As the BBC launches Ten Pieces II, a classical music initiative aimed at secondary schools, the Music Mark Blog is taking the time to speak to some of the people behind the lesson resources that have been created to accompany the series. First up is David Ashworth, who created the resources for Bach’s Toccata and Fugue.
What were you intentions with the resources that you created?
In my remix resource, I have provided a collection of audio samples, which students can manipulate and combine in different ways to create a reinterpretation of the original. We are encouraging students to listen very closely to short musical extracts (the samples) and to think about their ‘intrinsic’ musical value, free from subjective perceptions associated with the original cultural context. They can now think about making this music their own.
One of the main reasons musicians remix pieces is that it allows the music to reach new audiences, in this case by taking small fragments from the original classical piece and putting them together in a framework with rock/pop/techno sounds. In this way, we are making a connection between different genres of music, possibly making it more accessible to some children who may not be familiar with orchestral music.
Why do you think Ten Pieces matters in the current music education climate?
Cultural stereotyping has always been a problem in music education. We have moved from a position where classroom music was heavily skewed in favour of classical music to one where rock and pop music often dominates. The role of the educator is to familiarise students with a much wider range of structural conventions through active engagement – and, as Swanwick says, to help our students realise that musical meaning is sufficiently abstract to travel across cultural boundaries. Ten Pieces provides such an opportunity.
If you could choose an ‘eleventh piece’, what would it be?
I would probably opt for one of the pieces from Frank Zappa’s “Yellow Shark”. Students who have seen the YouTube video of Ensemble Modern’s original performance are riveted by the energy, vitality and humour of this performance. This is not easy music to listen to, but the dedication and commitment shown by the performers is thrilling to watch.