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Outer Space: Blast Off! (with a teacher)

This activity is for classroom use. Your teacher will have further material to use alongside the clips and information below.


Listen to this music. How would you describe it? What does it make you think of?

Try to give a reason for what it makes you think of.

Audio 1

The piece uses a lot of percussion. It starts with a percussion instrument. Listen again: does anyone know what it is? Can anyone say what is special about this instrument’s role in the music?


Audio 2



We’re going to have a go at making our own musical rocket launching into space! Everyone needs to come up with their very own rhythm pattern, which can then be played in time to a pulse. Just like John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, we’re going to combine our rhythms to a steady pulse – that pulse represents the rocket’s engine.

The speed of the pulse in a piece of music is called the tempo. Your challenge, when it is your turn, is to play your own rhythm pattern in time to the steady pulse you are given. 

Watch out as the speed given to you may be different from the person’s before you!



You are now going to hear another piece of music. How does this music sound different from Short Ride in a Fast Machine?

Audio 3

Look at the picture below and decide which sentences belong with which piece of music (some belong to both) – you’re going to hear Men and Machines first and then Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

Image 1

Audio 4


Audio 5



It’s time for you to create your own piece of ‘Blast Off’ music, to go with the animation below. Make sure you include the following musical ideas for a successful performance:

1. Different percussion instruments that are added in as the piece goes along 

2. Steady pulse which is played clearly

3. Short rhythm patterns that are repeated


Video 1



Percussion: Instruments that are played by being struck, shaken or scraped (e.g. drum, xylophone, tambourine) 

Pulse: A regular/steady beat 

Rhythm pattern: A short repeating pattern that uses sounds or notes of different lengths, e.g. repeatedly clapping the rhythm pattern of the sentence ‘I like fish and chips’ – ‘I like’ being longer notes or sounds, ‘fish and chips’ being shorter ones

Tempo: The speed of a piece of music


All media credits – titles, composers, artists, sources etc. – may be found in the Teacher Sheet, accessed from the Info box at the top of this page.