# Magic Numbers

Synchronicity can be the glue that binds ideas together. Alan Armstrong points out that all teachers (including instructors) need to become teachers of numeracy (along with literacy and well-being). I hear that that classroom colleagues in MGS are meeting in groups to discuss how this will be done*. I probe the theory knowledge of a gifted, multi-instrumental pupil and find some cloudiness in the numbers area. This is not due to lack of ability on the pupil, who is in a top Maths set, but due to the multi-modality which music imposes on numbers. With exceptions the numbers involved rarely rise above 7 and therefore we require these few, overworked digits to perform a multiplicity of functions (accidental pun). The big hitters in one area, are Z List celebrities in the next; numbers which seem like immediately family members in one context are, at best, distant cousins in another. Even the most mathematically gifted pupils will feel, at times, that they are drowning in a whirlpool of, polygamous, shape-shifting integers.

Confused? Join the club. That’s why I intend to produce some kind of table to help pupils (and any other interested parties) see at a glance the many faces and functions of these digits. Adapting the Kipling process, I’ll compile a prototype, run it past some pupils & colleagues, make necessary adjustments and additions and post it here – most probably on a new Lesson Support Page.

In the meantime, let me mention just a numerical oddity which struck me the other day while listening to an old mp3 download of Radio 4’s In Our Time. The conversation concerned the Fibonacci series, golden sections etc. and their prevalence in nature, architecture, art and music. It occurred to me for the first time that the Fibonacci series does not feature the number most prevalent in Western music – 4. Strange.

* unfortunately instructors rehearse ensemble at this time and can’t join in.

# Music in prisons

One of the thorniest questions in any justice debate is “what is prison for?” Punishment? Rehabilitation? The protection of society? A mixture of the above and more? As far as punishment goes, the debate continues. Is simply being there the punishment? Is the prison simply the location where punishments (imposition of this – denial of that) are administered? The perspective of the victims of crime are often brought into the debate. Such a conversation recently unfolded on Radio 4’s Today on the subject of music in prisons (scroll down to 0743 – the time this item was broadcast).

The discussion was prompted by the installation of listening posts in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall where visitors can hear the compositions of offenders. Reporter, Nicola Stanbridge, discussed the varying points of view with Sara Lee (Projects Coordinator, Irene Taylor Trust “Music In Prisons”), Dr Loraine Gelsthorpe (University of Cambridge, Institute of Criminology) and a former prisoner. Needless to say, the conversations were punctuated by recordings of Johnny Cash from Folsom Prison.

Dr Gelsthorpe listed the rehabilitative benefits of involvement as including: “well-being, relatedness, confidence & learning.” These terms will surely resonate with anyone connected to the changes currently being wrought in Scottish education by A Curriculum for Excellence. Particularly withdrawn or troublesome prisoners, who had not previously taken part in education (in any sense that mainstream teaching would imply) were often targeted for this programme.

I looked in vain on the website of the Royal Festival Hall for a link to this project – but did stumble upon Art by Offenders (Koestler Exhibition).

I taught a guitar class in HM Prison Edinburgh (Saughton) in the late 80s. As far as I could make out (I was only there one evening per week) the most popular classes were Art, Music, Maths (numeracy) & Chess. These relatively informal classes ran alongside a more formal Open University programme.