Music - From darkness to light

19th October 2012 at 01:00
Brighten this gloomy time of year with a musical 'transition'

The false ceiling in my classroom is low and the lights in it are dim. In winter it can be a game of positioning music stands and whiteboard to catch all the available beams. (In summer the feel of the whole room changes, with light pouring through the walls of windows. Music-making takes on a more upbeat tone.)

The seasonal journey of shade and sunshine can be reflected in the music-making of any classroom. The creativity of young people as they respond to their surroundings and communicate through the language of music is always powerful and significant. Through their own music they speak in a way that moves beyond words on a page. This is what builds musical community and lights the creative flame.

Why not inspire your pupils to reflect their environment in music? "From darkness to light" can work well as a theme. Begin by exploring the aspects of music that can create a more sombre sound and conduct a piano workshop to uncover these techniques. You could include an exploration of minor keys including harmonic, melodic and natural minors. Some modes (such as Dorian) lend themselves well to such a theme.

Link this to sustained notes, slow tempo and melodies that pivot around a lower register. Present pupils with the challenge of unpicking how these different aspects come together and their cumulative effect - how sharp are their listening skills?

Now it is over to the pupils themselves. Working in groups, can they create a musical transition to light? They will need to think about a foil to the more sombre sounds from the piano workshop.

For those struggling with this task, hint cards can be centrally placed for them to draw from. These could include ideas such as major keys, two-part textures, gradual crescendos, perfect fifth intervals, a fast tempo and ascending scales. Bridging the gap from darkness to light in music as part of a class performance could be the final flourish. This brings confidence, enjoyment and a sense of achievement.

Creating a positive learning experience is crucial at this or at any time of year. It is what music is all about. Bringing young people together, giving them confidence and providing a model to follow is one way to set them on this road.

Anthony Anderson is head of performing arts, a coach, a mentor and an outstanding facilitator at Beauchamp College in Leicestershire

What else?

Check out an inspirational video from Ofsted showing the difference music can make.


Help pupils to structure their own "transition" compositions with TES Resources user ipod's theme and variation worksheet.


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