Big Ears Resource Packs Composing at KS1 & 2 (Teachers) >

Collection of BCMG's Big Ears Resource Packs which accompanied our 2006-2014 schools concerts. Creative exploration of a wide range of contemporary classical music and connections with other areas of the curriculum.

Activity Panel

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.

a z

Featured music

Iannis Xenakis Rebonds B

Olivier Messiaen Appel interstellaire

Tansy Davies inside out 2

Louis Andreissen Workers Union


Frank Zappa The Black Page


2007 8 Resource Pack.output


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.

Featured music

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.

When Words Sing 2008 09 Resource Pack.output

Featured Listening

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


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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.

Featured music

Luciano Berio O King

Bruno Maderna  Serenata per un Satellite

Param Vir Constellations 

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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.

Featured music

Duetti Luciano Berio

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.

Box of delights

Featured music

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.

Featured music

‘(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.

Featured music

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