Tag Archives: Ewan McIntosh

The Element

Thanks to Ewan for flagging this up – Sir Ken Robinson talking at the RSA on his new book The Element. Amongst other things he distinguishes between being good at something and loving it. Ken Robinson’s talks (renowned TED Talk here) illustrate a resonant and paradoxical point made by another of my heroes, Clive James – that the only time it’s worth being funny is when discussing something serious.

Ewan writes eloquently and engages in comment about the ideas expressed in The Element here.


ScreenToaster 1

Firstly, thanks to Ewan McIntosh for flagging up ScreenToaster – a free screencasting application. I decided to experiment by creating a short “how to” video, showing how to convert Sibelius files into PDF files using Open Office – a free, open source program. You can see the video here.

I can see some potential here for distance CDP/In Service. Moreover, there are videos in a variety of languages in the ScreenToaster archive, so you can kill two birds with one stone.

In case anyone wonders why someone who already owns Sibelius would want to do this, here are a few reasons:

  • scores/parts can be shared with people who are not Sibelius users

  • they can be printed out even in a location where Sibelius is not installed

  • parts for pupils can be emailed to class teachers in primary schools – the majority of which do not have Sibelius

  • scores/parts can be saved in a format which prohibits further editing – by unauthorised parties

  • files can be uploaded to blogs – allowing pupils with sufficient curiosity to see what others in their ensemble are playing

On your home pitch

If you’ve ever seen the film production of My Fair Lady you may recall the scene where Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering listen to a recording of the many vowels sounds of which humans are thought capable.* I first saw the film as a teenager and can still recall the feeling of aural challenge. This same feeling came flooding back to me today during the second tableau (from 0:28 to 0:50) of the following video on polski alfabet – particularly the final seven sounds. If you think you’ve a good ear, why not give it a go?

[kml_flashembed movie="http://uk.youtube.com/v/6s-vMd_pBks" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

There are thought to be two types of pitch ability:

  • perfect or absolute pitch – where a person can identify or produce a note without reference to any previous sound

  • relative pitch – where a person can identify or produce a note thanks to the context i.e. previous note, harmonic setting etc.

I’ve always felt that there is a third factor which is familiarity with the instrument (or language) to which one is listening. People’s pitch perception is aided (perhaps unconsciously) by an awareness of the acoustical properties of instruments with which they are familiar. I suppose this goes for tuning systems and harmonic language. I wonder how many of us could sing or whistle a fragment of a melody from a radically different musical culture after one hearing the way we could with, say, a fragment of a Scottish folk song. In language terms, I’m sure we must find it more difficult to distinguish between a set of very similar sounds – none of which we often use.

I was very impressed with the above video – yet another example of the bounteous gifts available online – and spent a large part of the morning experimenting with Windows Movie Maker (thanks to Ewan McIntosh – as I didn’t even realise such a thing existed). The aspect of bonding the visual with the aural was good fun and much easier than I thought. I would post here my little experiment the photographs and music are still in copyright.

* I seem to recall the number as being around 60 but there is a more ambitious estimate of 200 in paragraph 11 of this.


It’s fitting when something new, positive and creative comes along for New Year, so thanks to Ewan McIntosh for the heads up on wordia, whose mission is to redefine the dictionary. This is done by means of short videos, to which collection we are all invited to contribute. The part of the invitation I particularly like is, “think of a word which has a special meaning for you.” As everyone in the teaching game knows, wanting to take part is a huge part of the journey.

I see an opportunity here for pupils and teachers of Music to parallel the excellent work of LTS‘s Learn Listening Online. There seems to be room for inventive and fun ways of illustrating concepts. Moreover, the fact that it is a dictionary should reinforce the connection between music and language. Contributors will need to think about parts of speech and perhaps even etymology. If contributing to this is not the embodiment of CfE, in terms of cross-curricular, creative connectivity, then I don’t know what is.

This illustration of the concept of round might give some idea of what I’m describing. My current favourite, however, is parody – this word was just asking for it.

Happy New Year!