Friday 13 February 2009

Can Music Aid Memory of Text?

This is a really interesting site that I spotted a little while back. The site was inspired by the late great John Cage, one of the most revolutionary composers of the last century.

The site is called P22 Music Text Composition Generator and you can find it at:
What the site does is to convert a written text into musical notation with a midi music file to play the notation.

It's quite simple to do. You just copy and paste your text into the field, give it a file name (with no spaces or punctuation) choose the speed and instrumentation, then just click to generate the notation and midi file.
Then you get a printable copy of your notation and a midi music file that you can download and play.

I copied and pasted this blog text in and generated this music file with it.
Well I can hear people thinking; "What's this got to do with language teaching?" and that's a really good question, so here's how this 'might' work.

How to use this with students
  • You could produce a music file to play as background while students read the text used to create it. This could build up associations between the music and text and might help them to revise and review elements of the text. You just play the music file a week or so later and see what they can remember from the text (vocabulary, main points).
  • It could also be interesting to build up a music text library and see if your students can remember which text went with each composition. Just play a music file and see which text they think it is.
  • Students could produce musical versions of dialogues and see if listening to the music can help them to remember the dialogue.
  • You can produce the musical accompaniment to stories or plays and use it as background to reading the words.
  • Get your students to play with the speed and instrumentation and produce the best accompaniment to a text. They could listen to each other's composition and choose the most appropriate one and try to explain why it works best for that text.
  • For students who like creative writing such as stories or poems it might be nice for them to also have their own musical version of the text.
  • You or your students could create short musical versions of example sentences that show how vocabulary or grammar points are used.
  • Students could write a text about themselves and then generate their own personal music.
  • If you have any musical students you get them to try to play the notation.
Well I know these ideas are certainly on the borders of ELT methodology and I'm not convinced that they will all work for all or any of your students, but I would be really interested to hear how you get on if you try them.

What I like about the site
  • It's free, quick and easy to use.
  • It produces something that to my knowledge is quite unique
  • The midi files it produces are very small and could be emailed (The one I produced 0f this text is 30 mins long, but still less than 30K)
  • I like the musical angle and the appeal to different learning styles
  • Nice to see anything that promotes the ideas and musical concepts of John Cage

What I'm not so sure about
  • Would be great to have an embed code for the midi file so that you could upload to a blog more easily (I hyper linked to mine, but might put it on my own server space then link to it as it might not stay on te website server for very long)
  • Would be great to be able to select more than one instrument
  • Good idea to select either a short text or a fast speed as the compositions can be quite long
Anyway. I hope you enjoy trying out some of these ideas with your students and please let me know how they go.

Related links:

Nik Peachey


Unknown said...

HI Nik,
I have been remiss in visiting your blog but again I find such a wealth of resources that I am overwhelmed!
I haven't tried this yet and am not an EL teacher but support college faculty at a campus for medical fields. I can see this being useful for memorization of the needed facts, formulas, and processes the students in the medical fields need to know. In the States, almost every child has learned to spell Mississippi using a tune!

Thanks again for all your work bringing resources together to make our searches easier!

And Happy Valentine's Day!

Nik Peachey said...

@ Karen

Thanks for the comments Karen. I have been a bit remiss too, because I've been so busy and haven't had much time to post any new article here, though I do have 4 - 5 half finished!

Anyway it's great that you can see a use for this material beyond ELT. That's great.

Hope you find time to let me know how it goes with these ideas.



Anonymous said...


I just stumbled upon your blog from the International Bloggers site.

This site and post sound great! I've always played classical music when my students have been doing some math practice so I'm sure that this would be a logical extension of that research.

I'm going to have my s students play with this over the next few days and hopefully post about it on my blog.

If you have some time, check us out. We're a bunch of fifth graders in Illinois.

-Mr. Lund

Nik Peachey said...

@ Mr Lund

That's great. I wonder how it would deal with turning mathmatical problems into musical compositions??



Liz said...

Hi Nik,

Just to say thanks a million for the wealth of information here.

I'm going to experiment with quite a lot of these ideas over the next while...thanks!

And keep up the good work! : )


Nik Peachey said...

Thanks Liz

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