A Level Music

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

The importance of music has been long recognised by great minds. It is said that Pythagoras discovered the relationship between music and mathematics by investigating why, when hammers of different weights were struck, the combinations of notes produced were consonant or dissonant. Music is also considered to be a language that expresses the soul as much as the mind, and an art form that can create sonic architecture paralleling the most spectacular cathedrals.

By studying the Music A level course, you will develop a greater understanding of how music works. You will study its creation (composing), re-creation (performing), perception (listening skills) and appreciation (knowledge and understanding). You will learn to analyse it, to understand how notes are structured into chords and into melodies, and chords and melodies into structures spanning minutes and even hours. In so doing, you will also discover how music intersects with other subjects, such as physics, geography, history and art.

Lower sixth

You will develop your current skills in performance, composition and musical appreciation. You will study set works, encountering music ranging from the classical to the popular and from around the world. You will create compositions in response to briefs set by the exam board, including practical work within traditional harmonic practices. You will demonstrate progress in performing skills, developing a coherent plan for a solo recital towards the end of the year.

Upper sixth

In the second year, all three components of the course continue to be extended and developed. Your composing will extend into work either on a new brief from the exam board or into an area of your own choice. Performance will develop a coherent plan for a solo recital towards the end of the course. New set works are studied.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Music provides an ideal counterpart to either an arts- or science-based sixth-form curriculum, developing skills of analytical thinking and close textual study as well as in the creation and performance of music. It offers a sound intellectual training that will be useful in itself, as well as providing a firm foundation for music courses in Further Education.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You should ideally have a good GCSE in Music, and a music theory qualification (eg Grade 5) is highly desirable. You need to have an active and wide-ranging interest in listening to and studying music of all kinds, as well as the self-motivation to carry out independent study. It is important to note that MPW is not able to offer instrumental tuition; you should arrange your own tuition as a vital part of your preparation for the performance exams, and it is helpful if you are also regularly involved in some form of group music-making, eg at a Saturday music school or in a band.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The course comprises three components: performing, composing and appreciation/ understanding. For Component 1, you must perform a prepared programme of music towards the end of the course as a soloist to a small audience. The programme must last a minimum of 6 minutes, and will be recorded for submission to an external examiner. For Component 2, you must have composed two pieces lasting a total of at least 4½ minutes. At least one of the pieces must be in response to a brief set by the exam board and both will be assessed by an external examiner. For Component 3 you will take a written exam in which you will be required to convey your knowledge and understanding of the set works, placing them in context and identifying their musical features. The exam lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. Components 1 and 2 are each worth 30% of the AS and Component 3 is worth 40% of the AS.

A level

The course comprises the same three components: performing, composing and appreciation/ understanding. For Component 1, you must perform a prepared programme of music towards the end of the two-year course as a soloist to a small audience. The programme must last a minimum of 8 minutes and will be recorded for submission to an external examiner. For Component 2, you must have composed two pieces lasting a total of at least 6 minutes. At least one of the pieces must be in response to a brief set by the exam board and both will be assessed by an external examiner. For Component 3 you will take a written exam in which you will be required to convey your knowledge and understanding of the set works, placing them in context and identifying their musical features. The exam lasts 2 hours. Components 1 and 2 are each worth 30% of the A level and Component 3 is worth 40% of the A level.

Reading

Scores and CDs, as required by the specification from year to year
(see https://qualifications.pearson.com)

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: Pearson-Edexcel 8MU0, A level: Pearson-Edexcel 9MU0 (reformed) 

John Cameron
Head of Department