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A-level Music

AS/A2 MUSIC (NEW SYLLABUS FROM SEPTEMBER 2016)

 AS Level

Board EDEXCEL, Specification 8MU01

Why choose Music?

Music is a subject that combines practical work with academic study of different styles of music. If you have an interest in music and sing or play an instrument what better way to improve your skills and deepen your understanding than to study music at A level? Universities look favourably at students with musical skills and A level music is a highly regarded A level. The A level music course will give you the opportunity to develop your performance and composition skills and improve your theoretical knowledge whilst gaining a qualification. It is possible to take both Music and Music Technology at A level and each year several students opt to do so.

Robert Smyth Music Spring Concert Piano

Piano solo in the Spring Concert performed by Liam Hughes

The Course

The course involves performing, composing, listening and analysing. You will improve your skills in performing, compose in different styles and have access Sibelius, Reason and Cubase software for composition work. In addition to this, you will analyse and listen to a wide variety of music to develop a more informed appreciation of how and why it was written and performed. You will gain an in-depth understanding of the history of classical and popular music.

The course caters for musicians with different musical backgrounds and interests.

  • For the performance unit you can choose to play either solo or ensemble pieces in any style.
  • For the composition unit the exam board issues different briefs you can choose from which will be very broad and will allow for both classical and popular style pieces for instruments and/or voices. You also have a free composition choice.
  • For the listening and analysis unit you also have to study a wide range of music covering both classical and popular.

Course Content and Assessment

The course consists of three units: 

Unit 1: Performing (Coursework; 30%; externally assessed; 60 marks)

  • A public performance of one or more pieces, performed as a recital. The audience must consist of your teacher and at least one other person.
  • Performance can be playing or singing solo, in an ensemble, improvising, or realising music using music technology.
  • The total performance time across all pieces must be a minimum of 6 minutes (and a maximum of 10 minutes).
  • Performances must be recorded after 1 March in the year of certification and all materials for assessment submitted to arrive by 15 May in the year of certification

Unit 2: Composing (Coursework; 30%; externally assessed; 60 marks)

  • Total of two compositions
  • Each composition must be at least 2 minutes in duration
  • Total time across both submissions must be a minimum of four minutes and 30 seconds
  • Each composition carries 50% of the marks available for this component.
  • Composition 1 must be written to a brief set by Edexcel. There will be a choice of briefs relating to the following areas of study (specific briefs will be released on 1st September in the year of certification ie Year 12):
    • Vocal Music
    • Instrumental Music
    • Music for Film
    • Popular Music and Jazz
    • Fusion
    • New Directions
  • Composition 2 can be either a ‘free composition’ or can be based on one of the briefs set by Edexcel.

Unit 3: Appraising (Exam; 40%; externally assessed; 80 marks)

There are 6 areas of study and 2 set works to be covered within each of these:

Area of Study Set works
Vocal

Music

• J. S. Bach, Cantata, Ein feste Burg, BWV 80: Movements 1, 2, 8

• Mozart, The Magic Flute: Excerpts from Act I: no. 4 (Queen of the Night), 5 (Quintet)

Instrumental Music • Vivaldi, Concerto in D minor, Op. 3 No. 11

• Clara Wieck-Schumann, Piano Trio in G minor, Op.17: Movement 1

Music for Film • Danny Elfman: Batman Returns: Main theme (Birth of a Penguin Part II), Birth of a Penguin Part I, Rise and fall from grace, and Batman vs the Circus

• Rachel Portman: The Duchess: The Duchess and End titles, Mistake of your life, Six years later, and Never see your children again

Popular Music

and Jazz

• Courtney Pine: Album Back in the Day: Inner state (of mind), Lady Day and (John Coltrane), Love and affection

• Kate Bush: Album Hounds of Love: Cloudbusting, And dream of sheep, and Under ice

Fusions • Debussy, ‘Estampes’: Nos. 1 and 2 (‘Pagodes’ and ‘La soirée dans Grenade’)

• Familia Valera Miranda: Caña Quema Alla vá candela and ‘Se quema la chumbambà

New Directions • John Cage – Three Dances for two prepared pianos: No. 1

• Kaija Saariaho: Petals for Violoncello and Live Electronics

The assessment for this unit consists of:

  • One written paper of 90 minutes
  • One audio CD with the extracts to accompany questions on the paper will be provided per
  • student.
  • This paper comprises two sections: A and B:
    • Section A: Areas of study and dictation (45 marks)
      • Three questions related to the set works (audio and skeleton score provided).
      • One short melody/rhythm completion exercise.
    • Section B: Extended response
      • Two essay questions – essay one (15 marks) and essay two (20 marks)
      • Essay one asks students to draw links from their study of the set works to the music heard as an unfamiliar extract.
      • Essay two gives a choice of three questions that ask students to evaluate the musical elements, context and language of one set work. Each option will be from a different area of study.

Where Next?

How Useful is AS/A Level Music?

Edexcel Advanced Level Music is an academic as well as a practical course. You will be able to gain entry to university to follow a wide range of subjects. An A level in music indicates to a prospective university or employer that you have a broad range of skills, including creative, analytical and practical.

The AS/A level in music can lead to further study in music or performing arts in higher education or at HND level. Former Robert Smyth students have gone on to study music at The Royal College of Music, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds College of Music, Oxford University, Nottingham University, The Institute for Contemporary Performance and The Academy of Contemporary Music in London.   For those wishing to study for a music degree at university or conservatoire an A level in music is normally required; Grade 8 practical on its own is very rarely sufficient.

A level would also be useful for anyone considering music as a potential part-time career. Possible career pathways: professional performer or composer, instrumental or classroom teaching, arts and leisure management, music within the media, music publishing, music therapy.

Entry Requirements

You must be able to play a musical instrument or sing to a good standard, at least Grade 5, although there is no requirement to have taken actual grade exams. You need to be able to read music and it is expected that you have a grade B or better in GCSE Music. Students without a grade B in GCSE Music will need to pass an internal theory and practical test to gain entry to the course.

A LevelIMG_5826

Board EDEXCEL, Specification 9MU01

Why choose Music?

Music is a subject that combines practical work with academic study of different styles of music. If you have an interest in music and sing or play an instrument what better way to improve your skills and deepen your understanding than to study music at A level? Universities look favourably at students with musical skills and A level music is a highly regarded A level. The A level music course will give you the opportunity to develop your performance and composition skills and improve your theoretical knowledge whilst gaining a qualification. It is possible to take both Music and Music Technology at A level and each year several students opt to do so.

The Course

The course involves performing, composing, listening and analysing. You will improve your skills in performing, compose in different styles and have access Sibelius, Reason and Cubase software for composition work. In addition to this, you will analyse and listen to a wide variety of music to develop a more informed appreciation of how and why it was written and performed. You will gain an in-depth understanding of the history of classical and popular music.

The course caters for musicians with different musical backgrounds and interests.

  • For the performance unit you can choose to play either solo or ensemble pieces in any style.
  • For the composition unit the exam board issues different briefs you can choose from which will be very broad and will allow for both classical and popular style pieces for instruments and/or voices. You also have a free composition choice.
  • For the listening and analysis unit you also have to study a wide range of music covering both classical and popular.

Course Content and Assessment

The course consists of three units:

Unit 1: Performing (Coursework; 30%; externally assessed; 60 marks)

  • A public performance of one or more pieces, performed as a recital. The audience must consist of your teacher and at least one other person.
  • Performance can be playing or singing solo, in an ensemble, improvising, or realising music using music technology.
  • The total performance time across all pieces must be a minimum of 8 minutes (and a maximum of 12 minutes).
  • Performances must be recorded after 1 March in the year of certification and all materials for assessment submitted to arrive by 15 May in the year of certification 

Unit 2: Composing (Coursework; 30%; externally assessed; 60 marks)

  • Total of two compositions lasting at least 6 minutes in total
  • Composition 1 must be from either a list of briefs related to the areas of study set by Edexcel, or a free composition, carrying 40 marks for this component. This composition must be at least 4 minutes in duration. Briefs relating to areas of study (specific briefs will be released on 1st September in the year of certification ie Year 13):
    • Vocal Music
    • Instrumental Music
    • Music for Film
    • Popular Music and Jazz
    • Fusion
    • New Directions
  • Composition 2 must be from a list of briefs assessing compositional technique, carrying
  1. marks for this component. This composition must be at least 1 minute in duration. List of

briefs assessing technique (specific briefs will be released on 1st April in the year of certification ie Year 13):

    • Bach chorale
    • Two-part counterpoint
    • Arrangement
    • Remix

Unit 3: Appraising (Exam; 40%; externally assessed; 100 marks)

There are 6 areas of study and 3 set works to be covered within each of these:

Area of Study Set works
Vocal

Music

• J. S. Bach, Cantata, Ein feste Burg, BWV 80: Movements 1, 2, 8

• Mozart, The Magic Flute: Excerpts from Act I

• Vaughan Williams, On Wenlock Edge: Nos. 1, 3 and 5

Instrumental Music • Vivaldi, Concerto in D minor, Op. 3 No. 11

• Clara Wieck-Schumann, Piano Trio in G minor, Op.17: Movement 1

• Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique: Movement I

Music for Film • Danny Elfman, Batman Returns (selection of scenes)

• Rachel Portman: The Duchess: The Duchess and End titles, Mistake of your life, Six years later, and Never see your children again

• Bernard Herrmann, Psycho (selection of scenes)

Popular Music

and Jazz

• Courtney Pine: Album Back in the Day: Inner state (of mind), Lady Day and (John Coltrane), Love and affection

• Kate Bush: Album Hounds of Love: Cloudbusting, And dream of sheep, and Under ice

• Beatles: Album Revolver: Eleanor Rigby, Here, there and everywhere, I want to tell you, and Tomorrow never knows

Fusions • Debussy, ‘Estampes’: Nos. 1 and 2 (‘Pagodes’ and ‘La soirée dans Grenade’)

• Familia Valera Miranda: Caña Quema Alla vá candela and ‘Se quema la chumbambà

• Anoushka Shankar: Breathing Under Water: Burn, Breathing Under Water and Easy

New Directions • John Cage – Three Dances for two prepared pianos: No. 1

• Kaija Saariaho: Petals for Violoncello and Live Electronics

• Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring: Introduction, The Augurs of Spring, and Ritual of Abduction

The assessment for this unit consists of:

  • One written paper of 2 hours
  • One audio CD with the extracts to accompany questions on the paper will be provided per
  • student.
  • This paper comprises two sections: A and B:
    • Section A: Areas of study and dictation (50 marks)
      • Three questions related to the set works (audio and skeleton score provided).
      • One short melody/rhythm completion exercise.
    • Section B: Extended response
      • Two essay questions – essay one (20 marks) and essay two (30 marks)
      • Essay one asks students to draw links from their study of the set works to the music heard as an unfamiliar extract.
      • Essay two gives a choice of three questions that ask students to evaluate the musical elements, context and language of one set work. Each option will be from a different area of study.

Where Next?

How Useful is AS/A Level Music?

Edexcel Advanced Level Music is an academic as well as a practical course. You will be able to gain entry to university to follow a wide range of subjects. An A level in music indicates to a prospective university or employer that you have a broad range of skills, including creative, analytical and practical.

The AS/A level in music can lead to further study in music or performing arts in higher education or at HND level. Former Robert Smyth students have gone on to study music at The Royal College of Music, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds College of Music, Oxford University, Nottingham University, The Institute for Contemporary Performance and The Academy of Contemporary Music in London.   For those wishing to study for a music degree at university or conservatoire an A level in music is normally required; Grade 8 practical on its own is very rarely sufficient.

A level would also be useful for anyone considering music as a potential part-time career. Possible career pathways: professional performer or composer, instrumental or classroom teaching, arts and leisure management, music within the media, music publishing, music therapy.

Entry Requirements

You must be able to play a musical instrument or sing to a good standard, at least Grade 5, although there is no requirement to have taken actual grade exams. You need to be able to read music and it is expected that you have a grade B or better in GCSE Music. Students without a grade B in GCSE Music will need to pass an internal theory and practical test to gain entry to the course.