Words and music

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 


Tutors: Pauline Vessely/ sociologist

Project manager: Stéphane Coulaud


This project takes an unusual approach to music, teaching pupils to recognise instruments, instrumental formations and the main characteristics defining a musical genre. By means of an active, open-ended listening device and a specific method, it takes them on a jaunt through words, voices, melodies, rhythms and arrangements.
Sessions devoted to listening to and analysing sound recordings alternate with discovering and applying sociological and anthropological methods. The music is recorded on a phonograph, which affects the themes studied and methods used.

Taste in music
In this phase, the pupils, teachers and the tutor brought examples of music they like, to share with the whole group. The pupils discovered and learned to formulate the differences between criticism and analysis. From the first impressions and reactions to the title (music, words, instruments, etc.) the tutor encouraged the pupils to go further, saying more about the choice of the title, their own and other people’s tastes. They discussed the music and rhythm, the commercial or political nature of the title and the origins of the music (American, French).
The titles chosen by the pupils were played for others to hear, again to observe and compare judgements about music. In return, the pupils were given a title that they listened to in class. It was analysed in the same way, to identify the instruments, understand the words, and work out when the song was released.

As most pupils are accustomed to digital sound, mainly the MP3 format of cell phones, a session was devoted to music media. It was designed with the sociologist and the creator of the radio program Solénoïde. To pick up the differences, they analysed traditional recordings: LPs and singles, audio cassettes and CDs. They also listened to Deezer and YouTube, the latter being the pupils' main source of music.

What is behind the music?
In the last phase, the pupils interviewed music making professionals, to collect information but also to talk about the issues raised in the first two phases.

An 8-minute sound track, which was broadcast in the schools through F93’s listening device.


Participating schools:
- Class (6th) Collège Camus, Neuilly-sur-Marne
- Class (3rd) Collège Liberté, Drancy