The role of Musical Imagination in the Knowledge-based Curriculum

Keynote given to the Listen, imagine, Compose gathering in the CBSO Centre Birmingham on Tuesday, June 25th.

Were you here at last year’s Away Day? I found it thought provoking and I certainly felt envigerated as I walked towards New Street Station for my cross-country journey home. But as the station came into view I was struck by the foil cladding on the station’s exterior. There was brilliant sun that day and New Street Station was ablaze with mulitiple reflections playfully defying easy comprehension. My imagination was in play and I wondered how that had come about. But that is past and here I must address the idea of the musical imagination, an idea central to the Listen, Imagine, Compose imagination? Are there helpful ways of thinking about this?

David Hargreaves and Alexandra Lamont report a potentially important theoretical advance in this respect, and one supported by the growth of neurological evidence. Imagination can be thought of as the basis for all musical perception and production …musical imagination, [which] consisting of internal cognitive representations, is at the core of both musical perception and musical production …’ [1]

Imagination is the essence of the creative perception of music. Imagination is at work in the activities of composing/improvising, performing and listening. Are we surprised by this? Probably not. Musical imagination is at the heart of our musical life. So, I started thinking, with the support of my imagination, about how we might encourage the musical imagination of our students. My starting point came from something I observed on last year’s day here. 

We had heard from composers that they had come to know ever more about their ways of working. Awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes we call meta-cognition and this we think our students should acquire. Without this they may well be doomed to eternal stagnation in developing and progressing as composers. That is, without knowing about their emerging and developing processes of making music, those that are productive and those that aren’t, little will be developed. So, some questions that might start the meta- cognitive process with our students.

Did you know you can imagine music?

Can you tell me about your musical imagination?

Did you know that in playing a musical instrument and in singing you are using your musical imagination? 

Next time you have an ear-worm, catch it. Before it wriggles away freeze it if you can. Play with it. It could be the start of something. Don’t throw it away. How will you preserve it, make use of it?

Next week come to your music lesson imagining some music. What if we put all the music that is being imagined into our musical pot?

In our music lesson next week we will do a lot of musical imagining.

A hundred years ago

In 1922 psychologist Marie Agnew carried out a novel experiment – ‘A comparison between the auditory images of musicians, psychologists and children.’ Marie writes:

‘By auditory imagery (usually called mental hearing) we mean the ability to hear sounds in imagination and memory to some extent as if they were physically present to the ear.’

Marie’s chief interest was in the strength of the musical image. In her tests subjects were asked to recall the final notes of the American National Anthem in imagination. One interesting finding was that unlike the musicians, the psychologists resorted to a range of movement strategies (finger pointing, arm waving) in order to recall the music).

So let’s all imagine the last five notes of our national anthem. Now play with those five notes. Play them slowly on a muted trumpet in the style of Miles Davies.

But as Hargreaves and Lamont show it would be mistaken to restrict musical imagination to only sound that which is not physically present.

Interestingly, only a handful of philosophers have attempted to grapple with the concept of the human imagination. In his review of what philosophers have arrived at Kieran Egan suggests that ‘Imagination is the capacity to think of things as possibly so; it is an intentional act of mind; a source of invention, novelty.’ [3]

Egan goes on to propose that ‘an imaginative person is one with the ability to think of lots of possibilities, usually with a richness of detail.’ But wait a minute, there is an important priviso. 

There can be no imagination without knowing something, without knowledge. We couldn’t have imagined the last five notes of the national anthem played by a muted trumpet in the style of Miles Davies without knowledge. Are we ever without knowledge? My three month-old grand daughter Mabel seems to me to be making and drawing upon knowledge of a kind. Mabel is not without her sucking and grasping schemas.

So what about this knowledge-based curriculum?

I think it helpful to know where it comes from? Wasn’t the curriculum always concerned with knowledge?

In 2014 there was a shift in official policy with the stating of a freshly conceived aim for the curriculum. It is interesting to compare it with the previous curriculum. 

The curriculum of 2008 should enable all young people to become:

• successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve

• confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives

• responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society. [4]

And now:

‘The national curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledgethey need to be educated citizens. It introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said, and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.’ [5 (my italics)]

It is only now, six years later that the full significance of this statement is being felt in our schools and increasingly by our music teachers. There is talk of bodies of knowledge, disciplinary knowledge, knowledge domains and knowledge organisers and with Ofsted’s new framework for inspection on the case. What sources might we look to in order to better understand this shift of emphasis? I suggest three.

1.The liberal-humanist tradition (The best that has been thought and said in the world…)

In Matthew Arnold’s essay Culture and Anarchy (6) he proposed that culture be the means ‘of getting to know, on all the matters that most concern us, the best that has been thought and said in the world’. 

Arnold introduces the idea of cultural touchstones, those works, and he was thinking chiefly of literary works, the great works of the literary canon, that were considered essential to securing civilisation. 

In the music national curriculum there is reference to ‘the best of the musical canon’. [7]

2.    Core Knowledge (cultural literacy; cultural capital)

In 2009 working in the Faculty of Education in Cambridge I was invited to be a part of group to meet with the then shadow minister for schools. In his possession was a heavily ear-marked copy of a book by E. D. Hirsch titled Cultural Literacy. We were asked what we thought about knowledge. How would you have answered?

The shadow minister’s thoughts were bound to the writing of E. D. Hirsch who maintained that an educated citizenary would be one that would share in the kind of understanding that would be required to understand the cultural references found in a broad sheet newspaper. For this to be achieved a curriculum would need to be clear about essential items of knowledge that would make the literate citizen. On New Street Station I would be able to sit with strangers and while not discussing Wagner’s Tristan chord  we would know and have experienced say Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Miles Davies’ Kind of Blue, probably not Stormzy. To know the best of the musical canon provides us with cultural capital. [7]

But there is a third source. This comes from the sociologist Michael Young and it connects in various ways with 1 and 2. 

3. Powerful Knowledge

Those who acquire powerful knowledge can see beyond their everyday experience-it is not reliant on context;

It frees us from living in the present; 

This knowledge is acquired in specialist educational institutions, staffed by specialists i.e. schools;

It is organised into domains with boundaries and these domains are associated with specialist communities, music being an example;

There is a strong boundary between out of school knowledge and that acquired within school. [9]

So, all in all we are now living with a freshly created discourse with potent propositions to persuade us of a course to follow. 

Knowledge is power;

Some knowledge is more powerful than others; 

There is deep and there is shallow knowledge;

There is disciplinary knowledge and this can be ordered and sequenced;

It is a knowledge-based curriculum that will provide for cultural capital, social cohesion and social justice.

For this dominant discourse to work there needs to be one way of thinking about knowledge. The knowing of this and the knowing of that. That this is a trumpet, a muted trumpet, for example, is a form of knowledge easily set down as an outcome of learning and a contender for the knowing of essential facts. In the case of music the tendency, let me emphasise tendency, is to make a list, a mono-cultural list of listening and performance repertoire that can be placed into a logical sequence. This is to the exclusion of what is contemporary, diverse and unsanctified by the dominant tradition. Creativity is viewed as an aspiration and deferential to the best that has been thought and said rather than being of the essence, a life force drawing us to music and driving it along. In the dominant scheme composing music is contingent upon knowing a lot of particular things. 

Are there other ways of thinking about knowledge, about what it is to know music?

Yes, there are many. My choice today is to invite Aristotle to give a lead through his three-part model.

1. Episteme

This is theoretical knowledge, a pure form of knowledge detached from practice (contemplation about  theories of music, for example). 

2. Techne – a form of craft knowledge-knowing how to make things – a reasoned productive state of mind (musical skill and knowledge are a unity).

3. Phronesis, leading to breakthrough thinking and creativity and enabling the individual to discern and make good judgements about what is the right thing to do in a situation. Practical wisdom. (Knowing how to make and do music well here and now.)

There is no hierarchy here. Theoretical knowledge is not at the top of the mountain. Each form is distinctive and has an integrity of its own. Neither techne nor phronesis are reducible to the theoretical.

And of course it is though composing music that we can come to know music in all three ways proposed by Aristotle. And a key part of this will be through the tasks we set bearing in mind that our coming to know will flourish with the musical imagination in play. [10]

Task setting and releasing the imagination

Project 12 of Paynter and Aston’s Sound and Silenceis titled ‘Short Sounds and Long Sounds’ is an exploration of the ways in which instruments have limitations as well as versatility in respect to duration.

Using instruments (but not voices), explore the production of long and short sounds. Which instrument is able to produce the longest sound? 

Shall we imagine a very long sound, a very short sound? 

What technique will give you the shortest sound? 

What possible techniques can we imagine?

Concentrate on the relationships between sounds of different length and silences of different length. 

Notes of any pitch may be used: it is the ‘shortness’ or ‘longness’ of the sounds which matters. Create a piece of music out of these sounds and silences.’ [11]

In accepting this exemplar the teacher of composition is given great responsibility and required to exercise a considerable amount of judgment. There is no script to follow. Just how much support will be needed? What will the teacher offer themselves by way of a model? How much information (know how) will be shared to enable work to commence, to spark imagination, to arouse curiosity? What kind of classroom climate will need to be engendered for motivation and musical impulse to be stimulated, for experiment and exploration to be embarked upon, for boundaries to be set in a way that both constrain and at the same time release imagination. 

In the example above there is an invitation to explore but there are constraints. 

Thus, in accepting Paynter and Aston’s assignment we have entered the truly secret garden of what is a complex dialogue between teacher and pupil, pupil and their medium, and the creation of musical knowledge.  

What are you now imagining? What is this classroom like? What will the music emerging be like?

‘Imagination is the capacity to think things as possibly so …’

Three Questions

How do you make clear to your students the significance of imagination?

How can task setting with its interplay of freedoms and constraints open up space for imagination?

Can recognizing musical knowledge as existing in a variety of forms be helpful in reconciling a knowledge-based curriculum and imagination? 

Notes:

[1] Hargreaves and Lamont (2017)  The Psychology of Musical Development. Cambridge University Press. Page 49. 

[2] I regret to write that I have lost touch with this seminal paper. I am sure it is out there somewhere. 

[3] Egan, K. (2001) Imagination in Teaching and Learning. Routledge.

[4] See www.qca.org.uk/curriculum

[5] See 3.1 in https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4/the-national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4

[6] Arnold. M. (1869) Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Cultural and Social Criticism. John Murray.

[7] See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-music-programmes-of-study

[8] See, for example https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20041597

[9] See internet references to Michael Young and Powerful Knowledge.

[10] See for example http://infed.org/mobi/aristotle-on-knowledge/

[11] Paynter and Aston (1970) Sound and Silence; Projects in classroom music. Cambridge University Press. Page 53.

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In Search of Music Education

Paper given at @TrinityLaban#TeachingMusician.  April 10, 2019.

You will have gathered that my perspective on music education comes from within the school. My heart is in a Key Stage 3 classroom. Now, to speak of music education is to speak of something that is much more than classroom music. Yet it is music in the school that continues to claim a central hold on the idea of an entitlement for every child and young person to be exposed to a music education. And earlier this morning, through the evolving thought of Christopher Small, I managed to stay within the bounds of what music as part of a general education for children and young people might be like, how it would need to ask the kinds of questions raised by Small: what kind of thing or activity is music, what is it for, what is its significance in the social and political life that we belong to, how is it emeshed in human culture, culture thought of as ways of living, ways of relating and making sense of our existence.

What I didn’t do earlier was to speak of official policy making, the role of the state in making a music education for all children and young people, in determining what is taught and how it is taught and for what reason. So now as counterpoint to what I set out earlier I will sketch something of the moving landscape that has been music education in recent years, highlighting aspects of official policy and responses to it that have led to those changes that have brought fresh opportunities as well as daunting challenges. I do this before giving some thought to the ways in which a music education might be more than learning to sing or play a musical instrument and expose some problems with the latest of offical pronouncements about music education as practiced in our schools? Or if you like, I ask what kind of subject is music? Is it a subject? In this way I may or may not be able to bring to the surface some fresh thinking about the state we are in today and some possible futures. 

Music Education and the Public Sphere 

In recent years all those of us who invest our lives in music education have become part of what is referred to as the music education sector. There is a uniqueness about this, for no other subject of learning and given a place in the education of all children and young people are deemed to constitute a sector. We hear nothing of the history education sector, the mathematical education sector, for example. 

The designation of the term sector is normally given to ‘a distinct part or branch of a nation’s economy or society or of a sphere of activity  … ’ [1]

Music education then is big stuff, and thought to be culturally, socially and economically significant.Furthermore, we hear increasingly of its transformational powers, its redemptive qualities and its role in furthering the cause of social justice. 

We also hear of its rapid growth as a participatory activity. In my home city of Ely, a small city, the now three community choirs flourish with one claiming an international reputation and thenthe Rock n Roll Ukulele group in its first year attracting more than 100 new members, most of whom have never played before. [2]

The sector’s umbrella organization The Music Education Council envisages: 

‘a situation where everyone in the UK – from 0 to 100+ is able to:

  • Learn about and through making music; 
  • Enjoy opportunities to make the music of their choice in a variety of settings; and
  • Experience the benefits that arise from making quality music’ [3]

Here is music education viewed as a vast arena of activity where, like sport, participation is the watchword and thought of as a facet of human flourishing. 

For our government’s part, and since the enactment of a National Curriculum for music in 1992, music has been recognized as a foundation subject as part of a general education. And governments of all hues have become acutely aware that music is something of a special case. Politically, music education needs to be attended to; for apart from anything else, there are both minor and major celebrities ever ready to speak loudly in music education’s name. Sir Simon Rattle and Pierre Boulez, we recall, had played a part in settling the disputes surrounding the making of a national curriculum for music in 1992. [4]

Into the Age of Measurement

But the John Major years that followed the creation of a National Curriculum saw attention paid not to music but the nation’s literacy and numeracy, and there was concern about the nation’s moral decline and significantly there was attention paid to assessment structures, that is, the measurement of educational outcomes, leading to an intensification of school inspectionand accountability. For the teaching force this meant that professional judgment could no longer be trusted if standards were to be raised. Standards were and remain closely linked to a core preoccupation of government – the need to demonstrate that attainment in subjects relevant to economic performance is high and rising, that is, those subjects designated as core – English, Maths and Science, for it is here that it is believed that the global race is won or lost. [5]

Music Education and the Political Will

With the New Labour government came expressions of ‘achieving full potential of all’, the individualization of the learner citizen, and for Tony Blair there was to be a Cool Britannia. Culture, media and sport minister Chris Smith noted:

‘The opportunities to explore the best contemporary culture and to express individual creativity are two vital components of any education system committed to developing the full potential of all its pupils.’ [6]

And in the Education White Paper 2001 Minister of State for Education David Blunket made a bold commitment in respect to music. There would be opportunity for all to learn a musical instrument under the flag of Wider Opportunities.

The main aim of this programme is to create opportunities, over time, for every KS2 pupil to receive a sustained period of tuition on a musical instrument or to receive specialist vocal tuition. The learning experience will allow every child to have first hand experience of live music, group singing, ensemble playing, performance and composing. The programme in schools should look to ‘normalise’ instrumental and vocal learning – so that every child considers him or herself to be a musician.[7]

I recall that amidst 1960s optimism Wilfred Mellers, John Paynter, Christopher Small had called for all to be thought of as artists, for all were endowed with creative capacities. To be as an artist was a part of who we are. And John Blacking in his groundbreaking study of the Venda people of Southern Africa had asked ‘How musical is Man?’ [8]Even those who were deaf danced to the music. And now all shall be musicians, an ambitious expectation placed upon music education.

What followed was in Howard Goodall’s view a music education renaissance. [9]Much energy went into the making of a Music Manifesto [10]promising a new joined-up policy for music education. 

In due course funding followed, a £32 million settlement, was directed towards enabling children of primary school age to receive instrumental tuition as part of a group, there was the Sing Up campaign which aimed at putting singing at the heart of every primary school and there were pilot projects replicating the principles of El Sistema. At the same time Musical Futures funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation disturbed the stagnant pond that was secondary school music, seeking to address young people’s disenchantment with formal music education by introducing informal pedagogies into the classroom. The New Labour years were coming to a close with music education was on the move. The Conservative government in waiting was awake to this.

In the year leading up to the 2010 British General Election the Conservative Party began taking a conspicuous interest in music education. The then shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, an enthusiastic dancer of the Lambada, wrote in glowing terms of the work of a primary music teacher near to parliament in Pimlico. He also told of his own music education where at age 11 he had been introduced to Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And there was talk of bringing back orchestras and choirs in every school as a priority. [11]In place of the New Labour rhetoric of creativity, innovation and the significance of contemporary culture, the voice of cultural restoration came to the fore accompanied by a commitment to new levels of academic rigour and a reaffirmation of the authority of academic disciplines. ‘It is the study of academic subjects that our nation’s economic prosperity depends upon’, said Michael Gove, and, ‘Music is an enriching and valuable academic subject. Research evidence shows that a quality music education can improve self-confidence, behaviour and social skills, as well as improve academic attainment in areas such as numeracy, literacy and language’. [12]

A ringing endorsement indeed.

But as we were to learn, some academic subjects are to serve economic prosperity more than others. 

A National Plan for Music – the renaissance gathers momentum

Michael Gove had read the music education script of the New Labour years and without much ado Darren Henley, the then controller of Classic FM, was commissioned to review the situation. A National Plan for Music followed and was seen as an opportunity to reshape music education through identifying ways in which fuller musical participation could be achieved, how music education could become more inclusive, how inequalities of provision across England could be addressed. [13]

It was recognised that schools cannot do everything alone and that they need the support of local musical structures. Thus the vast majority of funding would be invested in music hubs. Music Hubs were to be the agents of change. 

Core aims

§  Instrument teaching and playing in ensembles;

§  Clear progression routes

§  Regular singing, choirs and vocal ensembles

Extension aims

§  Continuing Professional Developmentin supporting schools to deliver music in the curriculum. 

§  Instruments: Provide an instrument loan service, with discounts or free provision for those on low incomes. 

§  Experiencing music: Provide access to large scale and / or high quality music experiences for pupils, working with professional musicians and / or venues.

However, publication of the plan prompted significant criticism for its almost exclusive focus upon the primacy of compulsory performance training. With its suggested methods, ensembles, and music all based firmly in the western classical tradition, the Plan was thought to be prescribing a limited vision of musical learning based almost solely upon training in traditional modes of performance.[14]There was no mention of musical creativity, composing or the critical engagement with music. And special interest groups were quick to speak. No mention of music in the Early Years, no mention of music technology and no serious attention to the longstanding deficit in primary school provision, that is, in the education and training of primary school music teachers. And while a key principle was progression understood as movement to ever more rewarding ensemble performance, there was no thought given to the route ways to music in Higher Education.

The vision of the National Plan fed directly into the revised National Curriculum for music. As did a less than positive Oftsed report on the state of music in our schools. Reviewing evidence from inspection between 2008 and 2011 it was noted that: 

The quality of teaching and assessment in music also varied considerably. Examples of memorable, inspiring and musical teaching were observed in all phases. However, in too many instances there was insufficient emphasis on active music-making or on the use of musical sound as the dominant language of learning. Too much use was made of verbal communication and non-musical activities. Put simply, in too many cases there was not enough music in music lessons. [15]

‘Not enough music in music lessons’ – a gift to the headline writers.

Music itself as the dominant medium of learning and sometimes expressed after the manner of Modern Foreign Language teaching in terms of ‘music as the target language’ became a popular slogan in attempts to revitalise classroom practice. And I note on my twitter feed just this week

“In a class of 60 minutes, the students should be playing for 59 minutes.” ~ J. Chalmers Doane #talklessplaymore

The Call for More Rigour: the National Curriculum and Exam specifications revised

A reformed national curriculum in 2014 emphasized the development of talent and musicality, performance training, the reading of staff notation and the notion of greatness and the musical canon.Throughout the curriculum’s documentation there was emphasis on the concept of ‘the best’ as defined by the western classical tradition: ‘the best in the musical canon’, ‘the works of the great composers and musicians’, and ‘high quality live and recorded music’. [16]The political Right’s longstanding call for cultural restoration which had failed to bite in the making of the first National Curriculum in 1992 was now resurgent. [17]

In league with a reformed National Curriculum came revised GCSE and A Level Music specifications with the official call for more academic rigour. The proposed revisions of GCSE music proved contentious with a large swathe of music teachers pointing out the unsuitability of the proposals for many of their pupils. Social media saw debate about the purpose of Key Stage 3 and its relationship to GCSE. Was Key Stage 3 to be a time in itself or preparation for GCSE that only a minority of pupils would pursue? Is the house still divided? [18]

GCSE specifications in music were compared with those in Art and Design that, unlike Music, was to be assessed wholly on the basis of course work. 

In the case of Music, Ofqual, the examinations regulator, proposed ‘that marks for non-exam assessment in GCSE, AS and A level music qualifications should be 60 per cent, reflecting the balance between the practical and theoretical elements in the subject content.’

Were there no theoretical elements in Art?

Some music educators had long envied Art and Design’s easy complementarity of making and critique and the way that critical and contextual understanding was made manifest through the pupil’s processes of art-making. Why was music not conceived of in this way?

Different arts subjects have different histories, different trajectories. But could Music Education learn anything from Art Education? 

Fragmentation of the school system

But now twenty years after the first National Curriculum and twenty-five years after the inception of GCSE Music the landscape of schooling had dramatically changed. Now a national curriculum was no longer strictly an entitlement for all children and young people age 4-14, for schools designated as Academies and Free Schools there was a freedom granted from the National Curriculum. 

And in recent developments there are Multi Academy Trusts [19]that formulate their own particular brands of music education. Academies have sponsors and sponsors frequently have particular musical ambitions for their schools and their pupils and for wider musical culture. And some of these are considerable. Where this takes the form of heavily sponsored programmes of instrumental provision, it is not uncommon for all pupils to receive two music lessons weekly in years 7, 8 and 9.  Over the past five years I have observed how this works in the Isaac Newton Academy in East London Academy. The school’s sponsor is a Big Band enthusiast. All pupils are equipped with a big band instrument and each week in their big band lesson three music teachers enable the class to work in sections and all together to make big band music. There is another music lesson each work designated core and of a general nature and complementing the band lesson. The school’s first GCSE group, a third of the cohort, have achieved well. In West London is the West London Free School, dedicated to a classical liberal education, and like the East London school provides two music lessons weekly at Key Stage 3 and now with half of each cohort achieving well at GCSE music. No Big Band here but orchestras and choirs. And now there is the philanthropy of Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber whose Music in Secondary Schools Trust believe that young people’s lives can be transformed through classical music education. We offer free musical instruments, high quality teaching, and performance opportunities to over 3,700 students to improve their educational and social outcomes’. [20]     

These then are the new torch-bearers, but news comes to me from my twitter feed:

‘Daughter returns from school after receiving mock GCSE results today (in August style mock ceremony) with news that many are now required to drop PE, French, Art etc in order to have additional hours on Eng/Ma. Is this normal???’ 

And another tweet. This one from Gert Biesta:

‘When children become a liability for their school’s performance, education has come to an end.’

In too many places music and quite unlike the London schools I have drawn attention to, music may be no more that a part of a carousel, a once three weekly experience, a half-termly experience and no year 9 experience. [21]

So is the future of music education to be built upon philanthropic models? Might such beacons of flourishing that I have highlighted spread their enlightenment? At the present time such developments would seem to merely exaggerate unequal levels of provision as school performance measures shape curriculum priorities in the majority of schools and a general decline in provision. 

Music Education: State of the Nation

This reality is taken up by a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, The Incorporated Society of Musicians and the University of Sussex expressed ‘concern about the crises facing music education in England in particular… the overall picture is one of serious decline. If the pace continues, music education in England will be restricted to a privileged few within a decade, and the UK will have lost a major part of the talent pipeline to its world renowned music industry.’

The report makes eighteen recommendations. 

But hard on the heels of this report has come

The Music Commission and its vision for the music education sector

Launched by ABRSM in July 2017 at the Barbican Centre and chaired by Sir Nick Kenyon, the Commission brought together new scholarly research and recommendations for policy direction, guided by the expertise and experience of the Commission panel. Its final report earlier this year called for significant changes to the way that governments, music organisations, schools, teachers, parents and learners think and talk about progress and progression in musical learning.’ [22]

The Music Commission takes up the dominant narrative of our times, that of ever-greater and sustained musical participation for all, and understood as the source ofmusical identity, feeling musically competent and being identified by self and others as a musician. David Blunkett, we recall had promoted the idea that all shall be musicians. And now a persistent rhetoric. [23]But the key idea here is progress and progression.

Making Sense of Progress and Progression

So we are now asked to distinguish between progress and progression with progress, I assume, meaning the accumulation of musical learning as a part of ongoing musical experience and instruction – and progression as the longer view of finding a pathway that sustains a commitment to learning ensuring ongoing musical participation and in the Commission’s words, ‘the realisation of a musical life’.  From learning to play a musical instrument as part of First Access Schemes [24]to ensemble membership to mature musical participation and perhaps, just perhaps, enrolment on a higher education course in music.

For the music teacher in school the notion of progression until fairly recently had meant the movement of their pupils to the next National Curriculum sub-level and if inspected the requirement to demonstrate rapid progress in learning over a time scale of twenty minutes. The age of levelling and expectations of such observable micro-progress may have past but not the demands for data showing progress. And now we hear of children age 11 placed on their flight path to desired levels of attainment at age 16. [25]

At a fairly recent Music Education Council Seminar Mark Phillips HMI confessed to not knowing what progression in musical learning was other than the music teacher’s capacity to place worthwhile musical material/experience before their pupils. 

A Model Music Curriculum

The setting up of an expert group to devise a model music curriculum by School’s Minister Nick Gibb has caused more than a little turbulence. So much so that a letter has been written to the Department for Education protesting.

This protest has gained some media attention. [endnote needed]

A central issue in this is the question of who controls the music curriculum? And what kind of process should be adopted in the making of a music curriculum? And, now to the point, what part should a government minister play in this process?

John White writing more generally about the matter maintains that:

‘The proper vehicle for democratic control is a Curriculum Commission at arms length from ministerial interference, made up from interested sectors across society chosen for their impartiality.’ [endnote needed]

White is particularly concerned about arriving at a well-reasoned set of educational aims free from political interference.

The first aim of the national curriculum devised in 2013 appears to have been written by the barely hidden hand of the then minister of state for education, Michael Gove. Since that time the hand of partisan politics has become ever more transparent and now intensified with Nick Gibb setting in place the enactment of his music curriculum through the voices of hisexpert panel. [endnote needed]

In their book Education and the Struggle for Democracy: The politics of educational ideas Wilfred Carr and Anthony Harnett trace the ways in which the educational system became the work of the New Right in British politics during the 1980s. [endnote needed] However, even this analysis didn’t forsee the way individual minister’s personal agendas and zealously enacted convictions would underline this ongoing struggle for democracy.

John White’s expectation that interested sectors play a part in the democratic and inclusive process of curriculum making would seem reasonable.

In its place we now see the interests of selected sectors advanced to satisfy the minister’s personal agenda and thus diminishing hope of impartiality.

An organisation will be appointed to draft the model music curriculum which: 

supplements, but is consistent with, the programmes of study in the National Curriculum; 

ensures that pupils acquire essential subject knowledge such as musical notation, pitch, tempo and timbre and an understanding of the works of great composers;

sets out the detailed subject knowledge which pupils need to acquire in a clear sequence of steps that should be taught at each key stage; 

provides a structure for vocal and instrumental practice and performance; 

is consistent with best practice.

Is it that, in the myopic concern for achieving progress and progression, sight has been lost on a different idea, musical development as seen in the changing ways in which pupils exhibit musical behaviours, the changing ways in which they think about it, talk and write about it, think about it critically? 

Will all becoming musicians include learning to think about music critically? Could a music education be more that learning to play a musical instrument? Is it something more than musical participation? 

The Lost Dimension of the Music Curriculum

The English National Curriculum for Music 2013 opens with a ‘Purpose of study’ statement. Here we read ‘As they [pupils] progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music…’ [26]

I wonder what is meant by ‘critical engagement’?

To be critical is to be thoughtful, discriminating, analytical, reflective, evaluative, knowing, insightful and a symbol of becoming wide-awake to the world; musical experience calls for this. It calls for a growing awareness of what music is, how music is used, how music is given meaning and how meanings are continually negotiated and re-negotiated. It calls for a recognition that music has ‘human interest’; social, cultural and political. Without criticism music ceases to be a subject of significance.

I will present a classroom scenarios. 

Thinking differently in the time of Tsunami and the Arab Spring

As an undergraduate David had been schooled in critical musicology. With this in mind the opportunity was grasped to test out ways in which a class of year 8 pupils could be challenged to think about music differently, how their habitual ways of thinking about music might be disturbed. A sequence of music lessons with composing at the centre were presented to pupils as an enquiry structured by the question: what does music mean? David provided his class with what he referred to as provocative scenarios. His intention was to stimulate the student’s curiosity and questioning, as they embarked upon their composing.David writes about making music together as a whole class:

‘All students sat in a circle playing barred instruments. The first third of their piece  we created used the Japanese semi-tone major 3rd scale on B (B-C-E-F-A). Against the backdrop of a pianissimo rolled E, an F was gradually faded in and out, exploring the initial tensions of the tsunami. The B-C was then added to emphasise the nervous mood. All the notes gradually underwent a crescendo and were sustained fortissimo for a few moments before a sudden silence. A similar process was repeated, this time using a second, more blues-like Japanese scale. The familiarity of the sound led one student to interpret this section as the reaction of the international community.’[28]

And now another pupil has the idea of using the two scales at the same time. And so the lessons proceed in dialogic fashion, with the teacher skilfully leading the way provoking thoughtful questions that challenge assumptions about music and its meanings. And now the introduction of the composition task: to make a soundtrack for a montage of images of the recent Egyptian revolution using the Japanese scales. Why Japanese scales, some pupils ask? More dialogic work follows, with more thinking nurtured by the teacher’s gently teasing responses.

Neither scenario is commonplace in our school music classrooms and they may well offend the school of ‘talklessplaymore’. The kind of contextual richness in David’s classroom is not typically found, complexities are rarely embraced and the demands of school assessment structures frequently bring about the early closure of what is there to explore. 

Critical engagement thought of as arising from a critical pedagogy is of course not a lost dimension of the curriculum, it is a yet to be one and one that might provide a fresh synergy between music in the school and music in higher education. 

Final thoughts

In the twenty five years since the making of a National Curriculum for Music, music education has established a strong public persona and politicians have learnt to engage with it, seeking to support it andto ideologically shape it. From the promotion of innovation and a move to greater cultural democracy under New Labour, Michael Gove and subsequent Conservative policy has placed the neo-conservative nation-culture-social cohesion view of culture to work alongside neo-liberal marketisation and the fragmentation of the system.  And now a model music curriculum. Not a statutory music curriculum. Yet, it will be interesting to see how it comes to be marketed, how it will be food to the ever expanding world of music education consultants, oganisations that will be quick to offer new model music curriculum packages. Will it help to bring about that longed for entitlement to a good music education for all children and young people? Will it counter the forces that rage against it? Chiefly a system of schooling, despite rhetoric to the contrary, that through it high stakes accountability measures, remains directed towards the making of the citizen as a unit of economic production.

 


[1]http://www.bing.com/search?q=sector%20definition&pc=cosp&ptag=C26N0822D010817A316A5D3C6E&form=CONMHP&conlogo=CT3210127

[2]  https://www.facebook.com/RockingUkulelesEly

[3]  http://www.mec.org.uk

[4]  See ‘From the Nervous Nineties towards ‘’a long overdue renaissance’’’ in Rainbow, B. and Cox, G. (2006) Music in Educational Thought and Practice, The Boydell Press: Woodbridge.

[5]  The rhetoric of the global race emerged during the 1990s and became firmly attached to education.

[6]Smith, C. (1999) Forward to NACCE (1999) All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Cultural Education. London: Routledge.

[7]

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/355105/Schools_Achieving_Success.pdf

[8]  Blacking, J. (1973) How musical is man? University of Washington Press.

[9]See ‘From the Nervous Nineties towards ‘’a long overdue renaissance’’’ in Rainbow, B. and Cox, G. (2006) Music in Educational Thought and Practice, The Boydell Press: Woodbridge.

[10]See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3863449.stm

[11]  From a now deleted website

[12]  Sources lost 

[13]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/180973/DFE-00086-2011.pdf

[14]  See, for example, Spruce, G. (2013) ‘The National Music Plan’ and the taming of English music education. Arts Education Policy Review, 114/3, 112–118. 

[15]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/413347/Music_in_schools_wider_still__and_wider.pdf

[16]DfE (Department for Education) (2013), The National Curriculum for England,London: DfE. Available online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-music-programmes-of-study

[17]See Shepherd, J., and Vulliamy, G. (1994), ‘The Struggle for Culture: a sociological case study of the development of a national music curriculum’. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 15 (1): 27-40. 

[18]This is a reference to a review of music education by Keith Swanwick in 1977. See Swanwick, K. (1977) ‘Belief and Action in Music Education’, In Burnett, M. (ed), Music Education Review. A Handbook for Music Teachers, Vol. 1. London: Chappell. The division was between child-centred and subject-centred ideologies of the time. A similar tension may still be prevalent.

[19]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/458632/governance-in-multi-academy-trusts_Sept2015.pdf

[20] https://www.teachingpersonnel.com/news/andrew-lloyd-webber-funds-music-education-62082616355

[21]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39154242

[22]http://www.musiccommission.org.uk

[23]  It is common to see on social media images of children being assigned musician identity. 

[24]http://www.nmpat.co.uk/work-in-schools/first-access-whole-class-instrumental-lessons/Pages/what-is-first-access.aspx

[25]  The tracking of pupil’s progress is a dominating concern for schools in a high stake system of accountability.

[26]DfE (Department for Education) (2013), The National Curriculum for England,London: DfE. Available online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-music-programmes-of-study

[27]This account of a music lesson in a school in rural Essex.

[28]This is taken from David’s in-depth study undertaken as part of his PGCE course.

Not another model curriculum dream.

No. I was there and wide awake.

This was the meeting of Music Mark members at the Music and Performing Arts Centre in Northampton. It was a consultation on the government’s model music curriculum.

The discussion was framed by the idea of four areas of music learning: skills, knowledge, understanding and experiences.

The exercises given sought to elaborate on the first three of these and to place them in a nine year trajectory through the key stages of the school curriculum. There was no discussion of the category, experiences. This seems rather odd, for without experiencing music there can be no musical education. I will return to this category later.

Discussions were lively and satisfying with some valiant attempts at conceptual clarification. It’s always good to know how each other are understanding things.

You see, I have come away, perhaps like some others, wondering about the categories that were presented.

But first I must say that it is to be praised that a model music curriculum will insist on the centrality of musical knowledge and the growth of the musical mind in the musical education of the nation’s children and young people. Without this there can be no music education.

Over the past fifty years a distinguished body of scholarship has contributed to understanding the nature of musical knowledge and how it is to be distinguished from musical knowledge reduced to matters of fact, a set of abstractions, true statements and ‘knowing that’, often referred to as propositional knowledge, the paradigm example being scientific knowledge and thought of as theoretical knowledge (Aristotle’s episteme).

A science curriculum understandably will be made up of the ‘knowing that’ variety. A music curriculum will differ in a significant respect. Musical knowledge as delineated through the scholarship of L. A. Reid, Swanwick, Scruton and Philpott and Spruce, for example, gives significance to the varieties of musical knowledge – knowing how, experience knowledge, knowledge by acquaintance, embodied knowledge, for example. Importantly none of these varieties is reducible to ‘knowing that’. 

Conceptually, musical knowledge can not be expressed soley or even predominantly through a conception of knowledge that is of the ‘knowing that’ variety.

But further still, Roger Scruton shows how knowing how can usefully be thought of as being interchangeable with skill. 

So no skills-knowledge dichotomy.

And as L. A. Reid shows, understanding is existentially interchangeable with knowing, with knowledge.

Those of us with extended musical educations will know people without such learning and who have very fine levels of musical understanding gained through, well, experiencing music. So what about the experiences category that is presented as an area of musical learning?

Is this the experience of music gained through singing, playing etc., through the makings and doings of music? I don’t know. Just what is understood by experiences? Is this a case of L. A. Reid’s experience knowledge?

Let us hope for greater conceptual clarity in due course.


Critical engagement and the model music curriculum


‘As they [pupils] progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music…’ [1]

I wonder what is meant by ‘critical engagement’? And why no mention of this curriculum element in the minister’s model music curriculum imperatives? [2]

To be critical is to be thoughtful, discriminating, analytical, reflective, evaluative, knowing, insightful and a symbol of becoming wide-awake to the world; musical experience if it is to be educative calls for this. It calls for a growing awareness of what music is, how music is used, how music is given meaning and how meanings are continually negotiated and re-negotiated. It calls for a recognition that music has ‘human interest’; social, cultural and political. Without criticism music ceases to be a subject of significance.

Of course, there are minimal ways of understanding critical engagement as well as deep, rich and challenging ways.

Critical engagement can be inside the act of music making, where moment by moment judgements are made, as well as along a continuum towards detached theorising. Whatever, critical engagement calls for thinking and feeling.

It would be possible to construct a list of one hundred examples of good practice in critical engagement. A taxonomy could be made.

But perhaps most obviously playing with music, improvising on it, composing it and re-composing it opens up a dynamic space for critical engagement.

In this example, simply a music teacher being playful with material that leads us to Pete Seeger, the political activist.

activist.https://jfin107.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/1635/

Perhaps Pete Seeger is one of those ‘great composers’.

I am intrigued to know whether the model music curriculum will have a well articulated conceptual framework?


Notes:

[1] https://www.rhinegold.co.uk/music_teacher/government-reveals-more-details-about-model-music-curriculum/?fbclid=IwAR1BqYeSsNpKUjv6kNTknrfVo1LVLJf3fB9-H-3K_JjEJ0fYRssuOj8Pe30

[2] DfE (Department for Education) (2013), The National Curriculum for England,London: DfE. Available online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-music-programmes-of-study

Thinking about teaching music and the Creative Orchestra

ON MARCH 10, 2019 BY JFIN107IN UNCATEGORIZEDLEAVE A COMMENTEDIT

The paper Thinking Philosophically About Teaching is by Gert Biesta and Barbara Stengel who from the outset make clear that philosophic enquiry is a form of research. [1]

The paper sets about examining what teaching is and should be. [2] 

In this way much of the current debate about teaching, reduced as it is to a binary choice between teacher as facilitator and teacher as direct instructor, becomes puerile and just so much chatter. Just scroll down to my previous blog to appreciate how inadequate and destructive such thinking is.

A key point in Biesta and Stengel’s argument is that teaching is relational. They write:

‘Teaching is always relational in which there are ‘… dimensions of power and desire invoking a vision of moral interaction made concrete in the authority of the teacher.’ [1]

We see this below in the example of a music teacher teaching music. 


Just one icon of music teaching. [3]

‘Mid-day Saturday and 23 young people aged 8-13 have come to make music together in the large hall come gymnasium.

Chairs are being set out in a circle. It is the Creative Orchestra. There are violins, saxophones, clarinets, pianists, percussionists in equal numbers; harpist, bass guitarist, acoustic guitarist, cellist, trombonist and flautist. And a teacher who I sense will be a quiet presence with a clear voice of authority and who knows a lot about attunement.

Still encumbered with bags and not all instruments are ready. A quiet word to move bags to their place and we are into a round the circle warm up, ‘remember to keep it flowing’: the leader sets the round in motion with a simple four beat rhythm clapped, class copy then the first solo from Peace, all copy and so on yielding 23 rhythmic ideas, ever more intricate and calling for ever more attentive listening.

And that’s how the session moves forward – everybody learning to listen, having ideas, making suggestions, having thoughts; everybody with a part to play in what is made together today with the leader ready to offer stimuli, and who leads how I had imagined, gently attentive to fresh thinking, new possibilities. The stylistic generator is a group of Samba grooves 

good_picture

And then there is a counterpointing pentatonic melodic framework set out in the centre of the circle; D E G A B represented by five spaced objects.

E has a big box, for E is to be our tonal centre. The class are shown how by stepping between the tones the melody is made and how a repertoire of signals calling for variation in durations and dynamics can be used. And before long the class are rehearsing how to make notes really short, notes that grow louder and then as players volunteer to lead, so more possibilites emerge to be thought about.

‘Any suggestions, thought, ideas’, asks the teacher. Some suggestions come fully formed, some convoluted, some tongue-tied inviting others to articulate more clearly before reaching their final form in the music. What a long way words can be from music.

An important part of the process is the assembling of the material into a work in progress that we can all be inside for a few minutes. Then more thoughts, ideas, suggestions.

The class are relaxed about all this. They are learning to be still, thoughtful, circumspect, wondering, some just being, barely becoming so it seems. The harpist seems happy enough to be there with her harp. Time is not rushing on. There is none of that ‘fast pacey please the inspector stuff’ here, rather staying with the moment, indwelling the music. Rapid progress is a stranger here, slow learning a virtue.

Ibrahim take a lead and tells us that we can think of the music as being like a journey. Ideas are flowing faster now with contributions from Peace, Oscar, Neoma, Jo and Jessie. More leaders in turn take centre stage and confirm this way of working, expand tonal and rhythmic possibilities calling for music made with intention as well as deliberation.

The rhythm section is strong, rarely lose their grove. Frederick takes time out to teach Joe how his cabassa part should go and this is in the middle of a six minute playing.

Now Oscar suggests combining four ideas to add to the advancing sophistication of what is not actually a piece of music, rather a series of sketches that might become a piece.

The teacher, for the first time mindful of the time, for there is a time to end the session, says, ‘seven minutes to go’ and Oscar leads the final excursion.

‘It’s a journey to an unexpected island’, says Naomi.

We are now well into the afternoon on this dull Saturday in June, it’s time to go home. Chairs away. With repose and a simple satisfaction, so it seems, the children go their way.

I wonder what will happen when the choir join the orchestra next week?’

Notes:

[1] https://www.google.co.uk/search?source=hp&ei=I_iEXN-qN8K4kwWzx7KQCw&q=thinking+philosophically+about+teaching&oq=Thinking+Philo&gs_l=psy-ab.1.3.0l6j0i22i30l2j0i22i10i30j0i22i30.5158.14682..18866…0.0..0.71.926.15……0….1..gws-wiz…..0..0i131j0i10.bEF0zwNDJQs 

In the present time it is easy to imagine that educational research is the fiefdom of empirical studies where cognitive psychological theories of learning underpin what can be known and what can inform what works in the classroom. 

[2] As part of the argument six teacher icons are presented: Plato’s dialogic questioner, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s responsive (and autonomy-seeking) tutor, John Dewey’s democratic designer, Paolo Freire’s liberator, Jacques Ranciere’s critical egalitarian, and Nel Nodding’s carer.

[3] A version of the teaching sequence featured in the blog The Creative Orchestra. https://jfin107.wordpress.com/?s=tHE+cREATIVE+oRCHESTRA

Coming to know music richly

ON FEBRUARY 17, 2019 BY JFIN107IN UNCATEGORIZEDLEAVE A COMMENTEDIT

A while ago I was pleased to discover Jane Parker’s rich description of a scene from the early years. This is scene 1 below. In her blog Jane goes on to analyse what is thought to be going on here – the theory of instruction that lies behind the teacher’s actions. (See Jane’s Blog http://www.teachwire.net/news/ill-hum-it-you-play-it-music-education-in-early-years)

Thus I was prompted to celebrate five scenes from the music room, each showing a music teacher’s advanced music teaching skill. Each teacher with a well-developed theory of instruction. And inside this there lies something difficult to capture in words – the manner of the transactions, the temper of the exchanges, their playfulness, the feel of the moment by moment narrative, the anticipations engendered and the satisfactions and frustrations experienced and, above all else, the coming to know music, a way of knowing that reaches far beyond knowing that and knowing how. 

Scene 1:

The practitioner sits on a chair facing her preschool children who are gathered on the carpet in front of her. She takes out a puppet called ‘Songstar’ and hums the first phrase of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ as she moves Songstar’s mouth. The children excitedly shout out, “Songstar wants to sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle!’” She asks the children if they all have their ‘twinkly fingers’ ready. She then sings (on her starting note) “Ready, steady, let’s all sing.”

The children and adults begin singing together, while simultaneously opening and shutting their hands eight times as they quietly sing the words of the first phrase. The song continues, but then the practitioner stops just before the word ‘sky’. She smiles and listens as a few children very quietly sing “sky”.

She joins in again with the rest of the song, but this time stops leading the song at the very end, allowing the children to sing “are”. She then asks the children if they have magic lips like Songstar, and gets them to have a go at miming the first line of the song – only instead of singing, they’ll clap each word so that they’re essentially ‘Clapping the rhythm’. She sings, “Ready, steady, let’s all clap” and leads the children in clapping out the words of the first line, miming the words while at the same time moving the puppet’s hands in a clapping motion.

Scene 2:

We gather in a circle. With measured poise and calculated tempo Hannah strikes her drum and we start connecting to the regular 1 2 3 4 pattern, learning to co-ordinate our cries of Hey and Hoe, while together making our first music of the session.

Breaking from the circle we walk the beat. And now a different timbre to perceive while conserving the beat – the sound of wood on wood from the drum’s rim used as the signal to walk backwards. Walking backwards I almost collide with Theo who politely tells me, ‘look over your shoulder’.

Now Hannah asks the children to provide themes from the recent Halloween-tide so that our walking has a distinctive character. In turn we become Spider-Man, vampires, skeletons. For skeletons I lean forward reach out my hands and spread fingers as wide as I can. When the music stops eyes close and Hannah asks us to locate particular children. ‘ Where’s Joshua?’ We point, and yes, how did we know that?

We are getting to know each other.

Back in the circle and a little commotion eased through a call to breathe out and a calming shhhh from Hannah that we all partake in.

Scene 3:

They form a circle, and following introductions, the teacher creates a movement-sound sequence figuratively faithful to motives from Mahler’s Symphony No 5 first movement, the ‘Trauermarsch’.

The musical material transmitted is Mahler’s. There are 15 minutes of intensive working where the teacher gives and the pupils give back, where the teacher insists through repetition that all get it. The transaction is already playful and relational. Like catching balls moving fast between all within the circle, the pupils catch melodic fragments as well as rhythmic ones.

‘You really need to get hold of this material, this is very important’, says the teacher.

Now with a voice of enchantment and mystery the teacher reveals Mahler’s use of the song ‘Der Tambourg’sell’, a song about one of Mahler’s ill-fated ‘children’, a drummer boy condemned to execution and his long walk to death, the ‘trauermarsch’.

The pupils want to know what it is that the boy has done that deserves such a fate. However, this is to remain a mystery for the time being. The work proceeds until groups have created their own ‘trauermarschen’ using Mahler’s material.

Scene 4:

Ready to go now and Katy, with a lively good humour, sets about transmitting the musical material.

calmly persisting,
patiently repeating,
incrementally extending,
imperceptibly accumulating,
few words,
sometimes recoiling,
always advancing.

And as the rhythmic texture enlarges, and as we together master the rules of engagement, we seek our own solutions to the skills-challenge equation and find flow and fluency.

In the ongoing interplay between Katy and the group the locus of control is passed back and forth. Yes, there are times of impersonal learning where the acquisition of content and skills dominate but then times of personal learning as each gains control, self-regulates, gains agency, no longer shaped by the teacher, but shaping self.

The highlight of the Samba workshop comes when there are sectional breaks and when the side-drumming quartet fizz with virtuosity. I think we are by now all feeling a bit virtuous.

Scene 5:

Now it’s back to reggae which started last week and ‘Three Little Birds’. First, instrumental warm up time, then some rhythmic and pitch calling and copying, including that clave rhythm and of course lots of reggae rhythms and melodic twists. Into sectionals with pupils mostly directing each other in their making and playing, and sometimes teacher directed assisting movement into a self-sustainable groove. Lilian is having a whale of a time on keyboard. There is a powerful rhythmic reggae idiomatic feel to her playing and making, and she is vocalizing at the same time. Amarose on drum kit is quickly into the groove and like others, once in the groove, and as a consequence of repetition, new material is made. Tshian asks me how to play A on her trumpet and we have a short discussion about pitch and embouchure. Perhaps unsurprisingly the keyboard, bass guitar, drum section get well-grooved first and ready to welcome back the rest who with some ease join the music. We have ten minutes of whole class playing with the teacher leading the ensemble round a circuit of possible structural combinations without a break.Advertisements

Interdisciplinarity in Year 6 and I do get to the Blues.

ON FEBRUARY 1, 2019 BY JFIN107IN UNCATEGORIZEDLEAVE A COMMENTEDIT

I was part of a Year 6 classroom this past week and noted how the teacher was working in an interdisciplinary manner. On the day of my visit the children were engaging in extended writing, drawing upon imagery and symbolism from their current topic. Their work was bounded by the rigours of English, a subject of the school curriculum. Their focus was on writing, the expression of thought and feeling through writing using the conventions of writing. 

Learning through their topic, WW2, was embracing an interdisciplinary approach. In History there was study of the period 1936-1944 in England, and in Literature the reading of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia and Anne Frank’s Diary, and in Art images from the Blitz had been transfigured through the children’s artistic imaginations. So, you see how their learning was ‘involving two or more academic, scientific, or artistic disciplines.’ [1]

The teacher was making a clear distinction between extended writing in English and extended writing in History. Historical writing called specifically upon historical knowledge and skill. The children’s study of English, Art and History had depth.

But what was of particular interest was that this learning involving two or more disciplines was yielding an unplanned conversation.  The children were asking questions, wanting to understand more, relating what they were learning to their present circumstances. Class discussions were becoming ever more important to the children.

Interdisciplinarity is a gift to the primary school teacher. Unlike the secondary school teacher, the children are with their primary teacher a good part of the time. The whole curriculum is their oyster. In this case it would seem that there is rich-learning in progress, that there is powerful knowledge being engaged with.

Ah! wait a moment because the term powerful knowledge lies within the fiefdom of particular parties and is to be understood in a particular way. I was using it casually.

There is in the promotions of powerful knowledge an insistence upon the integrity of subjects and their rootedness in what is referred to as disciplinary knowledge. And that this integrity demands depth through a lengthty induction into the subject’s character, its conceptual structure and body of knowledge. It is only when a worthy level of mastery of this is reached that interdisciplinarity is countenanced.

Here https://www.newvisionsforeducation.org.uk/about-the-group/home/2012/05/14/powerful-knowledge-too-weak-a-prop-for-the-traditional-curriculum/

John White challenges the powerful knowledge thesis and makes reference to the question of interdisciplinarity. Do focus on this if you can.

In general, attempts to achieve interdiscipinarity in our schooling have not been good. Superfical relationships between subjects are made, a scraping of the surface to find connections and then the terrible case of the Blues in year 8 where the hapless music teacher serves up a reductive version of history leading to the History teacher raising their eyebrows.

But look here https://jfin107.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/year-8-blues-band-tribute/

an example of music in interdisciplinary relationships and no raised eyebrows.

It is this kind of interdiscipilnarity that leads to a conversation where minds are opened, questions raised and, for a child, their becoming a part of a wider conversation. It is a time when

‘…teaching and learning allow us to forget for a while to be preoccupied with ulterior goals and purposes that [schools] fulfil the peculiarly human desire for self-understanding which give rise to them.’ [2]

Notes:

[1] Webster Merriam Dictionary[2] Timothy Fuller (1989) in the 

[2] Introduction to The Voice of Liberal Learning, (1989) Michael Oakshott. Liberty Fund.  Page xix.

Who controls the music curriculum?

ON JANUARY 25, 2019 BY JFIN107IN UNCATEGORIZEDLEAVE A COMMENTEDIT

The setting up of an expert group to devise a model music curriculum by School’s Minister Nick Gibb has caused more than a little turbulence. So much so that a letter has been written to the Department for Education protesting.

This protest has gained some media attention. [1]

A central issue in this is the question of who controls the music curriculum? And what kind of process should be adopted in the making of a music curriculum? And, now to the point, what part should a government minister play in this process?

John White writing more generally about the matter maintains that:

‘The proper vehicle for democratic control is a Curriculum Commission at arms length from ministerial interference, made up from interested sectors across society chosen for their impartiality.’ [2]

White is particularly concerned about arriving at a well reasoned set of educational aims free from political interference.

The first aim of the national curriculum devised in 2013 appears to have been written by the barely hidden hand of the then minister of state for education, Michael Gove. Since that time the hand of partisan politics has become ever more transparent and now intensified with Nick Gibb setting in place the enactment of his music curriculum through the voices of his expert panel. [3]

In their book Education and the Struggle for Democracy: The politics of educational ideas Wilfred Carr and Anthony Harnett trace the ways in which the educational system became the work of the New Right in British politics during the 1980s. [4] However, even this analysis didn’t forsee the way individual minister’s personal agendas and zealously enacted convictions would underline this ongoing struggle for democracy.

John White’s expectation that interested sectors play a part in the democratic and inclusive process of curriculum making would seem reasonable.

In its place we now see the interests of selected sectors advanced to satisfy the minister’s personal agenda and thus diminishing hope of impartiality.

Notes:

[1] See for example  https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/24674-concerns-raised-over-dfe-s-new-model-music-curriculum

[2] https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/ofsted-has-turned-our-attention-back-to-what-makes-a-good-curriculum-we-now-need-better-answers/

[3] In recent times other education ministers have expressed particular musical preferences and affiliations. There has been Kenneth Clarks’s love of Jazz and David Blunket’s love of the pub folk scene. Neither of these however sought to imprint their musical personalities on the music curriculum.

[4] Carr, W. and Hartnett, A. (1997) Education and the Struggle for Democracy: The politics of educational ideas. Open University Press.

I had a model music curriculum dream

ON JANUARY 13, 2019 BY JFIN107IN UNCATEGORIZED1 COMMENTEDIT

Last night I had a remarkably vivid dream. It was most remarkable for the detail that it contained. My dreams are more usually amorphous affairs.

This is what I dreamt.

The expert panel for the new model music curriculum had issued an interim report. The panel had wisely started with first principles and considered the place of music within a general education for all children and young people to age 14. An over arching music educational aim was proposed that was consonant with the aims of general education.

To musically equip children and young people to understand themselves, both as individuals and as members of a complex and rapidly changing society as future citizens in that democratic society. 

The panel had assumed that the resourcing of this education would be vastly improved, and in particular, in respect to the education and training of music teachers, curriculum time allocation and physical resources.

The panel went on to outline three sub-purposes.

Sub-purposes:

To equip all pupils with the knowledge, skills, dispositions and understandings to make music well.

To induct pupils into existing cultures of making-music as a source of creative and critical engagement.

 To enable all children to become unique individuals, subjectively enriched and able to know a sense of personal freedom through music made well.

The panel then made what can only be seen as a bold step. They realised that before proceeding any further some understanding of curriculum was needed. This is what they proposed.

The music curriculum can be defined as a dynamic set of musical processes and practices framed within historical and contemporary cultural discourse and dialogue that comprise the material musical encounters of pupils and teachers.

And then to curriculum intentions.

By the end of Year 9 pupils will have songs, melodies, riffs, rhythms and the character-feel of much music in their heads and bodies. They will be able to recall this music at will. It will be an integral part of their learning how to make music well as shown in their technical know how, fluency, expressive control and in their musical relationships with others.

This will be achieved by introducing contextually rich music/musical material which keeps offering fresh insights and challenges. Pupils will explore unexpected pathways into deeper learning, responding with flexibility to follow new turnings.

The pupil’s music making will always reach a musically meaningful standard. When this is achieved there will be value in assessing the work.

Pupils will be able to reflect on their music making and the music making of others through talk, reading and writing about music.

They will come to understand how music functions in the world, why and how it is made, how music is used and how music is given meaning. There will be a recognition that music has ‘human interest’; social, cultural and political.

Classes will work as a community of music makers and critics where the relationship between pupil, teacher and what is being learnt creates an open musical discourse.

As the panel retired to do more work they heard from the minister that a new panel would be assembled shortly. He thanked them for their work. 

We are the knowledge rich music makers

ON JANUARY 11, 2019 BY JFIN107IN UNCATEGORIZEDLEAVE A COMMENTEDIT

Music of the Common TongueMusic published in 1987 has a sub-title: ‘Survival and Celebration in Afro-American Music’. Here Christopher Small examines the search for identity and community of millions of Africans in the Americas through their encounter with a European tradition, taking from it what was needed to explore, celebrate and affirm who they were and who they might become. 

Small makes clear:

‘My first assumption is that music is not primarily a thing or a collection of things, but an activity in which we engage … the act of musicking is central to the whole art of music the world over. In most of the world’s musical cultures this is taken for granted without even having to think about it; it is only the dominance of the classical tradition that obliges us to state it so bluntly.’ [1] 

This is 1987 the same year as Alperson’s ‘What is music?’ An introduction to the philosophy of music giving rise to wider interest in music as a social practice and David Elliot’s 1995 philosophy of music education. 

In 2012, and quite by chance, a visit to my sister in the North East of England coincided with the Durham Miner’s Gala.  So, on the train to Durham, down the hill from the railway station and as the street narrowed there was the banner of Thirslington Miners’ Lodge, their brass band and a tightly packed crowd together ‘musicking’.  Here and now the music being lived, giving meaning to the lives of all those gathered. As the band came to the end of their piece they created a rumble effect, low quiet trilling and a signal to the crowd to urge the band to reprise the piece just played which of course they did to the delight of all. Meaning being made through acts of ‘self definition, an exploration, an affirmation and a celebration of one’s identity, of who one is’. [2]

Later I followed the band in procession to the cathedral – the preacher the turbulent priest Giles Fraser and we sang Jerusalem. I had heard it earlier in the day on TV coming from Trent Bridge cricket ground used as part of the pre-match phantasmajorics. And then I thought about how Parry’s setting had first been used by a Women’s Peace movement during the First World War and it will be heard again at the Last Night of the Proms. On each occasion understood differently, the music living within webs of meaning as Chris Philpott would say. [3 ]

A conundrum for me in the thinking of Small is his insistence that musicking has no moral dimension. It is not a matter of good or bad musicking. There is just musicking. The idea is ethically neutral. 

Small’s insistence that musicking is to be seen as being beyond ethical consideration is out of tune with much contemporary philosophy of music education which sees music education as being essentially ethical in nature. Wayne Bowman, arguing for thinking of music education as induction into a set of musical practices points out that musical practices like ‘Human practices are places where we learn and rehearse right action: where we learn to formulate and address the fundamental human question, what kind of person it is good to be, what kind of people we wish to become. Practices, musical and others, are where we learn our most important lessons about who we are and who we aspire to become. On this account, human practices [including musical practices] are profoundly important ethical resources.’ [4]

But what could we take from Small into a music education that is in the institution of the school and sponsored by the state?

A little time ago at the  ISM ‘Guide to Progression, curriculum and assessment’ day we had plenty of opportunity to talk and think around the topic in the light of a new National Curriculum. This involved thinking about the values and vision that we hold for music teaching at Key Stage 3 (age 11-14).  

Before I sounded forth in our small group discussion I did say that I had had a long time to think about this. I should have added that I have enjoyed the privilege of bringing together the ideas generated by the classroom research of secondary school music teachers. This has involved a dialogue between my evolving ideas, their ideas and reflection on the realities of the classroom, what works and what might work better. And what is thought to be worthwhile in the name of a music education. Somewhere in this is the voice of Christopher Small.

1. Each class is thought of as a community of music-makers. The class take it as given that they will be sounding out music together for much of the time as singers and players. They will learn to ‘face each other’ musically. [5]

2. Great store will be given to the climate of the classroom where every person will be heard musically and known as a shaper of the curriculum that will unfold. This will involve establishing ‘voice protocols’ that contribute to the social dynamics of the classroom, the subtleties of pedagogy and the growing trust created between teacher and pupil, and pupil and pupil.  

3. The teacher will be instructor, facilitator and mediator. By mediator I mean that the teacher is respected for knowing good musical places to go, for being ‘the more knowledgeable other’ and the bearer of culture. The teacher brings to the classroom what will take pupils to musical places unimaginable.

These will be powerful stimulants all with human interest, provoking enquiry, curiosity and questions that will have no answers as the conversation continues, and as meaning is made through a relational pedagogy where teacher, pupil and what is being learnt enable all to say ‘this is who we are’. 

And we are the knowledge rich music makers with a window into beauty and truth.

Notes:

[1] Small, C. (1987) Music of the Common Tongue. John Calder. Pages 50-51.

[2] Small, C. (2011) Prologue: Misunderstanding and Reunderstanding, in (eds.) Felicity Laurence and Olivier Urbain, Music and Solidarity. Transaction Publishers. Page (xi)

[3] See chapter 4 ‘The Justification for Music in the Curriculum’ in (eds.) Chris Philpott and Gary Spruce, Debates in Music Teaching. Routledge: London.

[4] See  https://jfin107.wordpress.com/scholarly-paper-the-ethical-significance-of-music-making-by-wayne-bowman/

[5] On ‘musical facing’ see  https://jfin107.wordpress.com/through-the-lens-of-levinas-practices-of-facing-in-the-music-classroom-and-beyonBeaumont School Vocal Ensemble ‘Before Dawn’School21 Year 9 Silent DiscoSearch for:Search

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The Model Music Curriculum and a possible oversight

The Department for Education’s brief stated that

‘An organisation will be appointed to draft the model music curriculum which: 

supplements, but is consistent with, the programmes of study in the National Curriculum; 

ensures that pupils acquire essential subject knowledge such as musical notation, pitch, tempo and timbre and an understanding of the works of great composers;

sets out the detailed subject knowledge which pupils need to acquire in a clear sequence of steps that should be taught at each key stage; 

provides a structure for vocal and instrumental practice and performance; 

is consistent with best practice.’ [1]

I have been wondering why there is no mention of ‘critical engagement with music’. After all the English National Curriculum for Music opens with a ‘Purpose of study’ statement noting that

‘As they [pupils] progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music…’ [2]

I wonder what is meant by ‘critical engagement’? And why no mention of this curriculum element in the model music curriculum imperatives?

To be critical is to be thoughtful, discriminating, analytical, reflective, evaluative, knowing, insightful and a symbol of becoming wide-awake to the world; musical experience calls for this. It calls for a growing awareness of what music is, how music is used, how music is given meaning and how meanings are continually negotiated and re-negotiated. It calls for a recognition that music has ‘human interest’; social, cultural and political. Without criticism music ceases to be a subject of significance.

Of course, there are minimal ways of understanding ‘critical engagement’ as well as deep, rich and challenging ways. Perhaps I will explore this further next week.

And I wonder what and where ‘best practice’ of critical engagement with music will be found.


Notes:

[1] https://www.rhinegold.co.uk/music_teacher/government-reveals-more-details-about-model-music-curriculum/?fbclid=IwAR1BqYeSsNpKUjv6kNTknrfVo1LVLJf3fB9-H-3K_JjEJ0fYRssuOj8Pe30

[2] DfE (Department for Education) (2013), The National Curriculum for England,London: DfE. Available online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-music-programmes-of-study

Thinking about teaching music and the Creative Orchestra



The paper Thinking Philosophically About Teaching is by Gert Biesta and Barbara Stengel who from the outset make clear that philosophic enquiry is a form of research. [1]

The paper sets about examining what teaching is and should be. [2]

In this way much of the current debate about teaching, reduced as it is to a binary choice between teacher as facilitator and teacher as direct instructor, becomes puerile and just so much chatter. Just scroll down to my previous blog to appreciate how inadequate and destructive such thinking is.

A key point in Biesta and Stengel’s argument is that teaching is relational. They write:

‘Teaching is always relational in which there are ‘… dimensions of power and desire invoking a vision of moral interaction made concrete in the authority of the teacher.’ [1]

We see this below in the example of a music teacher teaching music.


Just one icon of music teaching. [3]

‘Mid-day Saturday and 23 young people aged 8-13 have come to make music together in the large hall come gymnasium.

Chairs are being set out in a circle. It is the Creative Orchestra. There are violins, saxophones, clarinets, pianists, percussionists in equal numbers; harpist, bass guitarist, acoustic guitarist, cellist, trombonist and flautist. And a teacher who I sense will be a quiet presence with a clear voice of authority and who knows a lot about attunement.

Still encumbered with bags and not all instruments are ready. A quiet word to move bags to their place and we are into a round the circle warm up, ‘remember to keep it flowing’: the leader sets the round in motion with a simple four beat rhythm clapped, class copy then the first solo from Peace, all copy and so on yielding 23 rhythmic ideas, ever more intricate and calling for ever more attentive listening.

And that’s how the session moves forward – everybody learning to listen, having ideas, making suggestions, having thoughts; everybody with a part to play in what is made together today with the leader ready to offer stimuli, and who leads how I had imagined, gently attentive to fresh thinking, new possibilities. The stylistic generator is a group of Samba grooves 

good_picture

And then there is a counterpointing pentatonic melodic framework set out in the centre of the circle; D E G A B represented by five spaced objects.

E has a big box, for E is to be our tonal centre. The class are shown how by stepping between the tones the melody is made and how a repertoire of signals calling for variation in durations and dynamics can be used. And before long the class are rehearsing how to make notes really short, notes that grow louder and then as players volunteer to lead, so more possibilites emerge to be thought about.

‘Any suggestions, thought, ideas’, asks the teacher. Some suggestions come fully formed, some convoluted, some tongue-tied inviting others to articulate more clearly before reaching their final form in the music. What a long way words can be from music.

An important part of the process is the assembling of the material into a work in progress that we can all be inside for a few minutes. Then more thoughts, ideas, suggestions.

The class are relaxed about all this. They are learning to be still, thoughtful, circumspect, wondering, some just being, barely becoming so it seems. The harpist seems happy enough to be there with her harp. Time is not rushing on. There is none of that ‘fast pacey please the inspector stuff’ here, rather staying with the moment, indwelling the music. Rapid progress is a stranger here, slow learning a virtue.

Ibrahim take a lead and tells us that we can think of the music as being like a journey. Ideas are flowing faster now with contributions from Peace, Oscar, Neoma, Jo and Jessie. More leaders in turn take centre stage and confirm this way of working, expand tonal and rhythmic possibilities calling for music made with intention as well as deliberation.

The rhythm section is strong, rarely lose their grove. Frederick takes time out to teach Joe how his cabassa part should go and this is in the middle of a six minute playing.

Now Oscar suggests combining four ideas to add to the advancing sophistication of what is not actually a piece of music, rather a series of sketches that might become a piece.

The teacher, for the first time mindful of the time, for there is a time to end the session, says, ‘seven minutes to go’ and Oscar leads the final excursion.

‘It’s a journey to an unexpected island’, says Naomi.

We are now well into the afternoon on this dull Saturday in June, it’s time to go home. Chairs away. With repose and a simple satisfaction, so it seems, the children go their way.

I wonder what will happen when the choir join the orchestra next week?’

Notes:

[1] https://www.google.co.uk/search?source=hp&ei=I_iEXN-qN8K4kwWzx7KQCw&q=thinking+philosophically+about+teaching&oq=Thinking+Philo&gs_l=psy-ab.1.3.0l6j0i22i30l2j0i22i10i30j0i22i30.5158.14682..18866…0.0..0.71.926.15……0….1..gws-wiz…..0..0i131j0i10.bEF0zwNDJQs

In the present time it is easy to imagine that educational research is the fiefdom of empirical studies where cognitive psychological theories of learning underpin what can be known and what can inform what works in the classroom.

[2] As part of the argument six teacher icons are presented: Plato’s dialogic questioner, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s responsive (and autonomy-seeking) tutor, John Dewey’s democratic designer, Paolo Freire’s liberator, Jacques Ranciere’s critical egalitarian, and Nel Nodding’s carer.

[3] A version of the teaching sequence featured in the blog The Creative Orchestra. https://jfin107.wordpress.com/?s=tHE+cREATIVE+oRCHESTRA

Coming to know music richly

A while ago I was pleased to discover Jane Parker’s rich description of a scene from the early years. This is scene 1 below. In her blog Jane goes on to analyse what is thought to be going on here – the theory of instruction that lies behind the teacher’s actions. (See Jane’s Blog http://www.teachwire.net/news/ill-hum-it-you-play-it-music-education-in-early-years)

Thus I was prompted to celebrate five scenes from the music room, each showing a music teacher’s advanced music teaching skill. Each teacher with a well-developed theory of instruction. And inside this there lies something difficult to capture in words – the manner of the transactions, the temper of the exchanges, their playfulness, the feel of the moment by moment narrative, the anticipations engendered and the satisfactions and frustrations experienced and, above all else, the coming to know music, a way of knowing that reaches far beyond knowing that and knowing how.

Scene 1:

The practitioner sits on a chair facing her preschool children who are gathered on the carpet in front of her. She takes out a puppet called ‘Songstar’ and hums the first phrase of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ as she moves Songstar’s mouth. The children excitedly shout out, “Songstar wants to sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle!’” She asks the children if they all have their ‘twinkly fingers’ ready. She then sings (on her starting note) “Ready, steady, let’s all sing.”

The children and adults begin singing together, while simultaneously opening and shutting their hands eight times as they quietly sing the words of the first phrase. The song continues, but then the practitioner stops just before the word ‘sky’. She smiles and listens as a few children very quietly sing “sky”.

She joins in again with the rest of the song, but this time stops leading the song at the very end, allowing the children to sing “are”. She then asks the children if they have magic lips like Songstar, and gets them to have a go at miming the first line of the song – only instead of singing, they’ll clap each word so that they’re essentially ‘Clapping the rhythm’. She sings, “Ready, steady, let’s all clap” and leads the children in clapping out the words of the first line, miming the words while at the same time moving the puppet’s hands in a clapping motion.

Scene 2:

We gather in a circle. With measured poise and calculated tempo Hannah strikes her drum and we start connecting to the regular 1 2 3 4 pattern, learning to co-ordinate our cries of Hey and Hoe, while together making our first music of the session.

Breaking from the circle we walk the beat. And now a different timbre to perceive while conserving the beat – the sound of wood on wood from the drum’s rim used as the signal to walk backwards. Walking backwards I almost collide with Theo who politely tells me, ‘look over your shoulder’.

Now Hannah asks the children to provide themes from the recent Halloween-tide so that our walking has a distinctive character. In turn we become Spider-Man, vampires, skeletons. For skeletons I lean forward reach out my hands and spread fingers as wide as I can. When the music stops eyes close and Hannah asks us to locate particular children. ‘ Where’s Joshua?’ We point, and yes, how did we know that?

We are getting to know each other.

Back in the circle and a little commotion eased through a call to breathe out and a calming shhhh from Hannah that we all partake in.

Scene 3:

They form a circle, and following introductions, the teacher creates a movement-sound sequence figuratively faithful to motives from Mahler’s Symphony No 5 first movement, the ‘Trauermarsch’.

The musical material transmitted is Mahler’s. There are 15 minutes of intensive working where the teacher gives and the pupils give back, where the teacher insists through repetition that all get it. The transaction is already playful and relational. Like catching balls moving fast between all within the circle, the pupils catch melodic fragments as well as rhythmic ones.

‘You really need to get hold of this material, this is very important’, says the teacher.

Now with a voice of enchantment and mystery the teacher reveals Mahler’s use of the song ‘Der Tambourg’sell’, a song about one of Mahler’s ill-fated ‘children’, a drummer boy condemned to execution and his long walk to death, the ‘trauermarsch’.

The pupils want to know what it is that the boy has done that deserves such a fate. However, this is to remain a mystery for the time being. The work proceeds until groups have created their own ‘trauermarschen’ using Mahler’s material.

Scene 4:

Ready to go now and Katy, with a lively good humour, sets about transmitting the musical material.

calmly persisting,
patiently repeating,
incrementally extending,
imperceptibly accumulating,
few words,
sometimes recoiling,
always advancing.

And as the rhythmic texture enlarges, and as we together master the rules of engagement, we seek our own solutions to the skills-challenge equation and find flow and fluency.

In the ongoing interplay between Katy and the group the locus of control is passed back and forth. Yes, there are times of impersonal learning where the acquisition of content and skills dominate but then times of personal learning as each gains control, self-regulates, gains agency, no longer shaped by the teacher, but shaping self.

The highlight of the Samba workshop comes when there are sectional breaks and when the side-drumming quartet fizz with virtuosity. I think we are by now all feeling a bit virtuous.

Scene 5:

Now it’s back to reggae which started last week and ‘Three Little Birds’. First, instrumental warm up time, then some rhythmic and pitch calling and copying, including that clave rhythm and of course lots of reggae rhythms and melodic twists. Into sectionals with pupils mostly directing each other in their making and playing, and sometimes teacher directed assisting movement into a self-sustainable groove. Lilian is having a whale of a time on keyboard. There is a powerful rhythmic reggae idiomatic feel to her playing and making, and she is vocalizing at the same time. Amarose on drum kit is quickly into the groove and like others, once in the groove, and as a consequence of repetition, new material is made. Tshian asks me how to play A on her trumpet and we have a short discussion about pitch and embouchure. Perhaps unsurprisingly the keyboard, bass guitar, drum section get well-grooved first and ready to welcome back the rest who with some ease join the music. We have ten minutes of whole class playing with the teacher leading the ensemble round a circuit of possible structural combinations without a break.Advertisements