Ein Deutsches Requiem nach Worten der heiligen Schrift

(A German requiem in the words of “holy font” [scripture])

by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)




Dr. Heather J. Buchanan, Director of Choral Activities at the John J. Cali School of Music, has fostered collaborations between Montclair State University (MSU) and school music programs in the greater New Jersey area. It should come as no surprise that she initiated the Brahms Curriculum Map project. The goal of this project is to offer music educators a resource to integrate Ein Deutsches Requiem into their programs, which culminates to a free performance of the work by the Montclair State University Chorale. The National Association for Music Education Collegiate Division (NAfMEC) at MSU was asked to manage the project, and has focused its energy on the project during the fall 2012 semester.

The Brahms Curriculum Map is not intended to be a book of lesson-plans, but a guide to Ein Deutsches Requiem, offering ways to engage students in musical discussion about the work via comparative analysis and critically reflective questions. While including related works in concert repertory along with this curriculum map would be beneficial, doing so is in no way necessary for students to learn through Ein Deutsches Requiem. It should also be noted that all questions and concepts addressed are not hard facts, and are not necessarily representative of the opinions of NAfMEC.

Project Staff:

Scott R Ziegler

Kelly Sanchez, Cindy Yin
managing editor

Marissa Silverman
supervising editor

Kristen Alexander, Tessa Dolce, Angelina Hamada, Heather Krygoski,
Marissa Minogue, Becky Orlando, Monika Szumski, Cindy Yin


i. Layout of Curriculum Map

ii. Historical Information

iii. Lessons (by movement)

iv. Activities

v. About Us

i. Layout of Curriculum Map

What follows is a series of conceptual tools and critical thinking exercises that helps to integrate Ein Deutsches Requiem into your classroom. We organize this by localizing each movement so that it can yield contextual considerations and understandings, and act as a springboard to other pieces of music that align thematically with the given movement. Each movement’s deliberation is thematically driven as based on the text (lyrics).

Movement # (Theme)

German Text English Text

Concept: Includes questions and thematic material to be used to initiate lessons.

Step 1: THEME in music

This section includes YouTube videos of examples of music that are related to the text and theme of the movement. Most are related by text/lyrics, some are related by idea (i.e., Mozart Requiem)

Bridge Concept:

This section bridges the above examples into Ein Deutsches Requiem.

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement #

This section examines the German text more deeply.


Historical background. For example, regarding the idea of “suffering” in any given “Requiem”: compare the Verdi requiem (fires of hell, crumbling earth, eternal damnation) with the Brahms (we will all be saved, our actions will be seen in light) etc., etc.



ii. Historical Information


(Images Courtesy of Scott Ziegler)


Indulgences – an official pardon of all sins given by a religious figure

Martin Luther (1483-1546) – a monk who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and founder of the Lutheran Church

Heresy – an opinion that contrasts the teachings of an institution, especially religious

Denomination – a designated group distinguished from others, usually of religious things

Agnostic – a person who doubts some idea yet is not opposed nor supports said idea


In the sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church began selling indulgences to raise money for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk in Germany, wrote to the archbishop expressing his opposition to the selling of indulgences to the poor, while the Pope remained one of the richest persons in the world. The archbishop had the letter checked for heresy and sent it to Rome. Eventually, Luther was excommunicated from the church. Although Luther did not intend to leave the church and eventually created a separate Christian denomination, he ended up founding the Lutheran church. In departure with the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church maintained its own tenets, establishing differences between sects of Christianity. Luther adapted many Gregorian chants used in the Catholic Church to fit a translated German text, making the Bible more accessible to the German population.

While Johannes Brahms was an agnostic, he was heavily influenced by the Luther Bible. The text for Ein Deutsches Requiem was taken from the Luther Bible, and Brahms specifically selected passages that avoid immortality and salvation while focusing on comfort. Brahms sought to redefine the “Requiem” mass as Luther had redefined faith. In the past, the Requiem Mass was used by composers in the following way: to express fear of death. Mozart’s Requiem (1791) is a quintessential example, showing the idea of original sin, as does Verdi’s dramatic Requiem (1874). However, Brahms’s Requiem (1869) set a new standard, which paved the way forward for Benjamin Britten War Requiem (1962), Penderecki’s Polish Requiem (1984), and John Rutter’s “Anglican” Requiem (1985).

Brahms, as a composer, is often referred to as “the singer’s favourite composer,”  due to his text setting. It can be said that before writing any music, Brahms thought of the confines of the human voice, keeping its range and natural tendencies in mind while composing. His writing is more accessible to singers thanks to this innovative compositional method, following the idea of “accessibility.”


iii. Lessons: Analytical Explorations



Movement 1: Suffering and consolation

German Title: “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen”
(Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they who bear suffering)


Selig sind, die da Leid tragen; denn sie sollen getröstet werden.Die mit Tränen säen, werden mit Freuden ernten.

Sie gehen hin und weinen und tragen edlen Samen und kommen mit Freuden und bringen ihre Garben.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious

seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves* with him. (Psalms 126:5-6)


What is suffering? What sacrifices and/or compromises do you make? Have you ever received or given consolation? Have you ever experienced another’s death?

Step 1: Suffering (in music lyrics)

  • “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem:




  • “Final Chorus (Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder) St. Matthew Passion” by Bach: 




  • “His Eye is on the Sparrow” Mississippi Children’s Choir from Sister Act 2:





  • “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan:





  • “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James:





  • “Lost” by Michael Buble:


Bridge Concept:

Why do musicians sing about suffering? Discuss music as an outlet of expression. Music is often called a “universal language.” Whether this assertion is true or not, music most definitely acts as a form of communication between people. People may sing about suffering to expose their problems, “normalize” their situations, to start a discussion about political and cultural problems, and so forth.

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement I

*Sheaves- “bundles”

What is actually being said? One interpretation: Karma. Those who suffer will find solace in the future. Sacrifice leads to benefit.


Refer to the “Historical Information” section. How does the first movement represent Brahms’s opinions about the “Requiem Mass?” How is this more accessible to the “common” man? Could more be done to help people understand its message?


Movement 2: Celebrating Life

German Title: “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras
(1 Peter 1:24 For all flesh, it is as grass)


Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen wie des Grases Blumen. Das Gras ist verdorret und die Blume abgefallen.So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder, bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn. Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde und ist geduldig darüber, bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen.

Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit.

Die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wiederkommen, und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen; Freude, ewige Freude wird über ihrem Haupte sein; Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away. (I Peter 1:24)Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (James 5:7)

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. (I Peter 1:25)

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)


Why do we celebrate death? What do you cherish in life? (What makes life worth living?) How does mortality play a role in the value of life?

Step 1: Celebrating Life (in music lyrics)

  • “Scherzo” by Piotr Rubik:





  • “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong:





  • “Joy to The World” by Handel:





  • “Circle of Life” by Elton John:





  • “Beautiful Life” by Ace of Base:





  • “Ode to Joy” from the 9th Symphony by Beethoven:


Bridge Concept:

How can music convey happiness, excitement, joy (feelings associated with celebrating?) What are the elements of music we associate with happiness? Are those associations justified? (i.e., major/minor, faster tempi/slower tempi, ascending patterns’ descending patterns, etc.) On a more technical level, this movement of the Brahms is characterized by an underlying timpani “pulse” that is associated with notions of “fate” (see also: Brahms First Symphony introduction).

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement II

The flower is symbolic of the beauty of life. The flower’s fate to wither makes its beauty more precious. With patience, you will reap the rewards life has to offer.

There are everlasting aspects of life beyond life itself.

Through all the waiting and suffering, happiness will prevail over misery in the end.

Overall, life has so much beauty and happiness to offer, but such will be received after much patience.


We celebrate to cherish the things we hold dear to us. Life is especially important to cherish because it does not last forever and only happens once. Indeed, carpe diem. People celebrate life through different rituals and ceremonies such as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and so forth. How do we “celebrate” life?


Movement 3: Hope

German Title: “Herr, lehre doch mich
(Psalm 39:4 Lord, teach me)


Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat und ich davon muß.Siehe, meine Tage sind einer Hand breit vor dir, und mein Leben ist wie nichts vor dir.

Ach, wie gar nichts sind alle Menschen, die doch so sicher leben.Sie gehen daher wie ein Schemen, und machen ihnen viel vergebliche

Unruhe; sie sammeln und wissen nicht wer es kriegen wird.

Nun, Herr, wes soll ich mich trösten? Ich hoffe auf dich.Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand und keine Qual rühret sie an.

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreath; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.

Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee. (Psalms 39:5-8)

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. (Wisdom 3:1)



What is hope? What does “having” hope mean to you? Have you ever been in a situation when it seemed like there was “no hope?” What about giving hope to others? Would you define hope in this work as present, absent, desired, or a mixture?

Step 1: Hope (in music lyrics)

  • “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons:





  • “Tremble for my Beloved” by Collective Soul:





  • “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack:





  • “Imagine” by John Lennon:





  • “Tell Me Why” by Genesis:





  • “May It Be” by Enya:





  • “In The Morning Light” by Yanni:





  • “Rise” by Eddie Vedder:





  • “I Dream a Dream” by Hayley Westenra:





  • “So Small” by Italiobrothers:


Bridge Concept:

How is hope expressed through song? Can musicians sing about having no hope as well as having a lot of hope? People may sing about hope in order to give hope to others, as well as themselves. Music is an outlet of expression, through music it is easy to demonstrate that you have hope, or lack hope. Music can also be the best therapy to release your emotions, to express your feelings (in this instance, the role of hope). Music is a conversation for the musician to portray, in this movement, the depth of her/his faith.

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement III

What are some things that lead to having hope? In Ein Deutsches Requiem, hope exists due to a faith that God will save the ones suffering. Hope is in faith, knowing that you can suffer but it will eventually get better and that one is not alone. Another interpretation: with hope there can be no true suffering. Material items do not provide hope (in the text, material items are referred to riches). This goes along with “money won’t buy you happiness.”


Very interesting to notice where “hope” in this instance comes from. Hope comes from believing in “another” (in Ein Deutsches Requiem, God). What does it take to believe in another? What other feelings and associations must be readily available to believe in another? How does Brahms utilize the solo voice to express both “uncertainty” yet “belief” (


Movement 4: Desire

German Title: “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen
(Psalm 84:1, 2, 4 How lovely are thy dwellings)


Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth!Meine Seele verlanget und sehnet sich nach den Vorhöfen des Herrn; mein Leib und Seele freuen sich in dem lebendigen Gott.Wohl denen, die in deinem Hause wohnen, die loben dich immerdar.

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising Thee. (Psalms 84:2-3, 5)



What does it mean when somebody “desires” something? Is it personal, materialistic, spiritual, political, social? Can desire lead to suffering or something better in life, like success? If so, how?

Step 1: Desire (in music lyrics)


  • “Libera Me” from Verdi Requiem (Renee Fleming):





  • “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston:





  • “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band:





  • “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones:





  • “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons:





  • “The Fighter” by Gym Class Heros:





  • “Dig” by Incubus:





  • “Layla” by Eric Clapton:





  • “Spare Me a Little of Your Love” by Fleetwood Mac:





  • “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles:


Bridge Concept:

How do musicians, vocalists, composers, arrangers, etc express desire in their music and music-making? We often express our longing and inclinations in music that reflect our personal desires, especially through performing, improvising, and composing. Many people use music to channel their desires or wishes to change something about their lives or something that deeply affects them/something they care about.

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement IV

One interpretation of this text: There is this longing, or desire for an afterlife or something beyond human mortality. This movement is the closest to the original Requiem concept.


The interesting dimension of this Requiem is that there is more of a secular approach to how we as humans internalize and live with death. Although we mourn, suffer, and desire to overcome loss, Brahms has incorporated text that transcends specific belief systems and ideas. Note: Verdi was, like Brahms, somewhat of an agnostic. However, the two composers took very different paths with the Requiem. What did Brahms desire in changing the text? What did Verdi desire in keeping it the same?


Movement 5: Comfort

German Title: “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit
(John 16:22 You now have sadness)


Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit; aber ich will euch wiedersehen, und euer Herz soll sich freuen, und eure Freude soll niemand von euch nehmen.Sehet mich an; ich habe eine kleine Zeit Mühe und Arbeit gehabt, und habe großen Trost gefunden.Ich will euch trösten, wie einen seine Mutter tröstet. !

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:22)

Behold with your eyes, how that I laboured but a little, and found for myself much rest. (Ecclesiasticus 51:35)

As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you. (Isaiah 66:13)



What is comfort to you? Is it just a feeling that we experience? What contributes to our individual comfort? In what ways do we consider ourselves “comfortable” (mentally, emotionally, physically, socially)?

Step 1: Comfort (in music lyrics)


  •  “Memorial” Movement IV. Kyrie by Renee Clausen:





  • “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel:





  • “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” by Diana Ross:





  • “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor:





  • “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” by Randy Newman:





  • “I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5:





  • “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King:





  • “Fix You” by Coldplay:





  • “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman:





  • “I See You” by Leona Lewis:


Bridge Concept:

How does the concept of “comfort” translate musically? Can music be “comfortable?” Lullabies comfort babies to put them to sleep. In times of tragedy, people often find comfort in music (i.e. the countless benefit concerts that follow terrorist attacks and natural disasters, e.g. 9/11, Hurricane Sandy).

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement V

“As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you” also refers to the idea of “Pay It Forward.” How can the act of music pay it forward? How does music bring people together?


This movement is sometimes seen as a commemoration to Brahms’ mother. How is the text “motherly?” can the relationship between a mother and child be expressed through music?


Movement 6: Victory

German Title: “Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt
(Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no lasting place)


Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt, sondern die zukünftige suchen wir. Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis: Wir werden nicht alle entschlafen, wir werden aber alle verwandelt werden; und dasselbige plötzlich, in einem Augenblick, zu der Zeit der letzten Posaune. Denn es wird die Posaune schallen, und die Toten werden auferstehen unverweslich, und wir werden verwandelt werden.Dann wird erfüllet werden das Wort, das geschrieben steht: Der Tod ist verschlungen in den Sieg. Tod, wo ist dein Stachel? Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg? Herr, du bist würdig zu nehmen Preis und Ehre und Kraft; denn du hast alle Dinge erschaffen und durch deinen Willen haben sie das Wesen und sind geschaffen.

For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14) Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (I Corinthians 15:51-55) Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)



Can you be victorious without getting involved in a fight or conflict? How might this relate to notions of “success”?

Step 1: Victory (in music lyrics)

  • “We Are The Champions” by Queen:





  • “The Battle of Jericho” by Moses Hogan:





  • “Theme from Rocky” by Bill Conti:





  • “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf:





  • “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner:





  • “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen:





  • “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen:





  • “The Final Countdown” by Europe:





  • “Survival” by Muse:


Bridge Concept:

What makes a war? How do we determine the victor? By death count, by percent obliterated land? Is one side always “good” and the other always “evil?” How can death be a victory? Cross-curricular relation to history: discuss WWI, WWII, the Civil War, etc. etc. and why the victor won.

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement VI

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” How does victory change us? Can it change us both positively and negatively? This may also refer to someone getting “full of themselves” after experiencing a victory.



“Death is swallowed up in victory” – with the positivity and excitement in winning, the claimed lives are forgotten in the moment (“Oh death, where is thy sting?”). Compare and contrast the emotions and actions that come with winning versus losing.


Movement 7: Celebrating Death

German Title: “Selig sind die Toten
(Rev 14:13 Blessed are the dead)


Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben, von nun an. Ja der Geist spricht, daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit; denn ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach.

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. (Revelation 14:13)



When we think of “death” we may think of “mourning death.” Yet, throughout the history of the world, many people re-tool “mourning” by “celebrating death.”

Step 1: Celebrating Death (in music lyrics)

  • “Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon:




  • “When the Saints Go Marching In” Christian Hymn:




  • “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles:




  • “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen, sung by Judy Garland:




  • “Glory Hallelujah” by Swan Silverstones:




  • “Dark Waltz” by Hayley Westerna:


Bridge Concept:

How do you feel about “celebrating death”? Should we celebrate death? If so, why so? If not, why not? And what does this mean? Examples from world cultures: Día de los Muertos in Mexico; Balinese Gamelan beleganjur music, which is used to care for the souls of the dead as they transition from life to afterlife; jazz funerals in New Orleans; etc.

Step 2: Examining the Brahms Text: Movement VII

The text seems to be comfortable with death, trusting in a world to come or at least a sense of calm after a life has ended. How is this portrayed in cultures? The funeral marches historic to New Orleans are particularly relevant to this discussion.


Compare this final movement (which seeks to understand the “blessed” in death) to Mozart’s Requiem “Lux aeterna”:

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,quia pius es.Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine,et Lux perpetua luceat eis,cum Sanctus tuis in aeternum,quia pius es.

Let eternal light shine on them, Lord,

as with Your saints in eternity,

because You are merciful.

Grant them eternal rest, Lord,

and let perpetual light shine on them,

as with Your saints in eternity

because You are merciful.

How does Brahms celebrate death? How does Mozart attempt the same? What are the similarities and differences found in the music? How does the music mirror the philosophies found in both texts? The Brahms ends with the word “blessed.” In other words, it ends with hope. How does this kind of hope compare with Mozart’s text and music?


Extra Exploration: Laß dich nur nichts nicht dauren


Laß dich nur nichts nicht dauren mit Trauren,sei stille, wie Gott es fügt,so sei vergnügt mein Wille!Was willst du heute sorgen auf morgen?Der Eine steht allem für,der gibt auch dir das Deine. 

Sei nur in allem Handel ohn Wandel,

steh feste, was Gott beschleußt,

das ist und heißt das Beste.


Do not be sorrowful or regretful;

Be calm, as God has ordained,

and thus my will shall be content.

What do you want to worry about from day to day?

There is One who stands above all

who gives you, too, what is yours.

Only be steadfast in all you do,

stand firm; what God has decided,

that is and must be the best.


Brahms’s “Geistliches Lied (Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren)” is a piece for SATB choir and organ that is sometimes referenced as a microcosm to the Brahms Requiem. Its textual objective and textural lyricism make it a prized work. For this reason, the Montclair State University Singers will be singing it to couple the performance of the Requiem. How does it emulate the Requiem? The text is a poetic lyric that almost sounds like a mother calming a child, teaching her child a life lesson.



Extra Exploration: Requiems

The Requiem

The Dramatic:

How do Verdi and Mozart captivate the calamity of death? How is this a cultural phenomenon? Related to Catholicism: how does this represent views of death? Judgement? Comfort?

The Cultural:

The German Requiem represents changing religious views centered around Lutheranism in Germany. Likewise, Germany has a history of fostering revolution and progress. How does Ein Deutsches Requiem represent this sentiment?

Movements from Penderecki’s Polish Requiem are dedicated to victims of Naziism in Poland. Although he remarked “I do not write political music” (1998), the work can be described as such, honoring different events and periods of Polish history. The work is less conceptual than Brahms’s, yet still politically driven.

John Rutter’s Requiem includes text from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, used in the Episcopal Church of the United States. In addition, its structure and function is British in orientation, timbre, and instrumentation. How can his text act as a representation of the Anglican Communion’s connection with the crown, the people of England, and the denomination’s values? How can the basic melody stated throughout the work represent unification of one of the most wide-spread denominations of Christendom? (side note: much of Rutter’s Requiem is, in many ways, related to David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus. A side lesson could be developed discussing British composer’s melodic writing, using harp and organ, and even a study into ethnomusicology).

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is less about nationality then about the theme of “war.” He refers to bugles, calvaries, artillery, procession… This work relates similarly to Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem. How are ideas of war conveyed in music? Trumpets, percussion, etc.

Other Requiems:

Eliza Gilkyson, an American folk singer, wrote Requiem in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Requiem does not necessarily refer to the Requiem Mass.

See also: Requiem for a Dream



The only assumption we can make about a piece or work titled “requiem” is that it deals with death in some way. Requiem translates to rest. However beyond that idea, it can take many different courses.

Other types of work also consider death. Rene Clausen’s Memorial was written following the tragedy of 9/11 and is somewhat of a retelling of the events of that day, in chronological order. The work uses compositional techniques (singing open vowels on approximated pitches) to emulate sounds heard that day (screaming in agony). In a subculture of New Orleans, funerals process from a funeral home or church to a cemetery accompanied by a brass band playing melancholic tunes, and recess with the band playing celebratory tunes.


iv. Activities

Finger-paint your emotional actions
Give each student a piece of paper and various colors for finger painting. Choose a movement and give the background of the movement but not necessarily the symbolism. Don’t give the class an outright definition of the mood. One could instead read the translation of the text or give a summary of the text. Explain to the class that while the recording of that particular movement is playing, to use the paint to express what they feel as a result of the music. Once the class has finished, call on volunteers to see what the students felt and whether the answers are similar or different.  Have them explain their painting, whether it be the images/symbols or the colors. At the end, it would be also beneficial to include yourself on the activity and explain your image last, concluding the activity with an explanation of what mood was portrayed and for what reason. If you’d like to take the activity a step further, hang a large piece of paper up and have the students tape their pictures next to each other in a large collage to represent an overall class view on the movement.

Paint murals (large poster paper)
Similar to the last step of the finger painting activity, take large piece of paper and assign groups of students to particular sections of the mural. If you work on one movement each class that you assign to the requiem, when playing a particular movement have the students assigned to it go work on the mural (like the finger painting activity) while the rest of the students do perhaps another activity listed below. Then have students switch off, vary the activities while students rotate on the large mural. Once the activity is completed, collectively look at the mural and ask for feedback from the class. This could be a great way to introduce the background of each movement, the translation of text, etc. by jumping off of the students’ commentary and expression through art.

Collage of photos, clippings, etc.
Also bouncing off of the mural, instead of having the students create a huge mural by drawing or painting, have students get in a group (or even individually as a take-home project) and create a collage of magazine/newspaper clippings, pictures (drawn, from the internet, Kodak, etc.). This could be turned into a presentation where the students speak in front of the class about their own symbolism and why they chose to incorporate what is on the collage. This way, you can use these symbols as a springboard for discussion of text analysis/history.

Dalcroze Movement
The Dalcroze Method is a way of teaching music and rhythm through ‘spontaneous bodily movements’ with kinetic exercises. That could be dancing, stomping, clapping, etc. Coax the students out of their shells by joining them! Start the activity by playing a movement and snap your fingers, clap, or sway. Start out small and build it up to more involved activities such as dancing. Start the students off by standing; it’ll give them more freedom and courage (because they’ll feel less put in the spotlight when they’re amongst others who are on their feet) to participate more energetically.

Slam poetry
Poetry Slams allow students to express themselves creatively in a different way than the activities mentioned above. Explain to students the poems don’t have to rhyme nor do they have to rhythmic. Offer some examples and throw in different styles of poetry such as haikus which could be easier than other types. Send the students home with the MP3 or have them listen in class to each movement on specific days and have them compile a SHORT poem (or even a line at a time) for each movement. They can then put those lines or fragments together to create their own Brahms Requiem – Poem Style. This would be spaced out over a certain period of time, allowing students to take a break from their writing and come back to it. At the end, if the classroom is exuberant enough, have students come and present their poem.
Give examples of how poetry slams run – this gives a great cultural experience – ex. snapping fingers in lieu of clapping. Allow students the freedom to relax in this sort of setting, give them the opportunity to speak their mind. *If the class is a little more hesitant to speaking, write your own example and express it with energy and emotion to persuade the others to follow suit. If this doesn’t work, ask if any students would like you to read their piece for the class. This way, students can feed off of your example and energy, eventually asking to read their own work personally. Again, refer to the symbolism in their works, use key words or phrases to introduce the textual analysis or history. Tying in their work with this work will aim to make the piece relatable and understandable.



v. About Us

This curriculum map was compiled by the members of NAfME Collegiate at Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ. NAfME (National Association for Music Education) is a professional organization of music educators in the United States working to promote music curriculum in schools. The Collegiate branch serves to connect aspiring educators with teachers in the field by providing opportunities such as observations, conferences, and more specific projects such as this map. NAfMEC at MSU conducts Praxis review sessions, instrument repair workshops, and first-year teacher/alumni colloquies on an annual basis. The chapter also hosts education-based outreach workshops including teaching Didgeridoo (A.J. Block), Composition in the Classroom (Dr. Ting Ho), Time Management (Prof. Marla Meissner), Applying Irish Traditional Music in an American Classroom (Scott R. Ziegler), and Community Music in Pisco, Peru (Terrence Thornhill).


MSU NAfME Board 2012-2013:

President- Scott Ziegler

Vice President- Kelly Sanchez

Secretary- Heather Krygoski

Treasurer- Ayden Khan

Advisor- Dr. Marissa Silverman


NJ NAfME Collegiate State Board 2012-2013:

President- Sarah DiStefano, Rowan University

Vice President- Andrew Cox, Westminster Choir College

Secretary- Megan Orvasky, Rowan University

Treasurer- Lindsey Malko, Rutgers University

Media Coordinator- Joshua Minzner, Kean University

Advisor- Dr. Rick Dammers, Rowan University

Note: This Curriculum Map is property of the National Association for Music Education Collegiate Chapter at Montclair State University, 2012. The information is intended for educational purposes and may be copied, reproduced, and used freely with acknowledgement given to the authors.



External Links to Brahms Curriculum Map:


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