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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Music of the Eleven Plus

To some of us attempting to solve some of the more arcane eleven plus questions is both pleasurable and painful. Some questions seem to need a special language or vocabulary. It could be, for example, like trying to learn a foreign language or read music.

We can believe, possibly, that some eleven plus parents will have studied music at the Sorbonne – and thus have a far more gentrified knowledge of music than the rest of us. Think back to your music lessons at school when your music teacher broke away from trying to encourage the class to sing in parts and encouraged you to look into a little theory.

You will remember that the major scale of C is simply the white piano notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. If we start on one white note, B, for example, and use only white notes to write our scale we produce a different pattern of tones and semitones. From B to C is a semitone. C to D is a tone – and so on.

Years and years ago musicians composed music which fitted tone and semitones. They were called modes. You will recall that in your lesson on the 17th of May (some years ago) your music teacher chatted about the seven basic modes. The first three are:

Aeolian – TST TSTT – the white notes from A to A
Locrian – STT STTT – the white notes from B to B
Ionian – TTS TTTS – the white notes from C to C (We use this scale today)

So if we start helping an eleven plus child answer some abstruse question – and we start off on the wrong note – then we could be leading the child into a world of discordant sounds. Your pleasant, well-meaning and harmonious voice could, possibly, be promoting disorder and disaster. “Start as you mean to finish, my dear, start on Middle C!”

Some of the terms used in music would certainly apply in any organised eleven plus lesson.

Accel. = accelerando = gradually faster (Hurry up dear, I need to put the meal for the whole family on.)
Dim. = diminuendo = gradually softer (This does not represent how you feel about yourself if you cannot answer an eleven plus question)
Pp = pianissimo = very soft (How you feel in the head when your child is quicker than you at some questions.)

As the lessons ends you walk away shaking your head espressivo (with expression) and dolore (with grief) that your impetuoso (impetuous) child has to struggle with misterioso (mysterious) questions.