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Show and Tell: Boy and Bicycle (1965)
Introduction English (1) English (2) Art Music  
image from Boy and Bicycle (1965)
Author Edward McGown
TopicSoundtracks, Creating mood and meaning

Some of Boy and Bicycle's most interesting uses of music come in the first six minutes of the film. Covering the screen (so that the moving images are concealed), play students the sequence in which the boy cycles through town up until the point where we hear 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' being sung inside the school. Ask students to note down the characteristics of music in terms of pitch, dynamics, tempo and texture. What kinds of emotions does the score evoke? Are there any clear changes in mood or tone? Based on the soundtrack, what do students think the film is about?

Alternatively, invite your students to compose a short sound track for a particular scene (a good example might be the one in which the boy walks around the empty fairground or when he is chased by the dog). In planning their score, how are students influenced by the images they see? Or are they more interested in the feelings of the character on screen?

'All Things Bright and Beautiful' is a recurring melody in the film - we hear it being sung before it appears (on two occasions) as the basis for the score. How has the composer played around with the hymn's melody in his score? Encourage students to think about the instruments used, the tempo and the phrasing of the tune. Taking this one step further, discuss why composers use recurring musical motifs. Encourage students to think not only about the evocative nature of music - harking back to an emotion or tone at a different point in the film - but also how music is used to create or reinforce a sense of time in film.

Taking a completely different tack, the film could act as the starting point for a lesson on music and movement. How does the score reflect the feelings of riding on a bicycle at the start of the film? Challenge students to develop short, basic, 20-second compositions around different forms of transport. For example, an aeroplane, a train, a pogo stick and a boat!