Dream Catcher

by Teresa Jennings

Cultures worldwide have made dreams a special part of their belief system and rituals. In many cases, dreams are seen to have almost magical powers over the lives of the dreamer. Some of these cultures crafted objects to help control the effects of dreams. Such was the case with the Ojibwa tribe from the upper Midwest. Since the dream was believed to play an important part in one's life, the Ojibwa fashioned hoops called "dream catchers" resembling spiders webs, as the spider is believed to be the keeper of dreams. The web allows the good dreams to pass through to the dreamer while bad dreams are trapped within the web. Charms are woven into the web, to reinforce the dreams. The Chippewa and Pawnee also have similar practices.

As you learn the song, have your students research the dream catcher in greater detail, learning more about the tribes that originated them.

Performance Options

The song "Dream Catcher" is an original accompanied round composed using a mode similar to those used by Native American tribes of the Great Plains. The published part includes the vocal lines, parts for a melodic accompaniment as well as chord symbols and a bass line. For the recording, you will hear a wooden flute, piano, frame drum, and natural jingles accompanying the voices. The accompaniment tracks we provide will work well for your performance needs, but this tune will work well with instruments available to most schools.

Probably the optimum live accompaniment would include recorders playing the treble clef part. It demands a wider range than most beginners possess, so you may want to limit it to more advanced players. The part could also be played on treble keyboard mallet instruments such as Orff glocks, xylophones, etc., or on a flute. If you have a synthesizer or small electronic keyboard, consider playing this line with a flute-like setting. The grace notes are quite optional, though they give the work a more authentic flavor. If you play the piano as a part of the accompaniment, don't play the right hand part unless you have no other option.

The next most important part of the accompaniment is the frame drum. The ideal is the simplest of drums, with one head and an open bottom. Still, virtually any tom played with a mallet will work here, playing the pattern of quarter, two eighths, quarter. In a stretch, even a conga or large bongo will suffice. If your classroom doesn't have any frame drums, consider borrowing one or more from the instrumental program at your middle school or high school. Even snare drums with the snares turned off will work. The other percussion you hear is a cluster of jingles. These can be metal or beads or both, preferably all grouped together with strings and played on beat one of each measure. Jingle bells or a tambourine will work here, but making your own jingles from beads would be more authentic.

You can add to the accompaniment with guitar and/or autoharp playing the chords on the part. Even a simple shaker part would be a nice addition. Still, keep the textures simple. If you use a number of players and/or instruments, you might also want to switch from one texture to the next instead of having everyone play all the time.

Make Your Own Dream Catchers

To make a real dream catcher, you would start with a wooden hoop and work with leather, twine, beads, feathers and the like. A more modern version might start with a metal or plastic hoop. All of these supplies are available through craft stores or mail order catalogs. There are also kits that provide all you need to make dream catchers, though the cost might be too much for entire classes or schools.

In simplest terms, you wrap the hoop, then build a web inside the hoop by tying twine from side to side. (For more detailed instructions, see the back of the student part provided with this issue.) For younger students, you may wish to simplify materials using a ring cut from cardboard, coloring it instead of wrapping it with leather, and using string instead of lace or twine. By the same token, feathers could be drawn on paper, cut out and attached.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.