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Naxos MusicBox

The Naxos Music Group is well recognised in the classical music world not only for their wonderful high-quality recordings of often less known pieces, as well as for historical libraries and a wealth of information at the touch of a button on their website. I was therefore happy to test and have a detailed look at their new sister site – Naxos MusicBox – aimed at children (aged 4 to 12), parents and teachers.

The site contains a wealth of information and is user-friendly. I think it will appeal to children but also to adults. It has been built with attractive colours, appealing drawings and entertaining cartoons. It’s easy to navigate and find the information one is looking for. The menu appears in a drop down list and in colour-coded icons on the home page, clearly labelled and with a brief description underneath and all the fonts used are the ones recommended for people suffering from dyslexia. Important features for people who are colour blind or have dyslexia.

The site is organised in sections (each with a unique icon as described above). These are: Instruments, Playlists, Composers, History, Audiobooks, Stage & Screen, Voices, Activities and Dictionary. All the instruments of the orchestra are featured, explained and with audio examples. The section on composers lists more than fifty with a page for each one, containing a short biography, questions, tracks and a selected playlist. The section entitled History has historical timelines from a musical perspective and including a brief mention of other historical events to give the music a context in its own time. Most of it is quite good but I thought this section could do with a bit more detail and accuracy. For example, in the Baroque Period it is mentioned that Portugal won its independence from Spain in 1640. True, but it seemed to imply that Portugal had been part of Spain until then when in fact it is one of the oldest nations in Europe, dating back to the second and third decades of the 12th Century. The period before the Baroque, entitled Early Music, does not mention that Portugal lost its independence to Spain in 1580 due to King Sebastian’s untimely death in 1578 without heirs. So, in order to avoid misconceptions and in this particular case, if one mentions Portugal and I quote, “wins independence from Spain”, then it should also be mentioned earlier “loses its independence to Spain” and why.

Vocal and choral music is also present and the sections with Audiobooks and Activities are outstanding. I listened to part of an audiobook (The Story of Classical Music by Darren Henley), read by Marin Alsop. It is excellent, as the reading is interjected in the pertinent sections of the book with well-known music from the relevant composer. The Activities section contains questions and puzzles, as well as classroom exercises for teachers, which include guidance and resources. I must admit I had fun myself doing some of the multiple choice questions, aimed at kids. There is also a lot of music to listen to and understand, a wealth of information, interactive lively tasks and pages that can be printed out.

Overall, I truly enjoyed the site experience and feel. I think it will definitely be engaging for children but not only them. In my view, adults who came to music late will also find it entertaining and appreciate the learning possibilities. When I was at University there was no such thing as the Internet and I must say that a site such as Naxos MusicBox would have been invaluable. Additionally, I have never taught music but I was a teacher and lecturer once, teaching foreign languages and history, and lecturing literature. I sometimes wrote small computer programmes with vocabulary exercises for my pupils. I just wish I could have had a similar type of site as Naxos MusicBox at my disposal to engage and support them or my literature students. Finally, to summarise my opinion in just three simple words I will say, ‘well done, Naxos.’

Margarida Mota-Bull
Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at Flowingprose.com



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