4 Other Subjects Which Can Use Music In Class  

By Matthew Pink

Music in music class is a given. But how can music be used creatively in other subjects in order to both enrich the subject in question and give a different perspective to music learning?


There is no point telling a music teacher of the benefits of educating students through music’s rich power. They are fully aware of, and totally on board with the capacity of music to pique interest, to inspire, to perplex and to energise learners.

Music in ClassIn order to make their class time more stimulating, music teachers can make use of the full spectrum of musical assets including recorded materials, sheet music, instruments, videos, and now the a wonderful smorgasbord of digitally interactive materials.

However, the potential of music to enable learning should not be confined only to pure-play music classes. If you start to look at music as a tool to open up possibilities within the confines of other subject curricula, both students and teachers can begin to look at well-trodden learning pathways and subjects with fresh eyes and ears and new perspectives. Along with this can come a renewed vigour for learning.

Here I outline 4 subjects and 4 suggestions of ways to use music in class as entry points or as a learning tool to open up other subjects. While I use specific examples, they are designed to work as templates which can be taken and applied to the individual contexts of your own classes.

History

Primary and secondary evidence and the way that it can be interpreted is essential for any history curriculum. Music in various forms – Music in Historywhether it be popular song, a hymn, a folk song or a composed piece which is re-contextualised according to circumstance, can offer up rich examples of both types of evidence.

Songs which include event narratives within their lyrical content can be useful to explore how people alive at the time felt, how they expressed how they felt and how they interpreted particular historical events.

An excellent example which comes to mind is Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. A harrowingly beautiful song with genuinely poetical lyrical content, playing the song would offer a valid entry point into discussions about the development of racial politics in the USA and the Civil Rights Movement.

Languages

music in languageLyrical content can once again provide a refreshing way for students to look at things like vocabulary, grammatical construction and syntax but within the structure of a song. They can work both as listening exercises for comprehension or even translation.

Moreover, just as they are used in history lessons, songs can be used to set cultural context around the nuts and bolts of the target language learning.

For a useful example of how this might work in practice (in French class), you might think of the Boris Vian song Le Déserteur which would work both as a translation exercise but also as a discussion point around war (and its futility).

Geography

Pan Pipes

Songs from different cultural and national contexts are a good prism by which to analyse questions of Music and Geographyhuman geography or ideas of nationality.

You may analyse specific instrumentation, how indigenous peoples make use of the resources available to them locally or how specific communities use music as a means of ritual, tradition, communication and of celebration.

You could analyse why and how the Andean flute (or pan pipe) came to such prominence and discrete differences between the instruments of the Andean counties Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

Religious Education

By comparing and contrasting songs used in different religious practices, from bygone eras and those ofMusic and Religious Education today, fascinating questions and topics of discussion can be opened up in a class environment.

Just as the Psalms of the Jewish tradition are inextricably linked from its practice, the Ragas are the same to Hindu, hymns in Christianity and so on and so on. Music can be used as a way to examine the practice of religious values on the personal, national and international levels.

Students could also choose music themselves in order to talk about their own set of values and principles and how they would like to represented.


Matthew Pink | www.matthewpink.co.uk