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Online sound goes interactive

A new website promises the world. George Cole takes a look

Ever wanted to know how a piece of music was put together? Where the composer got his or her inspiration and how it was written, recorded and mixed? Or ever wished you could take apart a piece of music to hear how the individual instruments are blended to create a sound?

A new, innovative and free music education resource launched this autumn will allow students to do this and much more. SoundJunction has been developed by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and was commissioned by Culture Online, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It's aimed at 13 to 18-year-olds, but its appeal goes far beyond.

"SoundJunction will give young people a good opportunity to get their teeth into music and find out how it works," says Ben Sandbrook, project manager.

Three composers were commissioned to write pieces for SoundJunction. James MacMillan composed a work for a 14-piece orchestra; Tunde Jegede's contribution combines West African, soul and reggae elements, and Jason Yarde's piece is a mix of contemporary jazz, big band music and urban grooves.

"You'll be able to deconstruct the music with SoundJunction," says Ben Sandbrook. "For example, if there are two melodies in separate sections, you can pull them together to hear the impact. You'll also be able to take sections or elements and create your own music out of them."

There are also plans to develop a system that will analyse your selections and use them to feed back appropriate content. SoundJunction will also be packed with articles using audio, text, graphics and video. All of the composers have been interviewed and you can learn how their pieces developed, from the original idea to writing the score, from selecting the musicians and instruments to recording.

Around 38 different instruments are used in the three pieces and all of the musicians have been interviewed. If you're listening to a saxophone, for example, and you want to know more about the instrument, you just click on the link and will be taken to an article on the saxophone, which includes a description of how it works and what the various components do. Click another link and you can see an interview with the saxophonist, who will tell you everything from how to get into the music business to developing technique. There will also be articles covering the fundamentals of music, music and its cultural connections.

Teachers will also be able to use pre-prepared learning trails. "There will be a lot of content on SoundJunction and teachers may wish to focus on certain themes or elements, so there will be trails they can use to set their students on a prescribed route," says Ben Sandbrook.

Teachers can also create their own learning trails. The people behind the resource hope that it will encourage collaboration between schools, so students will be able to upload their compositions to an online forum. It is also hoped that teachers will use the forum to share learning trails they have created.

Schools in England, Scotland and Wales will receive a free CD-Rom containing the SoundJunction materials.

* www.soundjunction.org

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