Middle Ages Music and Dance - Make Your Own May Pole

Week 6: We danced around the May pole and made pan flutes.

Some of the string, wind and percussion instruments of the middle ages, such as the dulcimer and fiddle are still played today, while others have changed form and been combined with various instruments into the instruments we know today. Common people of the middle ages often played the bagpipes as the materials (wood and sheep skin) were readily obtainable. Middle age instruments such as the zink and crumhorn have been modified into the recorder and clarinet of which we are familiar. The Zink, a wind instrument that looks like a curved recorder, was a very common instrument. The Crumhorn took a lot of wind to make sound, looked like an umbrella handle and sounded like a bagpipe.

Although flutes are often pictured in middle age images, they were difficult to play and weren't nearly as common as pan flutes. Constructed from bamboo, the hallow reeds were bound together with string like materials often made from animals.

Our pan flutes were constructed from plastic drinking straws and tape.
Beginning with the longest straw, subsequent straws were trimmed 1/2 inch shorter than the previous straws.

The first time we did this activity, following the book Pythagoras and the Ratios, we used slightly different pipe lengths which turned out to be a more advanced lesson in measuring and fractions.

After constructing pan flutes we learned a maypole dance. During the middle ages, and today, in certain locations in Germany, children dance around the maypole on May 1st. By dancing in patterns to the right and left, the ribbons are woven around the pole resulting in interesting designs.

The pole we used was constructed from several lengths of PVC piping glued together and set into a base.

The ribbons were made by finger knitting long lengths of yarn.

We learned several things dancing around the maypole. First, it is easiest to begin with a small number of participants and gradually add people two at a time. The patterns are repeated in one direction to weave the yarn onto the pole and then done in reverse to unwind the weave.

Going in the reverse direction, it is sometimes necessary to look up to ensure the ribbons are unwound in the proper order, but it is much easier to unwind by dancing the pattern.

When kids weren't busy dancing or constructing pan flutes, they were busy making their own music.

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  1. I am so impressed that you built your own maypole! And that no one ended up wrapped around it :)

  2. Great maypole...we attended every year when we lived in the UK

  3. This would be a lot of fun! Featured it on Mom's Library!

  4. We made those straw panpipes last week too!! Didn't like the sound coming out of them though, haha. #practicalmondays


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