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Movement of the people

TEACHING MUSIC IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS. A Reader. Edited by Gary Spruce. ASPECTS OF TEACHING SECONDARY MUSIC PERSPECTIVES ON PRACTICE. Edited by Gary Spruce. RoutledgeFalmerOpen University Press pound;18.99 each

These books support the Open University's PGCE course. The first explores the nature of music education, learning and musical contexts; the second addresses issues related to musical learning which teachers meet on a regular basis in the classroom.

There is a sense of dej...-vu about the Reader, as half the chapters have been published elsewhere, the issues raised are not new and many of the contributors are familiar names. They include Lucy Green, on the sociology of music education ("music can offer a powerful cultural symbol for adolescents"), Janet Mills on musical development in the primary years and Keith Swanwick on instrumental teaching.

Controversially, at least in this context, Stephanie E Pitts argues, in her chapter on historical perspectives, that only a small percentage of academic research reaches practising teachers. She also contends that a vibrant music curriculum will result more from a teacher's enthusiasm for the subject than from "the theories and directives that lie behind the lesson plan".

Fundamental to the latter is the national curriculum, which Ted Bunting criticises in his chapter on composing, for failing to define the nature of pupils' creative thinking skills and how these may be taught and learned.

Bunting complains, too, that the curriculum is not always helpful when music educators "attempt to unravel the complex web of inherited values, cultural assumptions, and concepts of education that face them".

Inherited values and cultural assumptions abound in this book, not least in relation to popular music, which is usually contextualised by references to the Beatles, the Beach Boys or Elvis Presley, and sometimes patronised. Take Robert Walker, who in writing on musical imagination, contends that "little training appears necessary for success in the pop-rock scene", and "we can no more recognise a Mozart until he is dead than we can a John Lennon until the sales figures tell us".

It is apparent, when turning to Aspects of Teaching Secondary Music, that there is overlap of content. Charles Pummeridge's piece on the curriculum covers similar ground to Stephanie E Pitts's historical perspectives article in the Reader and the ICT issues raised in each volume are broadly similar.

There are some interesting chapters from Philip Priest ("Putting listening first") and from Jonathan Stock ("Concepts of world music"). On the other hand, Peter Dunbar-Hall's "Designing a teaching model for popular music" is thoroughly flawed.

Dunbar-Hall argues that the study of a piece of popular music may be given an academic framework by combining analysis of its musical elements with interpretation of its inherent meanings. But, in attempting to demonstrate his thesis, using Bob Marley's "Exodus", Dunbar-Hall creates a welter of errors and misunderstandings. He calls Marley's bass riff an ostinato, when the latter is a western classical construct whose use, albeit involving repetition, is structurally and developmentally at variance with riff technique. The music examples contain errors and Marley's Jamaican nation-language lyrics are translated into Milton Keynes English.

Dunbar-Hall also grossly oversimplifies the rhythmic aspects of "Exodus" (having initially stressed the need to take rhythm in popular music seriously), glosses patronisingly over a number of important African-American and Rastafarian issues, and fails to point to reggae's roots in mento, the Jamaican national dance-song.

These Open University publications will inform, rather than enthuse, PGCE students, who should treat the proposed classroom materials with caution.

Michael Burnett Michael Burnett is senior lecturer in music at University of Surrey, Roehampton

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