Carolyn Slone sets out to create a resource which provides ‘musical exploration of the orchestra’ for 4-8 year olds. The pages contain accurate musical detail (with an American-English tinge) using the story of a performance of Beethovens’ 5th symphony as the vehicle to deliver these facts. Three mice appear throughout the pages narrating the story, asking questions of the ‘expert’ mouse for him to provide the answers. There are also some very clear definitions of common musical vocabulary including musical elements and orchestral specific language. Trying to embed sound clips of a symphony orchestra in a mass produced book is by no means easy, I have to admit that the sound quality is certainly not bad, although lacking in depth. The dynamic drop and subsequent crescendo in bar 5 is audible and pleasant. As you would expect the 1cm speaker can’t handle the pitch of double basses particularly well!
I am very pleased to see a book designed to engage young people with the world of classical music, I agree with Carolyn’s assertion that ‘eating nourishing food’ is just as important as digesting quality music. My initial reaction to the pages was a positive one, there is great deal of colour and interest to inspire curious minds. On reading a little more closely and becoming slightly put off the by the twee conversations that the mice have, I remembered that as I am not indeed the target audience I decided that the next step was to read the book with my 5 year old boys. They were very excited to get their hands on the book and after they have pressed every single one of the 19 buttons we were able to open the cover. We read each page listening to each audio clip and asking and answering questions as we progressed. The verdict afterwards was very positive, they liked the pages about the instrumental sections the best, and of course pressing the buttons…they even quite liked the mice! This is a great addition to your bookshelf!
Simon Robilliard is a music teacher and head of learning at Great Torrington School in Devon
Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven's Symphony No.5 by Carolyn Sloan
There are a wealth of free music resources available to download from TES, ranging from Kandinsky and music to composer top trumps