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Telling Stories, Musically

Things to think about

History is about telling stories. The French word for history, historie, also means story.

While much of history is told in textbooks and big, thick, boring books of history, it doesn't have to be done that way. 

History can be passed down by oral tradition. This is when parents tell their children and grandchildren stories about the past. This has been done by many cultures including North American aboriginal groups.

Or, as another example, the wandering minstrel from the Medieval era would go from town to town singing songs, and many of them told of the exploits of heros from long ago. The minstrel was the local historian, passing on historical knowledge in song.

Today our music tends to be love songs. or songs about relationships. Yet not all songs are like that. Some, like those on the right, tell stories. A couple of them even tell history.

The Assignment

You are going to tell history musically. Over the next few days you will watch several videos about Greek history that tell of tales of people and events in ancient Greece.
  1. Watch the videos to the right for inspiration.
  2. Pick one story of a person or an event. Write a song about it.
    • The song can be an original tune, or it can be done to a different, but familiar tune. 
      • Your song should respect the tune, holding to it's timing and rhythm. Ideally, it could pull a couple of words or lyrics from the original song.
  3. It should be about 2-3 minutes (so roughly 2½).
  4. The music should (in general) rhyme.
  5. The song should tell the story in a clear way.
  6. The song should be more or less historically accurate (though there may be some room for embellishment. Hyperbole?). 
  7. The song should have a moral or a lesson that gets taught. It needs a key thought to remember when you walk away. Bill or George, anything but Sue! or Video Killed the Radio Star.


  1. The story is told accurately.
  2. The story has a moral or main idea to remember.
  3. The lyrics fit the tune reasonably closely.
  4. The song is about 2½ minutes long.

Evolution of Music

The Saga Begins

Video Killed the Radio Star

A Boy Named Sue

Truck Got Stuck

Battle of New Orleans