The new Model Music Curriculum does an excellent job of listing a range of music for our children to experience and engage with. However, knowing WHAT to listen to isn't enough on its own. Teachers need guidance on HOW to introduce listening tracks and HOW to engage their children in active, engaging listening!
Ways into listening …
Focus on taste … who likes it? Who doesn’t? why? (musical reasons or non-musical reasons)
Focus on instinct – put the music on and see what the children instinctively do. You could discuss their responses afterwards
Ask questions … if you were from another planet and knew nothing about music what would you want to know?
Focus on musical elements … tap along to the pulse / repeat a rhythm / describe the timbres / what happens to the dynamics? Etc
Focus on structure … identify sections that are the same and different, is there a pattern? How long is each section? How are the sections different or similar?
Think about the story behind the music … Wikipedia can be helpful for researching this.
Focus on the musician(s) – who is performing this? What is their story? What else have they played?
Focus on the composer (assuming there is one) – who wrote this? What is their story and what else have they written? If no ‘composer’, why? How did this music come about?
Focus on the ensemble - what is it? How does it work? Who else wrote for this ensemble?
Focus on instruments - Listen to solo music for this instrument. Find out how it works (youtube videos are helpful) and what it is made of. What can we find out about the history of this instrument?
Focus on your imagination - close your eyes, what do you see? Get out the paints and respond to the music! Imagine animals moving … which animal? and how is it moving? If it were the music for a cartoon, what might be happening? Imagine you were in the theatre the lights lower and the music starts …. What do you imagine might be revealed when the curtains open?
Focus on your emotions – how does it make you feel? If you want to feel happy/calm/alert/sleepy what would you listen to instead?
Focus on the year it was written (if applicable) – what else was happening in the world (musical and non-musical)
Compare different performances (KS2)… what are the differences / similarities? Which is your favourite and why?
Compare different arrangements (KS2) … which do you prefer and why? How are they different?
Create a whole school timeline and plot each piece of music along it (as well as other non-musical events)
Just listen (sometimes this needs to happen!)
Take a YouTube/Spotify/iTunes journey of discovery! Just search something or someone (eg cats / cellos / call and response / Evelyn Glennie / Bach ) and see what it suggests, what alternatives there are, and where it takes you!
Take a Google journey of discovery! So many people and organisations have created content including ClassicFM, music magazines,
Use the many ideas from the Model Music Curriculum
Join FaceBook or Twitter music education groups and search there, or ask for help from other members. Music teachers are very generous and often willing to share their ideas and resources
Reach out to your colleagues, line managers, music education hubs, for guidance.
Use your own knowledge and experience – start with what you know and like!
Where to start
Look at your topics/areas of study (musical and non-musical) and use them as starting points.
Consider using your listening to disrupt common assumptions … introduce music by living classical composers, female composers/performers, composers/performers of colour, composers/performers with disabilities.
Consider using your listening to prompt important conversations relating to PSHE curriculum. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that music helps us regulate our emotions AND we know that music is closely connected to our cultural environments. Exploring and respecting the music that is important to individual children can be very powerful and empowering.
Consider the possibility of listening to the same or similar music across the school and find different ways into that music depending on the needs of each year group. Use music assembly to introduce/further explore the music with the whole school.
If children are unused to listening for sustained periods of time, initially find music that is just 2 or 3 minutes long or select a short section of a longer piece.
Through listening to a range of inspiring music, teachers can open children's eyes and ears to all sorts of ideas, cultures and experiences!
If you would like to know more about Katie's experience of teaching and training in Primary School, or have any questions related to this article, please contact Katie!