Sounds familiar;Reviews;General;Primary;Teachers as learners

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Music in the Early Years. By Susan Young and Joanne Glover. Falmer Press pound;12.95.

Music in the Early Years. By Aelwyn and Lesley Pugh. Routledge pound;12.99.

Two books with the same title present no cause for regretful rivalry, as they are excellent and enlightening in complementary ways.

Susan Young and Joanne Glover begin with small chil-dren and their development. Their principle is that "careful observation of what the child is really doing guides teaching".

This requires great responsibility from adults. The book is full of helpful marginal sign-posts such as "Look for" and "Listen for", which lead on to injunctions such as "Go on to" or "Intervene", to allay the anxieties of those who aren't sure what to do. With its clear paragraphing and astute use of bullet points, this makes a practical handbook for work in the nursery or classroom.

It combines an unsentimental belief in creativity with a firm view that a non-linear subject is best served by recurrent opportunities. There are chapters on games and movement with dozens of fruitful examples. A particularly useful section on talking about music deals with the appropriate occasions for specialised and ordinary language, for terms that are onomatopoeic, metaphorical, comparative as well as advice on when not to talk at all.

Further chapters on composition, the use of the voice and instruments, on notation and musical investigations are equally happy and supportive. The authors believe in the endless patience of children who are truly motivated. Their refreshingly intelligent and helpful book provides 150 pages of powerful motivation for adults who want to share in building worlds of sound.

Aelwyn and Lesley Pugh start with the nature of music itself and with the recent political and organisational influences on its place in learning. They are discerning exponents of theoretical principles and of the research which has been done to justify them. At the same time, they are undogmatic, making the point that no theory should be taken on trust, "including those presented in this book".

They pay generous tribute to the agenda-setting work of Keith Swanwick and June Tilman on children's musical development and to the findings of Coral Davies on the invention of song. A bibliography gives the reader guidance not merely to research articles but to many available published practical courses.

The authors have a good line in dry wit. The comment that the voice is "portable and cheap" has a fine edge of thought-provoking accuracy; an ironic observation on "squeezy bottles masquerading as maracas" should be reflected on by all those setting up a sound table.

There is much sound advice on singing, on the stages of composition, on how to make listening to recorded music more than mere electronic baby-sitting, on musical literacy and an interesting chapter on movement.

These books offer much hope and sustenance to those who continue to define the realm of the imagination.

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

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