Apr 2013

I got rhythm; how do I get pitch?

How does a wheel work? H0w does a flip-flop stay on? How does a jam jar screw tight, but not so you can’t get it off? How can you put up a shelf that’s horizontal when you haven’t got a spirit-level? How can you produce the three notes you need for the first line of Twinkle, twinkle little star without a musical instrument? Build your own, of course!

So went the launch of Key Concept Performance at Abbeyfield School with guest designer and performing structures supremo Michael Cross. 250 Year 7s dug deep into the essential function of things and explained in their own words how everything from an emery board to a bayonet light bulb fitting does what it does. Or perhaps more elegantly, how it performs. Not what it does, but how; because, as I primitively claimed, engineering is all about how things do what they do. One girl’s description of how a safety pin earns its springy respite under the little steel hood was memorably intimate. Later, teams built instruments from an array of unremarkable materials: plastic plumbing tubes, wooden tongue depressors, balloons, bottles and cans, off-cuts of wood and metal, elastic bands and shoeboxes for acoustic enhancement.

Invention was rife and readers will imagine the ensuing cacophony; congratulations to the students who got pitch as well as rhythm. Watch this space for the video soon.