Ringing in their ears;Primary
This popular series is now completed with materials for children too young to be entitled to what remains of the national curriculum. The publishers know which way the Blunkett blast is blowing, and the words literacy andnumeracy feature prominently on the back cover. It's good to report, nonetheless, that music exists within as an autonomously good thing.
The structure of the book follows a familiar pattern. There are 50 units, each lasting about 30 minutes, which can be taken in any order. Each unit is clearly defined in terms of resources, activities and follow-ups. Each is also linked to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's desirable outcomes. They come with sensible advice on topics such as classroom organisation, pitching the voice and use of hand gestures.
The units cover all the elements of musical language. Texture is explored through vocal and instrumental games. Pitch is investigated through two-note singing patterns and developed through song-lines with varying contours. Much of this work is shaped through an intelligent and enjoyable exploitation of nursery rhymes.
They have survived because they are amenable to such energetic treatment as well as being fun to sing and play. Ten Green Bottles involves cymbal crashes for "accidentally fall" and a range of vocal timbres for the bottles, as well as providing the obvious lesson in subtraction. Humpty Dumpty has quiet wall-sounds, a dramatic fall and rhythmic riding, and, by playing the music in reverse, children can put Humpty together again.
There are also many new songs, and extracts from the musics of central Africa, China, Japan, India and Australia. It would be good to have more from these countries and to hear some of the music of today. But the book justifies its claim that the desirable outcome of creativity isn't mentioned only because it suffuses the whole work.
Tom Deveson is music advisory teacher for the London Borough of Southwark