Global grooves;Reviews;General;Secondary

24th April 1998 at 01:00
CAMBRIDGE ASSIGNMENTS IN MUSIC: Music Worldwide. Elizabeth Sharma. Cambridge University Press. pound;6.50, CD pound;22.50.

This addition to a growing series sets out to do the impossible, but does it quite well. No one can encapsulate world music in a 70-page book, not even with a 70-minute CD as accompaniment. However, Elizabeth Sharma has marshalled her examples, explanations, pictures and assignments in a thoughtful and electric manner.

The book is aimed directly at students, with phrases such as "you will hear" or "try playing" but is written uncompromisingly for fluent readers. A paragraph contrasting Arab and western music uses technical terms from both traditions. While jadwal, diwan, as well as pentachord and quarter-tone are all glossed, there will be some pupils who are put off before they try getting voices or strings to produce octaves of varied intervals.

The book's overall theme is similarity and difference, which it explores across several continents. There are imaginative solutions to the difficulties that might arise if specialised instruments are not available. For example, steel pan techniques are adapted for the xylophone, while a rudimentary gamelan is designed for glockenspiels and bottles filled with water.

There are many brief but telling sections of historical and technical exposition, backed up with clear illustrations. A useful chart contrasts scales, intervals, notation and texture in European and Indian music.

The legend is retold of the founding of the Chinese scale by the cutting of bamboo pipes in lengths relative to a fundamental bass. Examples are given of how a Japanese piece for koto and shakuhachi might have been influenced by Western examples.

The CD has more than 50 tracks, sensibly cut for classroom use. Specific concepts are made clear to the ear, and the richness and pleasure of music-making is celebrated. The enthusiasm of the Tunisian singers and percussionists of the two versions - traditional and "remix" - of the bhangra song Hey Jamalo should make classes not just better-informed but happier as well.

Tom Deveson is music advisory teacher for the London Borough of Southwark

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