Monthly Archives: December 2008

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.