»Elemental music is never music alone but forms a unity with movement, dance, and speech. It is music that one makes oneself, in which one takes part not only as a listener but as a participant.« (Carl Orff)
This intercultural approach necessitated special educational introductory training and trained teachers, as musicians and educationalists were initially confronted with numerous unfamiliar aspects: the range of percussion instruments and recorders, dance and above all improvisation.
Following an extensive workshop period in the Günther School and several educational courses, Orff published the ›Orff-Schulwerk. Elementare Musikübung‹ together with Gunild Keetman and Hans Bergese at the Schott Music publishing firm in Mainz between 1932-1935. This volume included an introduction into the practice of group improvisation, booklets on playing technique for percussion instruments and compositions for ensemble playing.
This first Schulwerk publication placed too great demands on music teachers and also stood in opposition to the educational ideology of the Nazi state; for this reason, the publication was not continued. The dance compositions for the ensemble of the Günther School by Gunild Keetman did however attract attention at that time; the tonal timbre is reminiscent of music of the Far East and Keetman was the first to utilise minimalist structures in her compositional technique.
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The unbroken progress of the Orff Schulwerk did however continue with a Bavarian Radio broadcasting series for schools in 1948 for which Carl Orff, Gunild Keetman and Gertrud Orff created linguistic, song and instrumental forms which were intended as a framework and initial model for improvisatory work with children and young persons.
The newly established company Studio 49 began with the manufacture of ›Orff instruments‹ and Schott Music published the continuing extended repertoire of these broadcasts in five volumes entitled ›Orff-Schulwerk. Musik für Kinder‹.
The intention of this classical Schulwerk was to provide a set of building blocks for imaginative music teaching from which teachers would be able to select and vary material for the appropriate development levels of their pupils and interlink these with elements of drama and dance.
This was the beginning of the international reception of the OSW and the translation of Schulwerk editions which were adapted to the language and culture of other countries. The first foreign edition was published in Canada, followed by further editions for Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Latin America, the USA, Japan and other countries. The OSW was made known in extended circles through the production of two LPs by Columbia/Electrola in 1956/57 and a series broadcast by Bavarian television between 1957 and 1959.