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Something to sing about

Hugh John reviews a free schools CD featuring Coldplay

Found Sound - Exploring Songwriting is a free CD-Rom that has been distributed to all UK secondary schools. The disc contains six sections featuring contemporary artists and shows them in performance, rehearsal or discussion.

Their work covers a wide range of genres and styles that is sure to engage most viewers. Performances range from the inexperienced - Fazakerley working on a song in a rehearsal studio - to Murray Lachlan Young's assured reading of his poem, "The Language of Music", and Coldplay - a real coup this - filmed by students from mid-Cheshire FE College during a soundcheck and rehearsal before a gig.

If it's DJ-ing you want, check out the section on ShineMC where he demonstrates the construction of his song, "Edge a Li'l' Closer" on his sequencing software at home, and runs through the lyrics with vocalist Leane. Finally, Statik Sound System, Pete Webb and Giles Butcher talk about the importance of working together and demonstrate how found sound - in this case a random sample recorded on minidisc in New York - can be the inspiration and starting point for a song.

The CD has been three years in the making and material was tested by Jonathan Savage, senior lecturer in music education at Manchester Metropolitan University's Institute of Education on his students.

Found Sound is supported by a website that includes artists' biographies and a set of teachers' notes that can be viewed online or downloaded as a Word document.

The notes are not meant to be complete lesson plans but supplementary material that can be incorporated into schemes of work to provide a fresh and stimulating resource for music education.

They include textual analysis of the lyrics and poem on the CD and suggestions on how the material can be related to the curriculum requirements. These notes should be updated regularly.

Found Sound is a stimulating collaboration that reflects what Jonathan Savage calls "an increasing movement in music education towards inclusion where notions of musical success being defined solely in terms of instrumental performance are being replaced by a broadening of musical styles, processes and practices within which pupils can be encouraged to succeed in the classroom".

The only criticism of Found Sound that could be made is its "gentrification" of the music business. Who are all these well-scrubbed, articulate, nice, polite young people?

But then, a Grimm's tale of the musician's life - unmentionable ailments, fixing the Ford Transit in the middle of winter at 4am, cancelled gigs, dodgy promoters, filthy rehearsal studios, dangerous substances, band arguments, serious debt - would put anyone off a career in music. wouldn't it?

Schools that have not received a copy of Found Sound can contact Karen Watts at Yamaha Music, which has co-produced the CD with the university.

Tel: 01908 The Virtual Learning Environments Foundation, a not-for-profit company working with a range of partners to develop e-learning packages

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