BCMG's Big Ears project ran from 2006-2014. It was a series of schools’ concerts and associated workshops for children at Key Stage 2. The workshops and concerts aimed to introduce young people to the very best contemporary classical music in the most engaging way possible, respecting young people as open-minded and discriminating listeners. Performances involved film, theatre and other visual elements to stimulate imaginative responses, complement and enhance the listening experience.
The creative music workshops running alongside the concerts were led by composers and BCMG musicians supported by CPD for teachers and a teacher resource pack. This resource brings the different packs together as a collection. The packs reflect our journey of finding different and better approaches to exploring contemporary classical repertoire with young people. The packs were created by different teams for different years but the main contributors were composers Liz Johnson, Duncan Chapman and Nancy Evans, BCMG Director of Learning.
Rather than convert each pack into it's own resource, which would have been an enormous job, they are still offered as PDFs accessible by clicking the blue words in the text. Where there is a recording of the piece, we have
included the Spotify link. You will need to have Spotify open for the link to work. Many of the pieces explored do not have recordings - this is very typical with contemporary music and where recordings become available we will add them. Though this is annoying, many of the activities stand alone without the recordings or, with imagination, alternatives could be found. Also you might be able to find videos or performances of the missing pieces on Youtube. In some cases we have included music not featured in the resource pack but that were part of the concert.
The composing activities vary to what extent they explore the musical ideas in the pieces with some focusing more on the extra-musical inspirations. These extra-musical themes have been highlighted in the introductions to enable you as a teacher to link the activities to topics such as space, visual art, the environment etc. There are also some performance activities as well as composing activities.
We strongly suggest that you read this guidance before starting any of the activities with children.
If you are inspired to do more composing inspired by contemporary music please check out the Music Maze Resources.
A to Z explores: generating rhythms and melodies and the different ways to organise these into longer pieces; takes machines as an inspiration; and, explores theme and variations. As with many of these packs, the activities stand alone without the suggested listening or different material can be used.
Iannis Xenakis Rebonds B
Olivier Messiaen Appel interstellaire
Tansy Davies inside out 2
Louis Andreissen Workers Union
Frank Zappa The Black Page
Colour/Shape takes very diverse inspirations for its composing activities. Many are visual whether that is the films of Little Tich, a Charlie Chaplin invention, who inspired Stravinsky to paintings to transforming the children's own visual responses to music into new music. As with many of these packs, the activities stand alone without the suggested listening or different material can be used.
New York Counterpoint Steve Reich
Three Pieces Igor Stravinsky
Derive Pierre Boulez
Wynter Music Philip Cashian
When Words Sing explores the many ways to compose for the voice and to use words - whether this is the words of Winnie the Pooh, different languages, nonsense words, a group of mythical beasts or an onomatopoeic cartoon strip.
Though it is always good to link the activities to the listening examples, many of the activities stand alone or can be used with different musical examples.
Luciano Berio Folk Songs
Cathy Berberian Stripsody
Oliver Knussen Hums & Songs of Winnie the Pooh
Matthew Sergeant The Squonk
Peter Wiegold The Youwarkee
John Woolrich The Kraken
Liz Johnson Elephant Woman
The Constellations resource pack uses space as its inspiration for composing: plotting stars in constellations to make melodies, creating soundscapes for the milky way or a rocket launch, using Morse Code to generate rhythms and exploring graphic scores. Obvious cross-curricular links can be made with space/science.
As with many of these packs the activities stand alone as well as with the listening examples.
Luciano Berio O King
Bruno Maderna Serenata per un Satellite
Param Vir Constellations
Transformations explores the idea of composing by transforming existing music. The musical examples featured in this pack include a transformed song by Madness and a transformation of a short piece by the 18th Century composer Couperin. Also explored is the idea of the duet and the many ways two people can make together. Though is good to connect the activities to musical examples, any of the activities stand alone without the featured music.
Cardiac Arrest Thomas Adès
Hinterland Tansy Davies
Les Baricades Mistérieuses Thomas Adès
Box of Delights celebrates everything percussive. Activities include: composing music for five drums of different pitches, different kinds of graphic scores, translating nonsense words into music for percussion, layering different 8 beat rhythm patterns and composing music for household objects. Though it is useful to connect the activities to the suggested listening many of the activities stand alone.
Iannis Xenakis Rebonds B
Steve Reich Music for Pieces of Wood
Morton Feldman The King of Denmark
John Cage Living Room Music
György Ligeti With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles
Noise to Notes explores the idea of composing inspired by the sounds of the environment. The featured listening suggestions take their inspiration from birds, the street, trains, the rain, laughter. Links can be made to topics such as the weather, transport, birds, history. The activities can be stand alone as well as linked to listening to specific pieces of music. This pack also features the use of the free and simple software SoundPlant to support children's composing.
‘(Mr Evans), it’s starting to rain!’ Duncan Chapman
Scherzo (with Trains) Julian Anderson
Musicians Wrestle Everywhere Judith Weir
Crack Up Shiori Usui
Oiseaux Exotiques Olivier Messiaen
Living Toys uses toys, dreams and games as the inspiration for composing music. Some activities use the sounds of children's toys to compose (traditional music boxes and more modern electronic toys), one uses a dream as inspiration and the another uses simple dice to generate the structure of the music. Cross-curricular links can be made with stories/literacy, dice/maths, machines/science. Additional listening would include anything by the Modified Toy Orchestra.
Game I: Tandy Richard Baker / Brian Duffy
Game II: Speak & Spell Richard Baker / Brian Duffy
To Compose Without the Least Knowledge of Music Colin Matthews
Living Toys Thomas Adès
Crank Richard Baker