29 April 2015
Still Inventing - free download of a classic AMC resource
Early in 2015 the AMC reached a major milestone by completing the digitisation of a major part of its vast collection. Many new digital resources have been made available (more details), and we are now able to start offering some of our archival publications as pdf ebooks. To celebrate, the first of these, Andrew Ford's 1991 education resource Inventing Music, is now made available as a free download.
We asked Andrew to write down some thoughts regarding his soon-to-be 25-year-old kit.
Coming back to Inventing Music today, nearly a quarter of a century after it first appeared in print and almost as long since I last read the text, the main thing that surprises me is that I had the gall to write it. I don't think I'd have it today. Yet the fundamentals seem about right.
The book was specifically designed for senior high school students tackling composition in their final years at school. In 1991, this was a relatively new phenomenon. But while today we continually hear how the school music education in Australia must improve (and it must), composition is now more or less a core activity and teachers feel more confident about teaching it. Indeed it might be argued that a text such as Inventing Music is almost redundant, not least because many of the exercises it proposes are rather basic.
I don't agree. I think we can always return to the basics of musical composition - to the basics of music - with profit, and it is the basic exercises in Inventing Music I like the best. Back in 1991, we had very little of the technology now at the disposal of even an averagely well-appointed high-school music room. Chances are, there would have been a piano, some basic percussion instruments and a tape recorder. You'll see, as you read the text, that I make a big point about using a tape recorder and, at one point, show how to make tape loops with a reel-to-reel recorder (standard issue equipment in 1991) and a milk bottle. Today the tape recorders have gone - the milk bottles, too - and there is good, cheap technology, unimaginable 24 years ago, that will create a loop for you with the click of a mouse. It's not uncommon for students to have the software on their laptops. In very many ways, students and teachers are more sophisticated than they were a generation ago.
But some things don't change. And it doesn't matter what technology you have at your disposal, creativity requires imagination. Sometimes, I suspect - actually, I don't suspect, I know - that technological sophistication has come to replace musical imagination in schools and universities. And in concert halls. And, without a doubt, in film and television! The description of how to make a tape loop will now seem hilariously antediluvian, but the more basic exercises in Inventing Music strike me as more important than ever.
Writing the original foreword to the book, I stressed that while aimed at senior high school students, the majority of the exercises could be used with primary students and also with professionals. It remains true. When we return to the simplest building blocks of music, we are obliged to confront the very nature of the art. That's always a good thing. And that, I hope, is what remains useful about Inventing Music.
Download Inventing Music for free
> Read more about the AMC's Digitisation Project 2013-15, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training
© Australian Music Centre (2015) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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