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Television: pick of the week

Howard Goodall's Big Bangs C4 Mondays, May 12 to June 16, 9.30-10.20am

Howard Goodall's two series, being shown as material for history and expressive arts, revolutionise the standard curriculum by putting music at the centre of cultural history. Big Bangs starts with the achievement of Guido Monaco, the 11th-century Italian monk credited with inventing the modern system of musical notation, and thereby determining the whole development of western music. With the help of choristers from Salisbury Cathedral, Goodall demonstrates how music used to be handed down in the days of plain chant, before it could be recorded on paper, and shows convincingly why Guido's invention was needed. The other five programmes look at opera, the discovery of equal temperament, the piano and the development of recorded sound.

Howard Goodall's Great Dates C4 Wednesdays, May 14 to June 11, 10-10.50am

Howard Goodall pops up again, like an overgrown choirboy, to offer some more turning points in musical and cultural history. The first great date is 1564, when the earliest surviving violin was made. The film starts well before that, with the political, religious and cultural crises of the early 16th century. Martin Luther favoured church music in which the whole congregation could participate; the Catholic church, fired by counter-Reformationary zeal, almost banned music altogether. Goodall makes a trip to Trento, scene of the extended Council of Trent - "the corporate jolly of all times" - and pays tribute to Palestrina, whose work is said to have convinced the delegates that music deserved its place in church. Other Great Dates include: 1874 (Wagner), 1791 (Mozart) and 1937 (Shostokovich).

GCSE Bitesize: Maths

BBC2 Monday, May 12 and 19, 2-4am; Sunday, May 18, 3-5am You can't get away from exams, though, at this time of year. As usual, GCSE Bitesize offers help in number, calculation, measures, algebra, space and shape, in small chunks, with revision and exercises, in a subject that is a stumbling-block for many. A bit of time spent on these programmes, together with the website at, could make a lot of difference.

The English Programme C4 Mondays, May 12 to June 16, 10.20-10.40am

Ten Irish writers set out to explain their craft in a way that is relevant and interesting for 14 to 16-year-olds: playwrights, screenwriters, journalists, fiction writers and poets give practical tips on how to tackle these different genres, and describe how they started on their own careers.

They include Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted, journalist Jenny McCartney and poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill.

Programme notes are available on the Channel 4 website at www.channel4.comsecondary.

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