When the National Curriculum was first introduced, I was a young education officer working for an exciting freelance orchestra which is now known as Sinfonia 21 (S21), explains Catherine Rose.
I?m now on the board of this remarkable organisation and have been able to watch the extraordinary progress it has made in the area of music, science and technology. The orchestra believes in One Culture - a phrase coined by Professor Igor Aleksander of Imperial College, meaning that the arts/science divide is both false and damaging. S21?s work demonstrates the value of marrying the two, and is leading to some fascinating and valuable educational, musical and medical advances.
We started with the Music and Science Project in the early 90s, a roadshow which, by means of musical instruments, slinky springs, ropes and pretending to be air molecules, introduced primary school children in the London Docklands to the concepts of vibration, sound travelling, frequency, and pitch, rounded off by creative music-making.This was hugely successful, and when Sinfonia 21 became orchestra in residence at Imperial College (IC), London, the whole thing blossomed.
The orchestra is now exploring three areas of music and science: MaST, or Music and Science and Technology, is a year-round series of projects run in a variety of educational settings, which culminates each year in the MaST Fair during National Science Week. Open workshops are led by the Drake Music Project, Sonic Arts Network, Sound Intermedia, Educality, S21 musicians and IC Physics staff and students. Children immerse themselves in virtual reality, ?seeing sound? and creating their own musical works. In the future the Fair will be linked to teachers? INSET. Recognising that MaST workshops reach only a few, S21 has now set up a new company, Muzantiks, which will make the schools music and science work available on the web.
ElectronIC is a series of electro-acoustic concerts carried out by the orchestra, with an education programme running in parallel at the Royal College of Music.The Visiting Professor of Composition at IC, is the prime creative force, working with S21 musicians and students from the Colleges.
The SHIMMER Project is S21?s three-year collaborative project with the Therapeutic Research Unit for the Elderly at Hammersmith Hospital and Music for Life.They are researching the effect of interactive music-making with patients from St. Charles Hospital suffering from dementia and Alzheimer?s disease.The musicians have been specially trained to carry out the work, using improvisation to communicate with clients, some of whom can no longer speak.The results of the project will be published intermittently through reports in medical journals.
I had an inkling, when I was crawling on the floor of a primary school hall in Wapping, manipulating a giant slinky spring to show how sound-waves travel, that this might lead to something much bigger. It is a tribute to my colleagues and friends at Sinfonia 21 that they have come so far.
Catherine Rose is Education Development Manager for Eastern Touring Agency, a board member of Muzantiks and a freelance consultant and writer
e: firstname.lastname@example.org MaST is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust, SHIMMER by the Headley Trust, ElectronIC by the Gulbenkian Foundation and Muzantiks by NESTA.