The song has always been a feature of the school assembly. Its nature has changed from time to time, but the importance of the song lies in its capacity to bring people together. This experience of being united with others and the wider cosmos links the spiritual and musical experience - through composing, performing and listening.
The listening experience is for many people their main access to the spiritual. It is a place where:
* We appear to be in touch with something or someone beyond ourselves.
* We can learn to respect difference.
* Change can take place.
* Our thoughts can flow freely and we can reflect on our lives.
Music enables us to be in touch with a different culture, whether it is separated from us by geography or history. It can bring the beginning of an understanding and respect of people and times different from ours.
Music is the most direct route to our feelings. In a musical piece small motifs are changed and developed. This represents a process of change and when we listen we participate in the journey of those who created the music and we are changed as well.
A musical piece, especially one that is familiar to us, can act us a container for our own thoughts and ideas. It can be a place of reflection and meditation. It can feel safer than the silence that is becoming increasingly unfamiliar in contemporary society.
Musical instruments (like the cup gongs of the Far East) have been used to lead people into reflection. How can this spiritual aspect of music be reflected in schools' practice?
11 = l The community can sing together once a day with songs pitched appropriately. Songs can include a mixture of sacred and secular texts, with a stress on participation.
* The atmosphere for listening needs to be a comfortable one in which children are encouraged to let their thoughts flow freely.
* Singing games or listening to familiar pieces can be used to resolve conflict situations.
* Pieces from different traditions can be introduced, encouraging children to understand and respect the unfamiliar sounds * Music can be used to lead into a time of reflection. Songs can be from religious traditions, creative projects based on a religious subject or music with religious themes such as Handel's Messiah or Bruch's Kol Nidrei.
June Boyce-Tillman, reader in community and performing arts at King Alfred's, Winchester, is author of Exploring Sound (Stainer and Bell pound;6) and 32 Galliard Spirituals (Stainer and Bell pound;4.50)