World of difference
LISTEN TO THIS By Christine Richards Saydisc Records. CD or cassette and book. Pounds 19 available from Chipping Manor, The Chipping, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos GL12 7AD.
THE COMPOSER'S HANDBOOK By Bruce Cole Schott Educational Pounds 30.
Michael Burnett reviews a clutch of books that trumpet the teaching of world music
Why teach world musics? Because they and their traditions can be exciting catalysts for musical work in the here and now, says Jonathan Stock in a recent article in the magazine, Music File. His World Sound Matters provides more than 50 examples of potential catalysts from 35 countries, from Japan to Algeria, Ethiopia to Canada.
Supported by two CDs, the title comes with a photocopiable question book containing nearly 30 lesson units aimed mainly at GCSE and A-level pupils. Each unit offers two sets of listening exercises. The first is designed to be worked on while pupils listen to a recording; the second requires pupils to analyse a detailed transcription of a piece, included in a separate pupil's book.
The teacher's manual consists of explanatory texts that explore the cultural background of a recording, give information on the genre from which it stems, discuss the main instruments involved, and provide a structural analysis of the piece. The manual also contains guidance on resources, a world map showing countries of origin, and notated, and other, illustrations.
"Teachers cannot be expected to be skilled in all the musics of the world, but they must be sensitive to many," says Keith Swanwick in his book, Music, Mind and Education. By including materials from so many countries and regions, World Sound Matters is a useful resource for those who wish to become sensitive to a wider range of musics and improve their teaching of them.
As an ethnomusicologist, Jonathan Stock is well placed to understand the need for coherently presented listening materials which are manageable in the classroom. It is a pity, though, that he has not provided more "catalysts for musical work" in the shape of related creative and performance activities for pupils. Such tools would have enabled pupils to act upon, rather than merely receive, the wonderful range of musical experiences explored in World Sound Matters.
By contrast, Roy Bennett's Fortissimo! fully integrates listening, performing and composing activities. Also suitable for use with upper-secondary pupils, this interesting and manageable course provides 30 chapters exploring rhythm, chords, words and music, texture, programme music, and the nuances of the music curriculum. Roy Bennett examines a variety of genres - from 13th-century Western classical to Judith Weir and blues, rock and jazz - from more than 15 countries.
The package includes teacher's and student's books, and four CDs. The meticulously detailed teacher's book includes photocopiable masters; students get a full-colour, well-written, 250-page book with charts, musical examples and illustrations. The CDs incorporate specially recorded tracks and commercially available work.
That Roy Bennett's expertise is in Western classical music is evident, both in the bias towards that genre and in the comparative insecurity he displays when grappling with the stylistic objectives of popular genres such as rock and blues (dominant seventh chords are fundamental, not incidental, to blues, for example). However, Fortissimo! will prove valuable to secondary teachers at key stage 4 and beyond.
The 28-page Saydisc sampler, Listen to This, looks at a selection of pieces both from the Western classical tradition and from a variety of countries, including Uganda, India and Chile. The text, aimed at key stage 3 pupils, is not always accurate, but it does offer some limited ideas for music-making.
Now that composing is an integral part of the national curriculum and GCSE syllabuses, more pupils are discovering the delights of musical creativity. As Bruce Cole writes in the introduction to The Composer's Handbook: "It can be enormously satisfying to fill the air with sounds you have made yourself. " His 230-page book, aimed at 11 to 18-year-olds, sets out to provide a DIY guide to composition.
The publication is divided into five sections, the first two of which contain games and other ideas for beginners. The others provide information and exercises on topics such as harmony, tonality and atonality, and form within Western classical music; and structure and arranging in pop.
Sensibly, Cole advises his readers to "listen to as much music as you can" and "compose for real people playing real instruments"; his whole approach to the subject is pleasingly open-minded.
The Composer's Handbook will prove a boon, particularly to those teachers with doubts about their ability to manage composing effectively in the classroom.
Michael Burnett is a principal lecturer in music at Roehampton Institute