by Liz Dunbar @HuntSchoolMusic
This is a really challenging course but also an enormously rewarding one. Studying A level Music provides students with the opportunity to really understand how music works both by making it and by analysing it.
Students learn how Music in its many forms has evolved, and who the great movers and shakers are. This is a course for those who enjoy both the creative freedom of composition, and the commitment and dedication needed for performance.
It is also course for those who enjoy the intellectual rigour of research and analysis and want the opportunity to develop their skills in the fields of academic research, analysis, essay writing, and critical thinking.
The course encompasses a vast range of musical styles and traditions, covering everything from Western Art Music, 1600 - present day, contemporary Celtic folk, popular music, to Cuban Son and Indonesian gamelan.
Unit 1: Performing 30%
In this unit students are free to play or sing in any style that they like, as a soloist or in a group, culminating in a final recital in year 13. Students are advised on repertoire choices, how to balance a programme, and individually coached in technical and expressive control, communication and interpretation.
Unit 2: Composing 30%
In year 12, students build on the techniques they established at GCSE and write an original composition in year 13. Composition coaching is tailor-made to suite whatever route students choose to take.
Unit 2 also includes a techniques paper where students demonstrate their understanding of the compositional processes found in 4 part voice setting by harmonising a Bach chorale. This “4 part” work impacts directly on the skeleton score and aural questions found in unit 3. It also informs students when evaluating the provenance of works found in the essay writing of unit 3, and is the cornerstone of composition, part writing, and orchestration. It is a highly prized skill that the best universities and conservatoires value enormously.
Unit 3: Appraising 40%
In this unit students study 6 categories: vocal music , instrumental music, film music, popular music and jazz, fusions of European art music and musics from around the world, the Avant-garde and experimental music.
It is a vast canon of music that we can only scratch the surface of, but it is an invaluable way of opening doors to unfamiliar musical worlds. For depth as well as breadth, students also study set pieces in each category. Some of the greatest and best known ground breaking works are here like Stravinsky “Rite of Spring”, and Kate Bush “Hounds of Love” but the set works also explore roads less travelled with works like Saariaho’s “Petals” and Cage’s “Pieces for prepared piano”.
Students explore both provenance and context alongside in-depth musical analysis. It is a fascinating and intellectually challenging process.