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KS3 Music: Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Explore the relationship between moving images and music

Main image of KS3 Music: Alice in Wonderland (1903)
Author Poppy Simpson, BFI
TopicSilent film and soundtracks
Curriculum linksNC KS3 Music - Unit 13: Music and Media

A fragment from an early silent film of Alice in Wonderland made by the Hepworth studio.

This silent Alice in Wonderland was, in 1903, the longest film yet produced in Britain, running about 12 minutes. The film was not so much a contained narrative piece but rather a series of sequences relating to key moments from the book. This was the result of the way in which films were shown at this time (short subjects were preferred). Indeed, showmen could buy a single sequence from the Hepworth Company, such as the illustrative extract used here, rather than the whole film.

This idea for a starter/plenary encourages students to think about the relationship between moving images and soundtracks and to communicate their ideas about the kinds of composition that might accompany a short silent extract from Alice in Wonderland.

This could be used at the start or the end of a longer lesson involving composition as well as an activity to develop students' musical vocabulary.



Begin by asking students what they know of the story of Alice in Wonderland. You might want to collect their knowledge and observations about the story, character, films etc. on the board.

In the course of this discussion, it is important to establish that the story of Alice involves her arrival in a fantasy world, populated by a host of extraordinary characters.

What kind of musical elements and devices do students associate with the word 'fantasy' and what kind of music might they expect to find in a film based on the Alice in Wonderland story? Encourage them to talk about textures, tempo, dynamics and tonalities.

Now, ask them to watch one of the two short extracts - Changing Size, or Royal Procession - and note down their initial observations and ideas about what a score would need to take into account. For example, how might the procession be represented in a composition (ie. a marching beat), or how might music be used to emphasise Alice's surprise as she changes size?


Some more ideas

  • Encourage students to watch through the newly restored Alice in Wonderland on the BFI Youtube site, with a newly created soundtrack. What do they notice about the music? How would they describe it? Do they think it is effective and affecting?
Video Clips
1. Changing size (2:15)
2. Royal procession (2:11)

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Alice in Wonderland (1903)Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Read more about this film

Thumbnail image of Alice in Wonderland (1966)Alice in Wonderland (1966)

Read more about this programme

See also