Listening Activity #3 - I Got Rhythm

I Got Rhythm was written by the great American songwriter George Gershwin in 1930 and is being performed here by the Benny Goodman Quartet in 1959. In this video, the 'King Of Swing' Benny Goodman is playing the Clarinet, Gene Krupa on Drums, Lionel Hampton on Vibraphone and Jess Stacey on Piano. Like this post about the band 2Cellos, we see Benny Goodman playing a traditionally classical instrument in a different genre. By giving children the chance to see classical instrument being played in different ways, it can open their minds up to other possibilities. Most children only see vibraphones/glockenspiels/xylophones in school, play basic tunes on them and never regard them as serious instruments. See how fast and accurate Lionel Hampton plays at 0:46, not to mention the different scales and rhythms he uses. It is also important to mention that Benny Goodman was one of the most famous white band leaders to perform with African American musicians in the then segregated USA. In 1935 he formed the Benny Goodman Trio with African American pianist Teddy Wilson, and added Lionel Hampton to the lineup a year later. It's shocking to realise that segregation in the USA was made illegal in 1964, only 5 years after this video was recorded. See the laughter and smiles the musicians give each other. Performing should never be boring or stressful, especially when playing with others!

  • What does Quartet mean?

  • What is the note that Benny Goodman plays at 0:25?

  • Why do you think the audience start clapping at 3:21?

  • How do the other musicians change how they play when Benny Goodman is soloing? When Lionel Hampton solos? When Gene Krupa solos?

  • Do the musicians look like they are enjoying themselves?

  • What do you think the response was like when Benny Goodman started playing with African American musicians?

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illustrations by Charity Russell

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