Issue 52: BBC Television – Wildlife Videos

The BBC website has a page where you can find all sorts of nature video clips here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/naturescalendar/autumn/video/index.shtml

As a starting point for composition activities they look to be brilliant. I have watched a couple of them, and they would make for an interesting series of lessons.

The first thing would be to watch the video as a whole class, and talk about what you see. The “Estuary Birds” video http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/check/naturescalendar/realmedia/dee?size=16×9&bgc=C0C0C0&nbram=1&bbram=1&nbwm=1&bbwm=1 has a lot of contrasts; glorious countryside, smoky power stations, flocks of birds in flight, swirling and wheeling across the land, and close up shots of birds feeding at the water’s edge. The ideas thrown up by the discussion can be saved for later.

At this stage you could work in various ways to compose some music based on events in the video. This is the route I would take with younger children. Together, we would create a storyboard, and assign groups to compose music for each section.

With older children, a longer and more complex approach is to create a new soundtrack for the whole video like this:

As a class, we would need to work out the script of the video, and create a timeline of events, including reasonably accurate timings.

The next thing is to work out how to approach creating the soundtrack.

Ideally I would incorporate singing,  percussion (tuned and untuned percussion) and “found sounds” (tearing paper, home-made instruments, “junk” percussion”). This also an opportunity for children to bring in their flutes, violins, or whatever other instruments they are learning. Whatever mix of music-making we used, we would need to create a score and appoint a conductor.

How would we connect the pieces of music together? Stop and start, fade in and out, layering? Would we write our own script, or carefully fade our music while the on-screen presenters said their piece?

Finally, I would record the soundtrack, and play it at the same time as the film. This will bring up issues of placing microphones, and ensuring that the balance works. It would probably take several goes before we managed to make a successful recording.

Over the course of the project, we will have tackled numeracy, literacy, IT, science, composition, assessment and evaluation, listening, and group work skills. I would reckon to tick off a whole load of curriculum boxes by the end of the project, and to have covered a lot of musical ground.

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