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Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2: Train Toccata

Jan 07, 2021

We’re just a little bit excited about our cool new video techniques, over here! We had so much fun creating this video about a train ride through the Brazilian countryside. We hope you’ll grab your kiddo and come along with us! 

As you know, we love introducing kids to great classical music, and this selection is no exception. Heitor Villa-Lobos, a great Brazilian composer (possibly the best known South American composer of all time), wrote this fantastic piece about a steam engine winding its way through the beautiful Brazilian countryside in 1930. 

From a kids’ standpoint -- this music is SO COOL! A piece of music about a train - what?! And it actually sounds like a train, hissing and sputtering and cranking it’s way down the tracks, alternating with a smoothly careening beautiful melody. It really does invite your imagination to take you on an exciting ride. From a loftier musical standpoint -- this is SO COOL! Villa Lobos wrote 9 sets of pieces called “Bachianas Brasileiras” for various sets of instruments. They all incorporate elements of Brazilian popular and folk music with styles and techniques of the composer JS Bach. He uses a wide variety of percussion instruments (Ever heard of the anzá, chocalho, pandeira, reco, matraca, or caixa? Neither had I!), and creates the most amazing timbres and colors. 

Although I think this piece stands alone as a great listening adventure for young ears, I just had to write some lyrics to accompany the “melodic careening” sections. Feel free to sing along - you’ll learn the words quickly, as most of them repeat.

Listening ideas: 

  • Set up a “pretend train” to sit in as you listen. This can be as simple as saying “the couch is now a train” (probably what I would do -- it’s a good thing my daughter has a great imagination!) or as complex as making a train out of your Amazon boxes, using some paint and paper plates…(sorry, no tutorial for that here, not our specialty!). As you listen to the music, ask your child what is happening, and provide some ideas yourself (you’ll see Elizabeth demonstrating this in our video). Possibly choose a destination that you’re pretending to travel to. Imagine what the view might be through the window, make up a story about why the train is slowing down and speeding up.
  • Play with actual toy trains while you listen. Help your child notice the tempo changes, and move their trains accordingly. (IE “the music is getting faster, let’s speed up!!”)

What do you think of the video? Shall we keep recording with our green screen so that we can “visit” all types of place? If you like this video, you may enjoy checking out our January course “A Musical Trip Around the World” where we virtually visit 11 different countries, learning a new song from each of them. The music is so much fun, and we even travel from place to place in a special “Clap for Classics” helicopter.


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