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In brief;Books;Music;Reviews;Arts

SPACEMAN SID: SONGS FROM PLANET BLID. By Vo Fletcher (Eyelevel Books, Worcester pound;7.99 + pound;1.50 pamp;p. 01905 427825) brings together 11 enjoyably wiggly, stompy and mind-stretching action songs for the early years.

There are plenty of catchy choruses and rousing refrains, as well as excellent advice such as "Never use a hedgehog for a hairbrush." The tunes are easy enough to perform without the cassette, though that will be invaluable for car journeys.

JACK: THE MUSICAL. By James Rae and Mike Cornick (Universal Edition pound;19.95 including CD) sets the fairy tale in London's Docklands, complete with a magic beansprout from the all-night Chinese takeaway, and glottal-stopping, aspirate-dropping dialogue derived from EastEnders. It will make an hour-long pantomime for juniors and middle schools. From the rapping chorus of carbooters, via the honky-tonk chase sequence to the rocking exit-number, the emphasis is on fast fun among fast food and flash fellers.

COMPUTERS. By Chris Hazell (Joseph Weinberger pound;5.95) uses six songs to take us on a rapid historical jaunt from the abacus to the delights (and dangers) of virtual reality. There are opportunities for part-singing and plenty of roles for some not necessarily accomplished percussionists. The music covers different genres from gospel to rap. "Binary Numbers" uses clever vocal divisions to make bits and bytes more comprehensible. It's all suitable for a special assembly or an end-of-term event.

EUROJAZZ. By Alan Simmons (Alan Simmons Music, Huddersfield pound;15 including CD. 01484 860755) is more than a cantata in favour of a common currency, though it is that too. It is an unabashed and idealistic paean in favour of international co-operation. The five songs cover the devastation of the war-torn past as well as the radiant future. There's also a song where the audience celebrates European cities in three-part harmony.

THE DANCE AT THE PHOENIX (Beautiful Jo Records, Oxford 01865 249194) is pure pleasure. The CD is a compilation of music from Hardy's Wessex, interspersed with verses from William Barnes, the Dorset poet who was Hardy's mentor. From delicately-rough dance tunes, and authentically-harmonised songs and hymns, to buoyant wedding-music, haunting intimations of the supernatural and tireless fiddling - there are riches here not only for the ear, but for any imagination that has ever visited this incomparable domain of social and literary history.

IN DEEP IN THE DEEP. By Steve Grocott (pound;10 + pound;1 pamp;p including CD. 0181 852 2865 ) we meet the music children themselves have made. Grocott is an inspirational teacher, and his accounts of the processes by which vocal, instrumental and unconventional sounds can be woven together are instructive and thoughtful. The music evokes various watery moods and incorporates poetry and visual imagery. This is a heartening and intelligent reminder that human creativity preceded and will outlast the national curriculum's divisions.

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