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Show and Tell: A Day in the Life of a Coalminer (1910)
Introduction History Geography Music English  
image from A Day in the Life of a Coalminer (1910)

Silent films such as this have enormous potential in the Music classroom by providing a narrative focus for composition.

Why not start off using A Day in the Life of a Coalminer as grounds for a discussion about different musical genres and styles, exploring what kind of music students instinctively feel might compliment the images they see on screen. It might be useful to watch another Screenonline title, Songs of the Coalfields to give students a sense of traditional mining songs.

However, it might be equally productive to explore how students feel a more contemporary sound might work. This leads to an interesting question: how significant is the score in creating atmosphere and meaning in a film? If A Day in the Life of a Coalminer had two different scores - a more traditional one as well as contemporary one, how might affect audiences' experience of and reaction to the film?

You might also want to touch on the relationship between film music and narrative. For example, the film tells the story of a miner's day - do students think that music can convey a sense of passing time? Similarly, can music mirror some of the narrative techniques used in the film? For example, the film begins and ends with the same shot - the miner leaves his family in the front yard in the morning and returns to there in the evening. How might this be reflected in a composition?

Finally, why not challenge students to compose their own scores for short extracts from the film. You might want to be more prescriptive - giving them a specific genre or range of styles to choose from or, indeed, choosing a particular extract for them to work to.

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