I know that I’m 15 years behind, but today I finally got around to watching Jack Black in School of Rock. Of course, I already had a fairly good idea of what to expect in terms of plot, but I must say that I was blown away by the film: a riot of silliness,dissent and Tenacious D style rock music! Inspired by the movie, I’m going to use the phrase “Stick it to the man!” at every opportunity from now on.
One of my favourite scenes was when ‘Mr S.’ first started putting the band together: getting one kid playing repeated notes on a bass guitar (an ostinato or ‘pedal point’), another running a drum loop, while two others put riffs on guitar and keys. This scene helps to demonstrate how music is built in layers; how different instruments often take on unique functions within a larger texture, and how those individual layers are very often pretty simple and repetitive but extremely effective once they are placed perfectly together within a fixed time frame. The scene also showed how putting together even the simplest extract of music usually takes one leading musician to direct everyone else (this reminds me of the importance of Musical Directors… I must do a blog at some point on the answer to questions that are often directed to me after the choir concerts that I conduct – just what is it that I’m doing, and couldn’t the choir do just fine without someone at the front swinging their arms?). This is in contrast to scenes in other movies about musicians – a scene in High School Musical springs to mind when, having heard a song only once, Troy and Gabriella not only go on to perform it but also miraculously manage to sing it in note-perfect 2-part harmony. Anyone who has ever tried to sing a song after just one hearing could testify to how extremely difficult it would be to pull off that stunt!
Anyway, School of Rock is a fantastic feel-good movie, if a little unrealistic (if, in 2018, an aspiring ‘Mr S.’ really penetrated school security procedures and took kids off the site without permission he would almost certainly spend a long time behind bars!!). My teaching isn’t quite in the style of Jack Black’s character, but I hope what I do similarly switches people (of all ages) on to playing and enjoying music.