The first of Howard Goodall's programmes on great moments in musical history pays tribute to the 11th-century Italian monk, Guido Monaco, a figure whose major achievement, a system of written notation, we tend to take entirely for granted.
But, as Goodall learns, he is not forgotten in his native Arezzo. Before Guido, the monastery choir had to learn hours and hours of plainchant by heart.
This may not have been keeping them from more important duties elsewhere, but it had drawbacks, which Goodall demonstrates with the help of the choristers of Salisbury Cathedral: even trained memories are fallible and a tune can end up as something quite different after it has gone from boy to boy around the cathedral cloister. Guido made it possible for amusician to reproduce a melody that he had never heard, simply by reading the notes.
Goodall's chatty,faintly sardonic presentational style, abetted by some clever visuals and camera work, ensure entertainment as well as information.
In later weeks, he will be looking at opera, equal temperament, the piano and recorded music.
Howard Goodall's Big Bangs. Channel 4. Sunday March 12, 8-9pm. SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT.
An appealing new series for seven to 11-year-olds, based around the diary of an imaginary late Victorian woman, provides information for understanding what life was like in the 19th-century and inspiration for a variety of forms of writing, comprehension and role-play activites, together with some work in art or design and technology, suggested in the accompanying teachers' guide.
In the first two programmes, we followed Maggie through her schooldays in the North and an unhappy experience in service, from which she escapes to look for work in London. She finds it, this week, in one of the most notorious trades employing women at the time: a match factory where conditions were harsh and workers' health was at risk from phosphorus.
Eureka! A Victorian Diary. Channel 4. Tuesdays (rpt Fridays)until March 31. 9.30-9.45am.
BEST OF THE REST.
The BBC's Omnibus opens a new season with a programme on John Ruskin (the anniversary of whose death falls this year), contrasting his dynamic public career with the unhappiness of his private life.
One of those Eminent Victorians whose names may be familiar to many but whose works are studied by few, Ruskin is remembered chiefly as the champion of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites against contemporary opinion. The film explores his philosophy of art and recalls the breadth of his talents and interests, providing a useful introduction to the centenary exhibition at the Tate Gallery.
Omnibus: John Ruskin, the last visionary. BBC1. Monday March 1310.40-11.30pm.
The title of the Channel 4 series 'Write Away!' (Mondays 10.15-10.30am to March 29 rpt Wednesdays 9.45-10am) was incorrectly given as 'Dream On' in last week's School Spotlight section