Way-back Wednesday: Shoreditch Experimental Music School, 1969

Worth watching: This vintage (1969) BBC program looks at “experimental music education,” of the time. We’re not sure if it’s the most awesome thing ever – or the most disturbing. Either way, it’s a fascinating look at how some of the avant garde musical approaches of the day – including electronics and system music –  were brought into the classroom.

Shoreditch_Music_Schl_1Presenter Peter Fletcher talks in the studio with some of the music teachers about their unconventional Summerhill-like educational methods (the children “progress from play to composition without actually being taught”), and about the tape loops, reel-to-reel recorders, bowed sheet metal, and “multi-vibrator” instruments the children used to create their works.

Along the way, you get an idea of how this educational approach was viewed at the time. The presenter asks teacher Roy Cooper, “Do you make bizarre, strange noises just for the sake of it, or do you think there’s some sort of educational value to be had from this work with the children?”

Some highlights:

  • Shoreditch_Music_Schl_2Cutest thing: John, a grade school kid, telling his story (with neat visuals and a soundtrack of the kids’ own composition) about taking a rocket into space and finding a monster;
  • Coolest thing: older (secondary) school students’ piece about “heat, radiation, and relentlessness;”
  • Um, what? the student-produced film + music about cholera deaths (?!) that has a terrifying mob of masked children at the end that rivals any bizarre scene from “The Prisoner.”

Shoreditch_music_schl_4We’ll stop short of making watching this video a requirement, but your homework is to make a track about ‘heat, radiation and relentlessness.’.

Hat tip to Keith Handy for finding this gem.

16 thoughts on “Way-back Wednesday: Shoreditch Experimental Music School, 1969

  1. I wonder why we didn’t do something like this in school. We had lots of instruments and there were tape machines, microphones and amplifiers. One of the books we used in class even had a section about a composition by Stockhausen. I wonder if that was because my teachers were from some sort of “lost generation” that was educated after the advent of experimental avantegarde music and in a time where it was perhaps taboo to take this kind of music and experimentation seriously. Indeed, I wonder what today’s music teachers are like.

  2. I remember me doing all this in the class room with a desk,paper,bottle,window just because I needed to create and my teacher thought I was an idiot.THANK YOU MY TEACHER YOU MADE ME WHAT I AM TODAY TEACHER PAINTER AND MUSICIAN!!!

  3. I recall just one occasion in my school in 1973 when the music class was given a ‘choice’ for one term of either rehearsing for a school concert or doing a project with avant-garde music and tape recording. I enthusiastically opted for the latter, only to be told by my music teacher, “No, Philip – you play guitar, so you’ll be doing PROPER music for the concert with me.” Some choice!

  4. I love the fact that the students were exploring sounds. Tons of skills too, aside from actually playing the sounds, such as ensemble working, following a conductor, etc. I wonder whether these secondary children were the ones who couldn’t play an instrument. In primary school, we do this, but probably not enough, at least with ‘found’ sounds. We uses Audacity to manipulate the sounds now. I didn’t know that this went on in those days. It certainly didn’t in my school. And I am almost of that era. A fascinating insight too into the classroom of the time.

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