ICT in the QCA Music Scheme
ICT resources specifically mentioned in the QCA Music Scheme of Work are:
Sound recorder on the computer
The Internet as a source of WAV sound files
Multimedia authoring software
A sequencer enables blocks of sounds to be entered, either by programming or by playing on a keyboard. These may be manipulated in various ways and repeated, and assigned to different tracks and instruments. Few primary schools have this, but the program Compose World Junior is widely available. It serves as an elementary sequencer, enabling children to arrange pre-programmed blocks of sound on a single track. These notes pay particular attention to how Compose World may be used to address aspects of the scheme.
Years 1 and 2
Unit 2 (See also the Intergrated Task linked to ICT Unit 1C)
"Sounds interesting", introduces music vocabulary such as "loud, quiet" (dynamics), "fast, slow" (tempo), "high, low" (pitch), along with words describing the qualities of sounds (timbre) and methods of sound production (tapping, scraping etc.). ICT is mentioned: "Electronic keyboards can provide a rich source of different sounds, e.g. explosion, storm."
Children use a tape recorder with a tape counter to record the sounds made around the school, then play them to each other. Through gaining experience of recording sounds, children are encouraged to listen carefully. They classify sounds according to how they are made.
Other Key Stage 1 units do not mention ICT but they introduce and develop the elements of music which may be further explored in Compose World.
In Unit 3, "The long and the short of it ",children make long and short sounds using voices and instruments, and combine these in a sequence. In Compose World, two motifs (one with long notes, one with short, rapid notes) may be combined. Do we like it best with the long notes first, or last?
Note: If Compose World is introduced at Key Stage 1, it must never be as a substitute for instrumental or vocal work. Children need to develop control through being taught the skills of holding an instrument correctly and producing sound.
In Unit 4, " Feel the pulse", the content on pulse and rhythm may be extended through Compose World, using different examples from the tune files. Children may change the tempo, and compare the effects. Percussion instruments may be added to tap the pulse.
Years 3 and 4
The expectation for Unit 9, "Animal magic", is that most children will "recognise how musical elements can be used together to compose descriptive music" and "combine sounds with movement and narrative".
Children focus on descriptive elements and begin looking at overall structure. An extension activity is: to "think about the overall structure to identify how many times the main melody or rhythm is repeated". They are encouraged to make judgements such as "The song sounds better getting faster because…"
There is no specific reference to ICT, but Compose World may be used to consolidate some of the ideas introduced in this unit.
Unit 10, " Play it again", states that "the use of rhythmic symbols is an essential aspect of musical development and should be developed in the early part of Key Stage 2". Flash cards with notational rhythms for Compose World may be made, or purchased from ESP.
In learning to fit together rhythmic patterns, pupils may choose the rhythm of any motif to make an ostinato. This may be performed on a percussion instrument to accompany a grid which the class have created. Children have the opportunity to make judgements about texture (e.g. rather than have all the rhythms playing at once, they decide which ones, where).
Unit 13, "Painting with sound", gives opportunities to use sounds in a more structured way, e.g. by making use of repetition. Children identify music that creates different moods. There is no specific reference to ICT but the range of sounds on electronic instruments adds to the palette (cf. Unit 2).
Years 5 / 6
Unit 15, "Ongoing skills", is important since it "highlights the musical skills that require regular practice and ongoing development throughout the Key Stage." The work is on-going and should be a regular part of classroom work. Many activities are designed to occupy a short time slot, wherever the opportunity arises.
If children are familiar with Compose World, and can use it independently, it may be used alongside other resources to underpin and consolidate skills and concepts. For example, in Pulse, Rhythm and Metre, it is suggested that the class "improvise 'scat' patterns over a steady pulse provided by hand claps, a keyboard, drum machine or sequencer". (Scat is improvised singing using invented words such as 'doo be wap'.)
The Beat file in Compose World may be used for this. Make a grid from the rhythmic motifs, with ample deployment of repetition. Children may then identify the metre (pattern of stressed / unstressed beats) and improvise to the beat.
Phrase is an important concept in Unit 15. "A phrase in music is the same as a phrase in English - it is a group of sounds that make some sense." Taking a song which the children know, label each different phrase with a letter. The song may have a structure such as ABAC or ABAB. Once children have analysed the phrase structure of songs, Compose World enables them to investigate how repetitive structure can greatly enhance the appeal and memorable quality of a melody.
Unit 18 "develops children's ability to extend their sound vocabulary, including the use of ICT, and to compose a soundscape". In this unit, children explore a wide range of sound sources, including ICT, to capture, explore, change and communicate sounds. They make expressive use of vocal and instrumental possibilities to create and structure compositions in groups and share these with the class.
Sound sources include electronic keyboards and a basic sequencer in addition to voices and classroom instruments. Use of the tape recorder, and the use of ICT to change and manipulate sounds, are important learning outcomes.
Compose World Junior is a basic, and somewhat limited, sequencer. It's not possible to enter a part by playing it on a keyboard. You can only control dynamics by choosing a different instrument. You can't add a second "voice" or rhythm track (although many of the tune files have more than one part "built in"). It's not possible to print in stave notation. Provided these limitations are taken into account, Compose World Junior may be used for part of the work.
Most children will become able to "recognise and make creative use of the way sounds can be changed, organised and controlled (including using ICT); extend their sound vocabulary; combine sounds expressively". Children who make less progress will be able to "create carefully chosen sounds and linear sequences of sound". Those who progress further will be able to "demonstrate musical sensitivity in selecting sounds and structures in relation to the intended effect; refine and improve their work; demonstrate imagination and confidence in the use of sound; take advantage of ICT equipment where available."
A suggested extension is to use a multimedia-authoring program to present an interactive score of their space compositions, including graphic notation, and recorded sounds activated by hyperlinks or 'hot spots'. (A link is made here to ICT Unit 6A.)
Other suggestions are:
Download WAV sounds from the Internet and make changes to these using the sound recorder;
Swap musical sounds and sequences with other schools using e-mail attachments.
The "new use of sounds" made possible by ICT is an important element but is not the sole focus. Work also includes exploration with chords to create tension / relaxation. Experimentation with note clusters and overlapping sounds is encouraged. Electronic keyboards increase the range of sounds available to the children.
A suggested activity is: "Create an ostinato pattern using a sequencer to suggest a space vehicle travelling through deep space. Experiment with tempo controls and different sounds (voices)." This can be done at a simple level with Compose World.
Unit 21 provides an opportunity for children to "develop and demonstrate the musical skills, knowledge and understanding achieved in Years 5 and 6" through composing "by creating and performing music in response to musical and non-musical stimuli".
For example, children add their own rhythms to a pulse which is steadily maintained. They explore how pitched notes can be organised into a melodic phrase. A simple example of a graphic score is given. Children invent symbols, select instruments and perform from the score. Earlier experience with Compose World will be of value in preparing the class for this work.