This is the main, and biggest of all the Sounding the Somme projects. Pupils will get to compose some original music using actual footage filmed on the Western Front in 1916 and 1917 and we have been given special permission by the Imperial War Museums to use these clips for this purpose.
By listening to the music of both popular and lesser-known films as an introduction, pupils will learn about the function of music in films, the role of the composer and how to bring alive the images on screen through music. We even get some inspiration and some excellent tips of the trade from film composer Laura Rossi.
This project is probably best suited to A/AS Level and Advanced Higher students, although GCSE and Higher pupils will also be able to complete the task with some more support. We have tried to give plenty of ideas for getting started and teachers should also use any other resources they may already have on composing for supporting this task.
If pupils have written music from other Sounding the Somme projects they could use this material and develop it. Melodies and thematic ideas from Kit Bag and Power of Pipes would work well here.
Before starting this project, teachers should have a think about how pupils in a particular class should work together. You have a choice here:
- You could split the class into pre-set composing groups (of 2-4 students) before starting the project and viewing IWM film clips.
- You could let all pupils watch the film clips and let them decide which particular film they’d like to write for and then organise groups. This will depend on the ages and abilities of pupils and the class dynamics.
- You could get pupils to work individually.
- You could do a mixture of both.
You will also need to think about the instrumentation. The exact instrumentation of the pieces is completely up to individual schools and the resources available to them. We do not expect pupils to be able to compose for an orchestra of any size, but this project would be a good time to give it a go. But again, teachers could pre-set the orchestration before viewing any of the films, or wait until after viewing the films set the orchestration.
For this project we would recommend using small ensembles of instruments of both standard forces, such as a string quartet, wind/brass quintet, or a mixture of instruments with piano and percussion. If these compositions are going to be performed in a concert (as part of the Somme100 FILM project or not) this might determine which instruments are used.
If pupils are going to be composing alone, we suggest that they discuss the content of the film and make plans in small groups (Lesson 2) before working on their musical ideas individually.
6 Lessons that are approximately 1 hour long.
The project is designed to be completed during class time, but could also be part of a lunchtime music club, or set as a homework project over a number of weeks to suit the abilities of the pupils. If you have already covered film music and the function of music in films you could skip lesson one and move straight into the composing.
If you need more time, you could also add extra lessons for composing and rehearsing the final pieces.
- To learn about film music and the function of music in films
- To compose some original music based on film footage from WW1
- To revise and refine music to fit the images on the screen
- To use computer music programmes to sync music with film footage (optional)
- To record music onto film clips
- To perform the compositions live with film (optional)
- A 3 minute piece of original music to accompany the footage of a WW1 Imperial War Museums film clip.
- Classroom whiteboard/smart board
- Access to the internet to listen to music and watch film clips as a class
- Access to YouTube to pre-load film score extracts
- IPads/tablets/mobile phones for re-watching the film clips in smaller groups
- Plain paper and pencils
- Access to school computers loaded up with Logic/Pro Tools/Audacity/Sibelius
- Piano/keyboards for composing
- Manuscript paper
- Instruments for performing music
- The actual process of creating the music and quality of composition is the most important aspect of this project.
- Don’t spend too long trying to sync the music with the film. We don’t need perfection here.
- Refer to Laura’s music in the original film The Battle of the Somme if you need any inspiration.
And finally, don’t forget to take a look at the resources for all of the Sounding the Somme projects, you may find something useful elsewhere. When you have finished your compositions, please do share them with us.