Cambridge Assessments in Music

Cambridge Assignments in Music
General Editor: Roy Bennett


There can be few music departments in the UK which do possess some publication with Roy Bennett's name on the cover. The Enjoying Music series or the Cambridge Assignments in Music volumes organise a huge range of well-chosen material into convenient, attractively presented units, which appeal to both students and teachers. The History of Music volume - to take one instance - was originally designed for use in preparation for GCSE exams, but, as a teacher, I find that it forms an invaluable backcloth for both Aural and History/Analysis at GCE Advanced Level. Two more recent publications in this series are reviewed below.

Music Worldwide
Elizabeth Sharma
Cambridge University Press 1998
ISBN 0 521 37622 X
£6.95 (Book)
£24.50+VAT (CD)

This trawl around various world musics takes in Africa and then (moving ever eastwards), India, Indonesia, China, Japan and Trinidad: in other words, all those areas on which public examiners will want to test candidates. It is certainly convenient to have these areas covered in one book and here it scores over the Oxford Topics in Music series (one topic per book, each costing £5.95), which considers each topic in far greater depth. But how much depth does one want these days as teacher? The breadth of GCSE and A level exams means that one has to skate over the surface of many interesting musical subjects. On the other hand, how frustrating it can be to spend half a term on, say, Indian music, and when the listening exam comes, only a two-mark question appears asking the student from which part of the world this comes? The amount Sharma writes on each country's music may be about right for the current situation. A 51-track CD accompanies the book and is the exemplar material for student assignments, which occur regularly (too regularly? - there are 96 of them) throughout the book. Some of these ask for practical, Blue Peter skills e.g. making sticks for steel drums or a set of panpipes (help!). The book is well illustrated with black and white photos and line drawings; there are many musical examples that invite practical performance. It's all sound stuff and another worthwhile entrant into an already well-stocked market.

Performing and Responding
John Howard
Cambridge University Press 1995
ISBN 0 521 42229 9
£7.25 (Book)
£25.95+VAT (CD)

The twelve projects in this book each have the same framework: they start with a class performance of a piece composed by Howard himself, which explores a facet or facets of a 'real' work. For example, Project 4 considers the phonemic atomisation used in Luciano Berio's O King. The class performance piece is called Sang Red (in hot sun), is scored for voices investigating the vowel sounds a,e,i,o and u and is accompanied by pedal notes on percussion and wind with a pointillistic droplet pattern on piano. It's well conceived and would give both performers and listeners a lot of satisfaction. A written analysis follows, highlighting the procedures used and linking it to the original model (Analysis and Connections). Listening to the 'real' work now takes place. The final stage is entitled Responding, where students are encouraged to compose a piece using comparable procedures and are given suggestions for further listening (in Project 4, for example, they are guided towards Berio's A-Ronne and Cries of London). There is an accompanying CD containing the model pieces together with Howard's own versions. The difficulty of some of the projects (notably the Harrison Birtwistle-inspired one) makes this a book to take students right up to A level, whereas the Beethoven project on major/minor triads that starts the book could easily be tackled by Year 9 pupils. This publication has been prepared with much care and insight - excellent!

Roy Bennett
Cambridge University Press 1996 reprinted 1998

Student's book
ISBN 0 521 56923 0

Teacher's Resource Book
ISBN 0 521 56924 9

Set of four CDs
£74.95+VAT (CD)

This is certainly an attractive publication, with plenty of colour images, musical examples, 30 chapters and 4 CDs. It is advertised as ‘a comprehensive and motivating upper secondary music course, fully embracing curriculum requirements for Performing, Composing, Listening and Appraising.’ Although this course is aimed at Years 9 to 11, it is clear from the scope and volume of the material that it would satisfy pupils all the way through to year 13. It is as if Bennett has put all his teaching experience together with a distillation of his other books into this magnum opus. Relevance to the National Curriculum is emphasised by blue subheadings to an exhausting degree. A red subtitle suggests further listening at the end of each chapter; for example, it’s great to find Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Greensleeves and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid rubbing shoulders as instances of modality (Chapter 25 p202). The whole course is fantastically well put together, the music is imaginatively chosen and presented, the pages of visual stimulae for composing/improvising are strikingly beautiful: in short, this is a treasure trove of a book.

Alisdair Jamieson