creative approach to music education."

Biography of Prof. Jos Wuytack
About Judy Sills


Preface: ABCs of the Orff Pedagogy


Notes for Teachers




The Ontogenesis of Rhythm




Establishing Rhythm


Elaborating the Rhythm


Poetry as Rhythm






Single-level Imitation


Four-level Imitation




The Mini-Canon


The Traditional Rhythmic Canon




Verbal Expression


Body Percussion


Non-Pitched Percussion


Pitched Percussion




Verbal Expression


Body Percussion


Non-Pitched Percussion


Pitched Percussion


Vocal Expression


Chapter Seven: OSTINATO




Accompaniment to Text


Accompaniment to Songs




Active Rhythmic Reading


Reading Music


Improving Rhythmic Skills




Improvisation within a Metric Framework Music


Aleatoric Music


Chapter Ten: MOVEMENT


Actions and Rhythm


Corporal Expression


Folk Dances


'Uf Dem Anger'


International Code for Movement Notation


Appendix One: Instrumental Ranges


Appendix Two: Order of Instruments on Score, Abbreviations Symbols


Appendix Three: Biography of Professor Wuytack and Lists of Publications


Jos teaching at the VOSA Spring Conference, Melbourne, September 2003

Musica Activa is a translation of Jos Wuytack's MUSICA VIVA 2- Expression rythmique, first published in French in 1982. I have adapted the text and musical examples where necessary. My comments are enclosed in square parentheses.
Judy Sills


The second book of Musica Viva was concerned with the rhythmic aspect of the Active Method, based on the principles of Carl Orff. Although the world of musical rhythms is very rich, it would nevertheless be a mistake to completely separate rhythm from the other musical components. In effect, music education is a totality in which distinction can be made between the raw materials of rhythm, melody, harmony and timbre (materia in philosophical language) and the element of form, which gives life and structure to music (forma substantialis). For pedagogical purposes it is advisable to focus on a single element in order to better understand the essence, the importance and the necessity of'that element as it relates to the globality of all the musical elements.

ABCs of the Orff Pedagogy

When using the OrfI approach, every music educator has to be aware of some general pedagogical principles. The most important is the principle of totality: every learning process starts with a total general impression, from which differentiation must be made. Each characteristic leads into an appreciation and requires a personal engagement. Integration follows when the process is completed and the differentiated elements are put back into the organized whole.

Activity is the key to really enjoying a music experience. All music training is based on active participation. The children must feel and live the music vocally as well as instrumentally.

Creativity is the highpoint of activity, thus improvisation becomes an essential element of music education. Anyone who does not speak a language precisely is difficult to understand. Language is a personal exchange, communication. As music is a language that also must be learned, it must be more than a reproduction, it must also allow for creativity. Music is an ideal medium for self'-expression, providing an infinite variety of' possibilities to be experienced and tested before evolving into new creations.

Community is the pulse of a social experience; singing, playing and dancing are group activities. The Active Method is not an individual education aimed at the most gifted. Rather, every child can contribute according to his or her abilities. Each individual is broadened, learns discipline and loses any complexes and shyness.

Theory must not be neglected. Music education has to be a training, and there can be no results without conscious learning. Certainly music education is joyful, enthusiastic and interesting, but it is based on a constantly growing basic knowledge. There are many lively ways to introduce theory in game form. Children have the need to play (the ludic element). [This term, used frequently in this book, has been coined by Professor Wuytack. It originates from the Latin ludus meaning game. 'Ludic' is the adjective indicating playful. Trans.] They play with joy and gravity.

Pedocentry is a conditio sine qua non for a successful music education. ['Pedocentry,' again a coined word, refers to a 'child centred' approach, coming from the Latin words pedo and centra. Trans.] The teacher has to know the psychology of the child, his or her points of interest, dreams, fantasies, feelings, games and songs, rounds and dances, language, nonsense syllables and love for animals and nature.

Motricity helps to balance the child's personality! ['Motricity' is another word which has been coined by Professor Wuytack. It refers to the development of motor skills and ordination. Trans.] Body-percussion, movement and Orff instruments give an equilibrium developing co-ordination, ability and new skills which make the child more open to the magic of the beauty of music.

All of these didactics together form the essence of our teaching:
ctivity, Artistry, Articulation
Balance between Brains, Breathing, Body in Beauty
Creativity, Compassion, and Community

Rhythm is the primordial element of all musical creation. It is rhythm which gives order and structure to music. Rhythmic experiences are intuitive at first, later becoming conscious as theory is introduced. Rhythm is merely the relationship of duration, intensity, speed (tempo) and the number of notes in a measure.

Everything in this book is concerned with bringing rhythm to consciousness. It shows the reciprocal influence of external and internal rhythms. It allows for a clearer understanding of affective, cognitive and kinesthestic domains. It suggests new ideas for use in an active, affective, creative approach to music education.

The examples in this book are to be regarded as 'artistic models.' Each one is an invitation to inspire the teacher to discover the wealth and variety of rhythmic possibilities. The ultimate goal is to enable each teacher to create examples suitable to his or her own individual circumstances. There are sufficient examples in this book to apply to all levels of music education, from kindergarten to university.

Although movement is not really treated systematically here, the examples given should be sufficient for teachers with some experience in movement pedagogy.

No successful approach to music education can be dry and rigid. Everyone who experiments with the techniques offered here will also discover the joy, value and effectiveness of this active approach.

Biography of Professor Wuytack

Joseph Julien Augustin Wuytack (called Jos) was born on 23 March 1935 in Ghent, Belgium. The youngest of four children, he spent a happy childhood filled with music. His father, whose grand passion was classical music, introduced all his children both to live opera and to concert music.

Jos was a child prodigy, able to play familiar melodies by ear as well as composing his own little 'airs.' At the age of six he began sol-fege and piano lessons. He also sang in the choir of the parish church.

As a result of his exceptional ability in academic studies at St- Lievens College in Ghent, he became a choir boy at the cathedral there. Sadly, in 1946, at the young age of eleven, his mother died. He continued his piano studies with his aunt, who was a professor of piano at the Royal Conservatory in Ghent. It was at St-Lievens College that he was drawn to the organ and soon became the youngest organist at the college. By this time, Jos had already written some pieces for piano, his first 'opera' for voice and piano, and some organ improvisations on Gregorian themes.

In 1952, at the age ofseventeen, Jos entered the seminary. There he became organist prior to his being appointed professor of religious music in 1958. At this time the majority of his compositions were of a religious nature. He had decided to focus his career on being chapel master and organist. At this time in his life Jos began experimenting with oil painting, displaying a creativity with colour and design that was to emerge again much later in his musicograms. During the period from 1953-1970 much of his spare time was devoted to painting, allowing him another medium for expressing his creativity .

In 1958, while pursuing his career as organist, he enrolled in the Higher Institute of Sacred Music (Lemmens Institute), now in Leuven, where, three years later, he graduated with highest distinction in music pedagogy . Here Wuytack met Marcel Andries, the most renowned professor of music pedagogy in Belgium, who introduced him to the new 'Orff Philosophy.' Immediately captivated by these ideas of creativity and activity, Jos Wuytack discovered his true vocation: to dedicate himself to the music education of the young by means of an 'active' teaching method. He procured a complete Orff instrumentarium and by doing musical work with various youth movements he put his own experiences into effect with great success.

His wise decision to follow a career in music pedagogy was reaffirmed when he met Carl Orff himself in 1964 at the Orff Institute in Salzburg. This meeting gave birth to a firm friendship and a close professional collaboration between the German master and his young disciple. This close friendship continued until the time of Orff's death in 1982.

Following this initial meeting, Wuytack organized an international course in Brussels in collaboration with Barbara Haselbach, dance professor at the Orff Institute in Salzburg. He subsequently directed the premiere of his Missa Orffiana in the presence of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman.

From 1965 onwards, an international career in pedagogy opened to Wuytack, in conjunction with his activities as a composer. Besides Belgium, he was invited to teach in France, Holland, Italy, North Africa, Canada, United States, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Greece, countries in the Near and Middle East, and Polynesia. He presented countless courses, workshops and conferences in these countries, establishing himself worldwide as a great influence in music pedagogy . Most notable was his constant effort to take into consideration different musical cultures by incorporating folk music of many cultures into his pedagogic activities. His firm belief is that 'folklore is the running sap that gives life to inspiration'.

The contribution to music pedagogy of Jos Wuytack is demonstrated by his large pedagogic compilation, including translations in French and Flemish of the Schulwerk, and his collections of songs and pieces for Orff instruments. His most remarkable contribution has been made, however, in the domain of active music listening. To facilitate music listening he invented the musicogram.

Wuytack is a prolific composer. This is evidenced in his catalogue of works which includes his youth operas, religious works, instrumental pieces, pieces for voice and instruments with movement, pieces for organ, piano, recorder, Orff instruments, string orchestra, harmony orchestra, chamber orchestra, and his choruses, harmonizations and adaptations of songs from many diverse nations. All his compositions display a freshness of renewed inspiration and an innate sense of rhythm and colour.

As well as giving testimony to his warm sensitivity, Wuytack's works reflect a sharp sense of timbre and rhythm, a powerful attraction to the modes and a taste for the 'totality' of the arts (theatre, mime, movement, song, music and words). His interest in different aspects of contemporary music (polytonality , polyrhythmic, aleatoric and repetitive) is also not to be ignored.

His themes of inspiration reflect the evolution of his musical career, which began in a religious setting but which has expanded to include international folklore.

- in the book follows a comprehensive list of Wuytack's publications, chronologically, by publisher.

Judy Sills is currently a music consultant for the Edmonton Public School District. She has had extensive choral directing experience as well as experience working with childre's Orff ensembles. Her ensembles have performed at two national conferences. Judy has instructed Orff levels courses at universities in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Regina and Saskatoon. She has served as clinician presenting Orff workshops all across Canada. She has a Bachelor of Music, a Graduate Diploma in Education, a Master Level Orff Certificate and Level III Orff in French.

Judy was founding president of the Alberta Orff Chapter, and is currently president of the National Executive of Music for Children, Carl Orff Canada, musique pour enfants.

Jos teaching at the VOSA Spring Conference, Melbourne, September 2003

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