Hitting the right key stage

7th February 1997 at 00:00
SOUNDS OF MUSIC YEARS 3-6 By George Odam, Joan Arnold Alison Ley, Stanley Thornes Teacher's book Pounds 27.50 and Pounds 30. Set of 3 CDs Pounds 70.50. Posters Pounds 29.38 Complete key stage 2 set Pounds 514.50

CAROUSEL PRIMARY MUSIC Levels 3-6 By Joan Child, Richard Crozier and Ken Story. Ginn. Group discussion book Pounds 19.99. Teacher's resource book Pounds 16.50. Cassette Pounds 8.75 + VAT or CD Pounds 14.99 + VAT Photocopy masters Pounds 15.99+VAT Songbooks Pounds 11.99 (pack of 16)

Two music titles that won standing ovations last year have returned with equally good performances aimed at an older audience.

As the supplicatory tribes offer their oblation to OFSTED, one of their trickier tasks is to dedicate the scheme of work with fitting rites. Should it be organised around topics or subject-specific concepts? Hecatombs of local advisers lie slaughtered and silent. Can the publishers be trusted to ensure that what lies inscribed on the page will match what is heard (and should be heard) in the classroom?

Both of these music series were given an enthusiastic welcome in The TES when their materials for key stage 1 were revealed a year ago. It is good to report that there is no falling off of quality in what is being offered to eight to 11-year-olds. Sounds of Music continues to straddle both the approaches cited above: sometimes concentrating on subjects that will be explored during many parts of the school day (Since the 1930s, Winter), more often on musical ideas that follow on from earlier discoveries (Pictures in Sound, Chords).

The characteristic starting point is singing or listening, and here once again the resources are good: well researched, well recorded, and catholic. It's especially pleasing to hear music of the late Toru Takemitsu, a jewel-like, pulseless extract from "From Me Flows What You Call Time", here used as an incentive to compose a piece to be called "Time Flows From Me Too".

Music from the British Isles includes a rousing version of "Wor Geordie's Lost His Penker", the macabre "Three Craw", and the theme from Coronation Street played by a brass band. They are all excellent opportunities to laugh, sing, and recognise timbres and structures. Music for historical study includes a specially composed example of Arthurian battle-music, with the opportunity for children to make their own, using 24 for foot soldiers and 34 for horsemen.

The imaginative use of both CD speakers for contrasts of voices and accompaniments adds an extra dimension to a series which, once again, can be called "likeable . . . reassuring" and full of "admirable clarity".

The stimuli in Carousel are both visual and musical. The bright A3 pictures range from Victorian Christmas cards to Hartmann's sketch of the Great Gate of Kiev which inspired Mussorgsky. It would be preferable to have more colour photographs and fewer rhythmic grids; teachers can, after all, make these quickly and cheaply with felt-tips once the idea is shown.

The listening materials are hospitable to contemporary sounds, ranging from Showaddywaddy and Miles Davis to Paul Patterson and David Bedford. The special welcome here is for an extract from Giles Swayne's remarkable "Cry", used here with contrasting settings of words by Faure and Bernstein to promote pieces using extended vocal techniques.

Children using Carousel will develop a formidable vocabulary, from crotchet and samba to semiquaver, rubato, ceilidh and gospel. If their teachers are confused along the way, they can look at the "Help" inserts for advice on what to do when embarrassed, frustrated or overwhelmed by the demands of national curriculum music. Thoughtful observations, like welcoming hall-times with Year 3 (a chance to get out of the classroom) and being more circumspect with Year 6 (a large space for things to go wrong) show the authors derive their prescriptions from practice.

The imperative mood of most of their verbs - "playlisten explainshowdivide" - does not betray an aggressive approach. Whether the children are singing "Love's Old Sweet Song" (Molly Bloom's favourite) or creating their own Gesamtkunstwerk, they will be given clear guidance on making enthusiasm and understanding feed one another.

Tom Deveson is music adviser for the London borough of Southwark. Key stage 1 materials for Sounds of Music were reviewed on May 10, 1996, and for Carousel on June 23, 1996

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