The successful Music Matters formula is well-known in secondary classrooms - clearly-structured projects for each half-term, differentiated performing and composing materials, bright books for pupils and supportive advice for teachers. The new version of the course aims to take account both of the revisions in the national curriculum Order and, more optimistically, of the anticipated growth in skills and understanding among pupils emerging from primary schools.
There are some organisational changes to the familiar format. Specific lesson plans and recommendations on timing are replaced by teaching notes that give detailed suggestions but leave teachers more space to make flexible decisions for their own classes. A new CD-Rom contains a sequencer file for each project, allowing pupils to fulfil ICT requirements, as well as guidelines on acivities within a MIDI environment. But the heart of the scheme is still interrelated work in performing, composing and listening.
The six Year 9 projects in the evaluation pack feature additive rhythms (5 and 7), the use of a ground bass, vocal chants, Samba Batucada, the development of a motif and gospel singing. The repertoire is broad and engaging. Classics include the Pachelbel Canon (always revivable, however hackneyed), the opening of Beethoven's 5th Symphony and Shostakovitch's 8th Quartet. From around the world there is vocal music: from Thrace and Syria, a traditional Xhosa piece and street music from Rio. Contemporary work includes a film score from Michael Nyman as well asCoolio and the Pet Shop Boys.
Reading notated samba rhythms or transcribing gospel harmonies - turning characteristically aural events into written symbols - might not suit every taste, though it could be argued the activity points towards the universality of musical experience. There is enough here to ensure that the course receives the same welcome in schools as its predecessor.