A time to blow your own trumpet

22nd September 1995 at 01:00
LIVELY MUSIC 7-9. Age group: 7-9. By Wendy Hart.

Ringbinder, Pounds 6.95 + VAT. 435 80978 4 2 Heinemann, Halley Court, Jordon Hill, Oxford OX2 8EJ

Near the start of this admirable new work Wendy Hart introduces the theme andante maestoso of: "a pessimistic view of the resources normally available in a primary school". She elaborates on the subject a few pages further on with a reference to "dusty tambourines, rusty triangles and battered snare drums". Whatever may develop in the next 250 pages, it's evident that we begin in clear-eyed practicality.

This is a large loose-leaf ringbinder, part of Heinemann's attractive and invaluable series of resources for hard-pressed teachers. It takes its place by the side of Music Matters, reviewed here earlier this year; the volume for the second half of key stage 2 is due to appear in early 1996. Once again, we are given a complete course to cover the whole battery of curriculum requirements. We have nine units of work for each year, each in turn divided into four detailed and progressive lesson plans.

These units have a musical rather than topic-based theme. Either approach can be successful in the classroom, provided teachers know what they're about and enjoy what they're doing. The plans give a very clear statement of what lessons are expected to achieve. Sometimes this is very specific, such as linking symbols to sound and translating sound back into symbols. Elsewhere, it's ample but rightly vague; children exploring timbre will uncover "a huge number of possibilities" for each instrument.

This consideration for the teacher emerges as a constant flow of good advice. There are valuable descriptions of what you can hear on the accompanying cassettes, how the music works and how it came to be made. There is sensible discrimination between possible outcomes, as with two enjoyable games, one of which tends to produce "opposites" of loud and quiet, the other of which favours transitions between the two. There are many suggested questions for appraisal, and a helpful list of the kinds of answers that might arise. This all provides reassurance for those who want it.

More free or confident spirits might find the degree of prescription a bit limiting. "All the musical decisions are taken for teachers", could mean that adults don't learn by the side of their pupils, or that some kinds of discovery never get made. Children will sometimes find augmented fourths or suspensions if they're able to explore without the rigorous time limits suggested (all too realistically) here. An outline for creating a class rondo will work well and bring much enjoyment too, but the elaborate rubric reads rather like an EC directive. Much more contemporary music could be added to the listening suggestions; why not Lutoslawski's Third Symphony for the "metal" component or Ligeti's Aventures for the section on vocal improvisation?

But this is to look askance at a work into which much exemplary thought has gone. The price is by no means as challenging as it looks, when so many of the sheets are photocopiable and the plans cover nearly 80 weeks of lessons. Children using this scheme will think about their own musical purposes, just as they are invited to think about Gab-rieli's and Deb-ussy's in the ex-amples given here.

Their teachers will be encouraged by Wendy Hart's invigorating attitude, expressed in a flurry of phrases like "golden opportunity", "try to see" and "they will enjoy". As they all sing Praetorious's "Viva la musica" in the last week of Year 4, that sombre opening theme will have been transformed, Whitehall and Westminster notwithstanding, into a jubilant allegro vivace.

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