Nick Peterson: Music’s Fascinating Fun Facts

published by Nelson Cengage Learning (ISBN 9780 1702 11253)

Put aside the encyclopedias or online dictionaries, this little tome is a treasure chest of amusing and yet highly informative information about all things musical and otherwise.

Nick Peterson has cleverly knitted together an amazing set of facts, historical stories and rare gems of information to provide insight into the origins of our musical world, couched in a readible and visually appealling way. Designed for newcomers to the study of music and even older readers, it is absorbing and addictive.

Whilst expanding your knowledge about famous musicians, well-known pieces, musical instruments, styles and even theoretical concepts, the book aims to answer commonsense questions that may stop the reader in his or her tracks. Such questions as: “Why is a double bass called “double” even though there is only one?” and “If there is a Last Post, shouldn’t there be a First Post?

As an experienced educator, Mr Peterson is aware of gaining the reader’s attention and in short sharp grabs of information sets out to fire up the music student’s imagination. The information is concise and organised in alphabetical order with lots of illustrations and diagrams.

Humourous, hugely informative, entertaining, colourful and engaging, Music’s Fascinating Fun Facts can be used as a springboard for further exploration. It is ideal as a studio prize, reward for outstanding effort, but it is also worth every teacher owning a copy for those moments when new inspiration is required to re-charge a lesson.

An Introduction to the Concepts of Music, by Nick Peterson

Publisher:  Cengage Learning Australia
ISBN:  9780070161078

An essential resource for any teacher (and students as well), Nick Peterson has produced a comprehensive tool for the NSW curriculum (especially Stages 5-6), explaining in succinct and relevant ways the concepts, elements or “ingredients” of music. These concepts as stated by the Board of Studies are texture, duration, pitch, tone colour, structure, dynamics and expressive techniques.

Working through each concept, the author has provided great ideas to explain what can be very confusing to students. The text is littered with superb visuals, grids, charts, diagrams and score extracts. Backed up by audio examples on CD, the written word is given meaning by the listening experience.

I have often told students that the Aural Skills paper in the Music 1 course does to some extent test literacy skills. What is difficult is putting into words what one hears. For instance, in the concept “Tone Colour”, colour is a word belonging to the visual realm. That not being confusing enough, combinations of instruments in their lower register are often described as being heavy, a term associated with weight. In their middle register, they can be said to be warm, which is a descriptor of temperature; and in their upper register, the sound is frequently described as being bright, a characteristic of light.

Not only does this text help in deciphering the vocabulary, but it will also help students in oral accounts in viva voce presentations.

Clarity is paramount in Peterson’s work and accompanied by some crazy cartoons, he achieves this and much more with a touch of wit.

The application of these concepts in the study of real music is the subject of Chapter 7, whilst the final 3 chapters outline typical HSC Aural questions, answers and clues to students in attempting this work. Finally, a useful glossary will put into sharp focus the terms once and for all.

I know this will be a well used text in my classroom this year and beyond, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.