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By Andre Florencio on

Five surprising highlights in Turn It Up: The Power of Music for Primary schools 

Join us as we explore five exhibition highlights that link to the National Curriculum for science and music in KS1 and KS2. Take a musical tour through objects and interactives that encourage hands-on engagement and promote self-expression. 

Cue the encore! Turn It Up: The Power of Music has been extended due to popular demand until 1 September 2024, giving you and your group more time to visit this interactive musical exhibition. 

Audience research reveals that most people, unless highly skilled in playing an instrument or reading music, consider themselves ‘unmusical’. However, much like science, music is all around us and is something that everyone can access and enjoy. Turn It Up: The Power of Music explores the impact music has on humans; how it affects the way we feel and how it shows up in our everyday lives. 

With fun facts and engaging discussion questions, this blog can be used to highlight key objects and interactives during your group’s visit to the exhibition.  

 1. Egg slicer 

Egg slicer used by electro-acoustic musician Hugh Davies

Who would have thought of using an egg slicer as an instrument? 

Played as if it were a tiny harp, an egg slicer has thin wires that can be played like a string instrument. The vibrating strings create a sound that can be captured by a microphone before being altered technologically to produce an entirely new sound.  

Electronic innovators like Hugh Davies, who played the egg slicer that is on display in Turn It Up and Delia Derbyshire (known for her creation of the Doctor Who theme) also used other everyday items like lamp shades and chopsticks to create new sounds. 

Suggested discussion question: Which objects in your bedroom could you use as a musical instrument? 

2. Tuning Fork 

Tuning forks

Music is a combination of tone, tempo and pitch. The tone and pitch add character to the sound, which can be high or low. For example, the sound of a whistle or a young child will likely produce a high-pitched sound, whilst the sound of thunder at a distance is more likely to be rumbling and low-pitched.   

Tuning forks, like the one in the exhibition, are an instrument used by musicians to correct an instrument’s pitch, making sure it reproduces a specific note. This is very useful for an orchestra, where all the instruments should be in key to create and amplify a harmony. When struck against a solid surface, the two metal prongs of the tuning fork produce an A note, which musicians will use as a reference to make sure their instruments are in tune. 

Did you know that tuning forks are also used in medical settings for hearing assessments? When the fork is vibrating, its base is put next to the head of the patient and the fork edges are placed next to the ear, with the doctor keeping track of how long the patient can hear the vibrations for.  

Suggested discussion question: Do you prefer songs with a high or low pitch? 

3. Metronome 

Metronome, Charles Verdin, Paris, c1890 – 1907.

After tone, tempo is another essential element in music. It sets the pace and provides a distinct meaning to a musical sequence. Before the 19th century, time was mainly interpreted by the musician with words that indicated pace, from fast (allegro) to slow (adagio). Italian has long been the international language for musical terminology as Italy was an early hub of music during the Renaissance period. 

 The metronome, which you can find near the Tuning Fork in the exhibition, is a mechanical instrument that counts time, measured in regular beats per minute (BPM). It makes a ticking sound to mark the beat and can be adjusted to fit the tempo of the music you are playing. In orchestras, the conductor assumes the role of a human metronome, guiding musicians through the composer’s musical score to shape the sound of the performance. 

DJs are masters of playing with pitch and tempo. To mix two different songs, they match the tempo of both tracks using the pitch controller. Did you know that increasing the tempo will also increase the pitch, and vice-versa? 

Suggested discussion question: Do you prefer slow or fast songs? Why? 

After observing a range of surprising musical objects, it’s time to venture into a new section of the exhibition, the musical playground, where you can put your creativity to the test. 

 4. Musical Playground 

Visitors in the musical playground in Turn It Up: The power of music

 The Musical Playground invites visitors of all musical abilities to craft their own musical compositions, either in a group or on their own. In this space, pupils can explore beat, harmony and melody guided by the understanding that music knows no bounds or set rules. 

Comprising a network of luminous tubes, the Musical Playground is a collaborative space where your class can create original musical compositions by layering elements across three categories: 

  • Rhythm – a regular pattern of sounds, words, or musical notes 
  • Harmony – a combination of two or more musical notes played or sung together  
  • Melody – a tune, often forming part of a larger piece of music 

 5. Beat Blocks 

Visitors playing with Beat Blocks in Turn It Up: The power of music

If you prefer a solo approach to music making, BeatBlocks is an interactive exhibit that provides a playful opportunity to construct building blocks to make music. Located opposite the musical playground, the fun begins with a blank score. Pupils can choose blocks and craft sequences of layered sounds, blending different colours, movements, and shapes, with the pitch determined by the height of the towering blocks.  

The discovery continues in Turn It Up, where you can explore many other objects and exhibits that reflect the impact music has on our bodies and minds. Show off your dance moves in front of our digital motion mirror in the name of science or learn about an artist who experiences sound as colour, further deepening your understanding of the relationship between music and human experience. 

We hope you enjoy discovering the objects and exhibits in Turn It Up: The Power of Music. If this blog has inspired you to visit the exhibition, you can book tickets via our group booking portal. Don’t forget to share your visit and let us know your favourite objects by tagging the Science Museum Group’s Learning team on X @learningSMG.