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Orff Approach | Orff Insturments | Orff Speech

Hear Carl Orff: Carmina Burana Youtube


Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman, Margaret Murray - Children's Instrumental Ensemble - Five Ostinato Pieces



"Since the beginning of time, children have not liked to study. They would much rather play, and if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child's play."
~ Carl Orff


O Fortuna (Carmina Burana) (Lyrics)

O Fortuna first verse:

O fortune, like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it.

History of Orff Schulwerk

While being one of the most seminal composers of the 20th century, his greatest success and influence has been in the field of music education.

Orff was the head of a department and co-founder of the Guenther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich, where he worked with musical beginners. Having constant contact with children, this is where he developed his theories in music education.

In pedagogical circles he is probably best remembered for his Schulwerk (1930-35), translated into English as Music for Children.

Its simple musical instrumentation allowed even untutored child musicians to perform the piece with relative ease. Much of his life Orff worked with children, using music as an educational tool - both melody and rhythm are often determined by the words.

Founders Orff Schulwerk

Carl Orff (July 10, 1895 - March 29, 1982) was a German composer born in Munich.

Orff's ideas were developed, together with TWO WOMEN Gunild Keetman, and Traude Schrattenecker whose innovative approach to music education for children, became known as the Orff Schulwerk.. The Orff pedagogy teaches music to children using movenment and Dance! The term Schulwerk is German for schooling or school work.

Background; Modern Dance: Artistic freedom and the rise of Hitler.

Mary Wigman- Witch Dance youtube video 1926 German Expressionist Dance - Mary Wigman tells her own story video

Mary Wigman: a dance pioneer with an awkward past Would this modern dance pioneer be better known had she not fallen in step with the Nazis?

The 1937 edict by Goebbels that dance "must be cheerful and show beautiful female bodies and have nothing to do with philosophy" put a halt on her career. Wigman's style was disseminated through Europe and America by students such as Hanya Holm, and even though elements of it can still be traced in the Tanztheater of Pina Bausch, Wigman herself has slipped slightly below the radar. And one reason may be her relationship with the Nazi regime.

Culture in the Third Reich: Disseminating the Nazi Worldview National Socialism represented much more than a political movement. Nazi leaders who came to power in January 1933 desired more than to gain political authority, to revise the Versailles Treaty, and to regain and expand upon those lands lost after a humiliating defeat in World War I. They also wanted to change the cultural landscape: to return the country to traditional “German” and “Nordic” values, to excise or circumscribe Jewish, “foreign,” and “degenerate” influences, and to shape a racial community (Volksgemeinschaft) which aligned with Nazi ideals.

Orff Schulwerk Spreads Across the World

Traude developed the dance pedagogy with Orff and Keetman

Traude Schrattenecker was a student of Dance Pioneer Mary Wigman known as the Mother of Modern Dance.

Traude Schrattenecker is teaching the Dance component of the #Orff Schulwerk Certification at the Royal Conservatory of Music University of Toronto

"Dance creates and develops rhythmical competency and that is the purpose and intention of using it in the Schulwerk."

My name is Karen Ellis I was Traude Schrattenecker's student at theRoyal Conservatory of Music University of Toronto in 1970

My first #Orff teacher was Mrs. Fannabell Kremins, she had just received her training directly from Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman in the class of 1962 at the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto.

Mrs. Fannabel Kremens The First American "Orff Schulwerk" Teacher. See the 1963 Student Class Picture of Kremins, Keetman and Orff.

The Orff Approach

Botton Line: If creativity and improvisation is not included in the lesson, one CANNOT call it an Orff approach based music lesson.


Orff Level II presentation performed by adults includes recorder, instruments, dance, singing, chanting. Lots of body work done with chanting - very exciting to watch and hear.
Recorder owned by ECP RingLeader Cordley Coit.

"Orff redesigned the recorder to get rid of the English cross fingering used on traditional recorder design. He changed how music was taught. His redesigned recorder did not catch on but his music teaching did." Cordley Coit.

Orff Recorder


I was taught the third level by
Jos Wuytack

Printed with Permission
By Jos Wuytack, Orff Levels 2007, University of Memphis

Jos Wuytack is a retired Professor of Pedagogy at the Lemmen-Institute, University of Leuven, Belgium and internationally renowned authority in Orff Schulwerk. He has taught over 1,000 Orff courses and 46 countries; is author of numerous compositions and books translated into eight languages. He is the 1996 recipient of Pro Merito Award from the Carl Orff Foundation. 2007 is his 36th consecutive year to teach Orff Schulwerk at the University of Memphis.

When using the Orff approach, every music educator must 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 differentiations must then be made. In order to be appreciated, each characteristic requires the child's personal involvement. Integration follows when the process is completed and the elements are put back into the organized whole.

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

Creativity is the high point of activity. Everyone must learn to improvise: anyone who does not speak a language precisely is difficult to understand. Music too is a language which must be learned. It is not sufficient to simply reproduce music: a language is a means of communication and personal exchange. If music is creative, it can be the ideal medium for self expression. There exists an infinite variety of possibilities, which express a fundamental vitality to experience, to test, and to take shape in the new creation.

Community is the pulse of a social experience: singing, dancing and playing are group activities. This is not an individual music education aimed at the most gifted. Every child is able to contribute according to his/her own abilities. Each individual is broadened, learning discipline and losing his complexes and shyness.

Theory must not be neglected: music education has to be a training. Good results cannot be obtained without conscious learning. Certainly music is joyful, enthusiastic and interesting but based on a constantly growing knowledge. There are many lively ways to introduce theory in game form.

Pedocentry is a “condition sine qua non” for successful music education. Children have the need to play (ludic element). They play with joy and gravity. The teacher has to know the psychology of the child, his points of interest, his dreams, fantasies, feelings, his games, songs, rounds and dances, his language, nonsense syllables and his love of animals and nature.

Motricity helps to balance the child's personality! Body percussion, movement and instrumental activities provide an equilibrium, developing coordination, new abilities and skills, which make the child more open to the magic of beauty.

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

Basic Pedegogy Sustains the most fundemental universal similarities shared by children of all cultures re: World Music.

Folk dance from GHANA called Portripor dancing

"The material is credited to Mary Shamrock, 1986.
In the Orff approach, process refers to the way songs and
accompaniments are taught. The process for the teaching a song is as follows: First, the entire song is sung, then it is taught gradually, using imitation. The teacher should seek the easiest part in the song to have the students imitate first. Then, the rest of the song follows bit by bit. The teachers incorporate many repetitions and questioning when teaching a song.
The process for teaching an accompaniment involves doing the motion, first as a body percussion accompaniment to the chant or song. The movements done as body percussion are then transferred to the instruments.

Below is a general procedure based on the Orff approach for guiding children through several phases of musical development:

First, children are encouraged to explore sounds (body and voice) and movement on their own. Then, through imitation they develop basic skills in rhythmic speech and body percussion: clapping, finger snapping, thigh slapping, and foot stamping. In addition, they develop the ability to do rhythmic and free movement through space and skills in singing, in playing Orff pitched and nonpitched percussion instruments, and in playing the recorder as a melody instrument.
Creation, the last stage involves combining material from any or all of the previous phases into original small forms such as rondos, and theme and variations. The children can also contribute improvisations to group activities based on their varying abilities (Shamrock, 1986)."

Creativity by students must
be part of every Orff lesson.

The sequence of instruction is what Shamrock is naming "process." Note that the last stage, is creation by the STUDENT. Creativity by students MUST be part of every Orff process/sequence of instruction. Without the student creativity, it's a sequence of teacher-creativity steps. Lastly, process and sequence are joined at the hip. You can't have one without the other.

Process / Sequence Analogy by David Thaxton 11/6/05

Here's an analogy I thought of at lunch regarding the "process." It may just be a matter of semantics, but I happen to be fond of semantics :-) This may have worked better with a healthier food, but I had a Jonesin' for one, so there you go...

Sequence for a Cheeseburger:
1. Bun
2. Ketchup
3. Mustard
4. Pickle
5. onion
6. lettuce
7. tomato
8. Beef patty cooked to greasy perfection
9. Cheese
10. Top bun

Stack in this sequence, and you will get a cheeseburger every time.

Process for a cheeseburger:
1. Teeth pulverize it
2. Stomach breaks it down into a nutrient rich soup
3. Intestines pull out the nutrients:
Calcium from the cheese becomes bone
Protein from the meat becomes muscle
Carbs from the bun becomes energy
Vitamins from the veggies go to various body systems
Fat goes straight to your butt / stomach
and the cholesterol goes straight to the arteries
4. Useless leftover stuff, um, ...goes away...

Follow this process and the cheeseburger becomes part of you.

What does this tell us?
- There is a reason that sequence "sells"
- Without the process, any sequence is meaningless
- Cheeseburgers are yummy
- The healthier the food is, the more good nutrients it has
- it is important to choose high quality material for digestion
- the process will result in a different person every time
- fat and cholesterol are not good for you

Orff Schulwerk Fat and Cholesterol Free for over 75 years!



Carmina Burana

Berliner Philharmoniker with Simon Rattle O Fortuna 5:11


Orff is most known for Carmina Burana (1937), a "scenic cantata". It is the first of a trilogy that also includes Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite. These compositions reflected his interest in medieval German poetry. Together the trilogy is called Trionfi, meaning triumph. It is described by the composer as the celebration of the triumph of the human spirit through sexual and holistic balance. The work was based on a 13th-century erotic verse found in Bavaria. Lyrics to Carmina Burana While "modern" in some of his compositional techniques, Orff was able to capture the spirit of the medieval period in this trilogy, with infectious rhythms and easy tonalities Listen to a minute of Carmina Burana:

The medieval poems, written in an early form of German and Latin, are often racy, but without descending into smut. Carmina Burana is probably the most famous piece of music composed and premiered in Nazi Germany.


Composers of the Nazi Era

Carl Orff in his Time Speech on the occasion of Carl Orff's 100th birthday Munich, Prinzregententheater, 7 July 1995

Orff's Musical and Moral Failings - Was Carl Orff a Nazi? NYT May 6, 2001

Michael H. Kater, "Carl Orff im Dritten Reich," Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 43, 1 (January 1995): 1-35.Reviewed by David B. Dennis(originally published by H-German on 25 January 1996) According to Kater, Orff did not alter his compositional style in response to Nazi dictates; nor did he write music for evidently Nazi texts. So why did he and his works thrive in the Third Reich?