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Lift up your voice

Fundamental Activities, by Kate Baxter and others. Pack includes video, handbook and support materials. Pounds 40 + Pounds 4.80 pp from 6 Esher Grove, Mapperley Park, Nottingham NG3 5DR.

Bob Pepper finds inspiration in a music pack for all abilities. The moving experience of bringing brightness and joy into damaged lives by making music with children in a Romanian orphanage, provides the basis and much of the inspiration for an extraordinary and ambitious new resource entitled Fundamental Activities.

Elements of music, dance, drama, art, technology, environmental studies and story-telling are brought together in a stimulating and imaginative handbook which is simply bursting with ideas. On the accompanying video we see these in action with a variety of groups including the elderly, primary and secondary school children, and children and adults with physical and learning disabilities.

The author's commitment and integrity shines through every aspect of the work, demonstrating an almost missionary zeal. The sheer scope of this project is initially rather daunting and busy teachers might be forgiven for not seeing immediate relevance to their own situation. However, perseverance, particularly with the handbook, uncovers a wealth of practical activities which are great fun and which, if used appropriately, could provide useful material for many years to come.

The section on Voice, for example, begins by smashing the myth of tone deafness and goes on to suggest games and activities which explore the full range of vocal sounds. As with other sections there are strong links with art and movement and excellent practical advice on stimulating children with physical, emotional or other special needs. There are also constant references to the therapeutic benefits of musical activity.

Throughout the three main sections; Ourselves, Our World, and Our Instruments, the approach is encouraging teachers and students to develop awareness through a heightening of the senses.

Only after a thorough exploration of the sounds of our own bodies and of nature are we introduced to manufactured instruments. Once again the music-making ideas are rich and varied. The jingle hoop is one vehicle for these to be realised. It consists of a simple plastic ring to which a collection of objects such as keys and bells are attached.

The video moves rapidly from one topic to another, giving snapshot impressions of many of the activities discussed in the teaching materials. Improvised music-making is notoriously difficult to film effectively and the outcome is uneven with only the occasional gem. But it does help to underpin the philosophy behind the pack.

Fundamental Activities is quite expensive but well worth considering as a long-term resource that will be returned to regularly for fresh inspiration.

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