The music of the Heroes

I don’t know if you like watching Heroes on BBC2? Anyway, following last night’s episode there was a great feature on how the music for the series has been created. You can find it here (for a week or so) on the BBC iplayer.

The notes which accompany the programme say: “The soundtrack to Heroes has been as distinctive and diverse as the Heroes themselves, and this week Heroes Unmasked joins composers Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman at their studios in Los Angeles to hear how their musical magic is created. Having once been part of Prince’s Revolution, Wendy and Lisa have become highly regarded composers and performers in their own right, and from day one on Heroes they have engineered a sound that is that is both epic and ethereal. In an exclusive interview and behind the scenes access to the process behind their compositions, Wendy and Lisa reveal their inspirations behind the music of the series, and their excitement at being so key to the Heroes team.”

I found it a fascinating account of how, amongst other things, live music and improvisational practices inform compositional choices. It also reminded me how diverse the working practices of professional composers are. There is some great footage here and it is a wonderful teaching resource.

Congratulations to all MMU research colleagues

In the RAE results released today, it was great to see MMU ranked in 10th place in respect of its educational research. Not quite sure what an average of 2.650 means but all will become clear in March 2009 when the funding mechanism for research in the UK is announced, and we’ll find out how much research funding each institution will receive. But according to the figures today, the Institute of Education is the highest ranked research faculty within MMU. Congratulations to Harry and the team!

Does the National Curriculum inspire or frustrate you?

I’ve been a long time fan of Saville Kushner. Today I was re-reading one of his articles about the impact of the curriculum on musical activities within schools. I found this quote;

Look again at the practical context of music education. Increasingly, it is fed by music knowledge generated beyond school boundaries – in fact, on the fringes of formal curriculum. Music knowledge is no longer produced solely in traditional scholastic haunts – university rooms, concert halls, conservatoires, music clubs and instrumental teachers. Rather it is in the hands of a diverse cottage industry of community musicians; orchestral and operatic ‘outreachers’; private music consultants; philanthropic professionals; the music nobility and pop stars – all of whom have their own way of approaching schools and curriculum. The boundaries of education spread far wider than the physical boundaries of the school, these days more than ever, perhaps. Correspondingly, the knowledge base of music is changing, and is changing music education, while the music curriculum itself is frozen in legal aspic. (p.214 in Kushner, S. (1999) ‘Fringe Benefits: music education out of the National Curriculum’. Music Education Research, 1:2, pp. 209-218.)

Is the music curriculum still frozen in legal aspic? I don’t think so. New ways of knowing do demand new ways of thinking, learning and teaching. It is not about repackaging new knowledge and ideas in conventional structures. Rather, the new National Curriculum is a framework which should inspire imaginative responses from teachers and schools, leading to new opportunities for teaching and learning in music which are closely related to the wider musical activities found within a particular musical community and across/in-between subject boundaries. But physical boundaries are increasingly irrelevant. As new communication technologies redefine the ways that we represent ourselves, relate to each other and communicate, musical networks will extend and develop globally too.

What do you think? Does the curriculum have the inspiration factor needed to help teachers re-imagine music education fit for the 21st century? Or does it just frustrate them?

What’s in store for the primary curriculum?

As some of you know, I’ve been doing some work over the last year to support the implementation of the new secondary National Curriculum for Music. As the new National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 is rolled out over the next two years, attention is beginning to turn to the primary curriculum. So, what’s in store for the primary curriculum? Hard to tell, but this review for the Government by Sir Jim Rose gives a few clues. There’s also a helpful summary here on the TTRB.

Free training courses from Musical Futures

I got the following information from Musical Futures today:

Musical Futures have launched their Musical Futures / Roland Champion Schools programme. They currently have a network of 27 schools around the country that they have identified as demonstrating good Musical Futures practice, and who will now lead their training and CPD
offer.

The Champion Schools have each devised and developed a CPD programme that they feel meets the needs of teachers and practitioners. As all teachers leading the sessions have run Musical Futures themselves, delegates to the courses will hopefully receive a real insight into MF in practice.

More than 50 training days are now available across the country, ranging from introductory sessions for those new to Musical Futures, to sessions that aim to build on and share good Musical Futures practice for those already running the approaches in their schools/educational settings. Training will be hands-on, practical and will aim to equip delegates with ideas and resources.

All training is free of charge, and open to anybody – from classroom teachers and peripatetic teachers, to Music Service / Local Authority staff, community musicians, students, and other arts and education professionals.

Further information is available from: www.musicalfutures.org.uk/training.

Here’s a new online journal …

The journal Music and Arts in Action (MAiA) emerges from international, cross-disciplinary work that takes a wider, holistic approach in researching the dynamic role of music and the arts in social life and cultural experience. Cutting-edge work in this area considers how aesthetic experiences and artistic forms are unconsciously, semi-consciously and actively used by individuals and groups to structure social relations, situations, environments and action. Simply put, how, when and where do music and art do something, how do music and art matter?

Levitin’s recent book: The World in Six Songs

Thanks to Adam for spotting this. Daniel Levitin has published a new book this year. The World in Six Songs looks really interesting and I’m looking forward to receiving my copy from Amazon in due course. In the meantime, I’ve read a couple of interesting and critical reviews. This one, from the Science Blog, was helpful; as was this one, from the New York Times. For those of you that are wondering what the six songs are all about, this short quote will give you a taster as to structure of Levitin’s book:

Through a process of co-evolution of brains and music, through the structures throughout our cortex and neocortex, from our brain stem to the prefrontal cortex, from the limbic system to the cerebellum, music uniquely insinuates itself into our heads. It does this in six distinctive ways, each of them with their own evolutionary basis…

Each of the six distinctive ways receives a chapter within the book. Intrigued? I was.

Music Teaching website is live

The new Music Teaching website has gone live. I think it was launched officially at the NAME conference last weekend but there seem to be a lot of members there already and people are getting stuck into providing resources and the like. It’s well worth a visit. You’ll need to create an account if you want to view all the content. I found the design a bit weird but that’s probably just me.