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The Chopin Project

The Chopin Project is a Visual Recital workshop collaboration with the students at Neptune High School to explore the Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 by Frédéric Chopin.   We'll be using this website as a project blog to share notes on the development of the storyboard and visualizations created for this piece.  Many thanks to Superintendent Dr. David Mooij, Principal Richard Allen, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Edward Dever, supervisors Nancy Moore-Fuss (Arts and Music) and Claudia Mooij (Special Education), Department Chair Brian Dougherty, Director of Instrumental Music Raymond A. Kelly, and Art Teacher Michelle Bowers for helping to bring teachers and students together!

200px-Eugène_Ferdinand_Victor_Delacroix_043 We started today's workshop with a brief introduction to Polish-born composer Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849):

- he lived in Paris and enjoyed a career as a piano teacher and composer

- he composed the Ballade No. 1 in G minor when he was 25 years old

- his music is considered to be part of the Romantic period in Classical Music

We talked about how all music tells a story, and how we would be using Chopin's music as the basic script for the visualizations that we would be creating.

I then played through the work in its entirety, simultaneously projecting descriptive text of the following sections:


1.  Introduction - Once upon a time...

2.  The Main Theme

3.  An exciting secret revealed

4.  Impending Danger

5.  A distant memory

6.  Love Theme

7.  The Main Theme returns

8.  A Grand Dance

9.  A flurry of excitement

10.  The distant memory joins the Love Theme

11.  The Main Theme returns, in greater danger than before

12.  A ferocious battle

13.  A tragic ending

You can listen to each of the above sections with the flash MP3 player below:

Get your own Flash MP3 Player

We then brainstormed on possible story and character ideas for each section.  We also selected some landscapes that had been created by an earlier art class, matching them with some of the opening sections of the music as follows:
1.  Introduction - Once upon a time...  (listen to mp3 here)
Expressive ideas:
  • impending troubles
  • simple beginning

IMG_0064 2.  The Main Theme (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:
  • A lonely stroll
  • feelings of bewilderment
  • a Hungarian flavor?




IMG_0071 3.  An exciting secret revealed (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • despair





IMG_0068 4.  Impending Danger (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • heart racing
  • chase scene





IMG_0069 5.  A distant memory (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • flashback memory
  • feeling reminiscent
  • a horizon scene




IMG_0070 6.  Love Theme (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • Cherry blossoms?  red/white/yellow colors





7.  The Main Theme returns (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • heart beats
  • creepy
  • bewildered

8.  A Grand Dance (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • Happy
  • overwhelmed?

9.  A flurry of excitement (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • delirious
  • big mood swings - rage?

10.  The distant memory joins the Love Theme (listen to mp3 here)

Expressive ideas:

  • memory - realization
  • anticipation
  • intense (love theme)

11.  The Main Theme returns, in greater danger than before (listen to mp3 here)

12.  A ferocious battle (listen to mp3 here)

13.  A tragic ending (listen to mp3 here)


After some more brainstorming, the class came up with some amazing storyboard concepts as follows:

  • create the setting of a man by a lake - the man represents the main theme, and the lake could represent the old man's life
  • each time the main theme returns, the man gets older (starts with him as a young child)
  • the lake in turn also ages as the piece progresses - trees get bigger, seasons pass - various seasons can represent shifting moods for different sections (springtime, blooming flowers, storms blowing leaves off of trees, bare branches, water levels changing from full to muddy, etc.)
  • Love themes can be represented by swans, cherry blossoms, sunsets & sunrises (and other scenery changes)
  • objects representing love, loss, such as a stopwatch?  a top hat?
  • Shifting realities - in head? memory? 
  • Tragic ending - represented by the object of love left alone on the scene - hat on the beach?  floating in the water?
  • photographs of nearby lake to use either as scenery or as artwork templates - pictures of sunrises/sunsets would be amazing!

Participating students will be invited to comment and contribute artwork, photos, sketches and story ideas through this blog.  Additional blog articles highlighting specific sections will be created as needed.

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Meta Information:

Title: The Chopin Project
Date posted: May 13 '08 - 16:44
Filed under: Chopin Project

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