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KS2 Art and Music: Tusalava (1929)

Can students produce a visual interpretation of a piece of music?

Main image of KS2 Art and Music: Tusalava (1929)
Author Michael Hammond, LSBU
TopicInterpreting music pictorially
Show full lesson spec

An abstract animation in which two apparently organic forms evolve in a symbiotic and/or parasitic relationship with one another.

Tusalava was constructed using around 4400 different drawings (using cell animation) and can be seen as a film about movement in and of itself, rather than symbolising any other processes. Director Len Lye was influenced by Australian Aboriginal art as well as doodling and this is clear from the organic shapes that wriggle and jitter about the screen, constantly mutating and creating new patterns. Visually engaging and interesting, Tusalava affords an opportunity to explore how image and sound can work together in film.

This lesson idea explores how we can creatively express feelings and ideas evoked by music through art.

Lesson Objective

  • To pictorially represent feelings and ideas provoked from a piece of music.


Play the clip with sound only (covering up the animation on screen) and ask students to note down any thoughts or feelings the music triggers. Some students will need prompting: Did you think the music was telling a story? How did it make you feel? Did you associate particular colours with the music? Did the music create pictures in your head?

Next play the clip to the children (both sound and image). Elicit students' thoughts about the animation as well as the relationship between the music and the image. What did they think was happening in the animation - was there any story? What did the dots and circles wriggling and twisting make them think about? Do they think the music and animation complimented each other? Does the animation follow a similar rhythm to the music or is the relationship more complex?


Main Attraction

Now encourage the class to develop their own responses to a short piece of music (around 10 - 20 seconds with clear shifts in rhythm/tempo/tone), concentrating on shape, movement and colour. They should be encouraged to experiment with more abstract ideas, as opposed to a set narrative, focusing on the interplay between sound and image, using the animated shapes in Tusalava as inspiration.

Play the music for the students, asking students to close their eyes and listen carefully - can they identify a structure in the music - turning points? How would they describe the rhythm and how will they translate this pictorially? What shapes and colours do they associate with the music?

Ask students to work in small groups to produce a plan for a short animation to accompany the music. They need to think carefully about the shapes that will form the basis of the animation, how the rhythm of the music might be translated pictorially and the colours or changes in colour that they will use.

Each groups' ideas should be presented in a series of annotated sketches as well as a short paragraph describing how the animation might look and explaining the ideas behind it.


End Credits

Ask each group to nominate a spokesperson to report back to the class and to share their ideas.


External Links

Video Clips
Extract (2:47)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Tusalava (1929)Tusalava (1929)

Read more about this film

See also