Key Stage 5 (Years 12 & 13)
If music is your passion, this A-level course will give you two years of bliss! The AQA Music course at both AS and A2 level is designed to build on the range of listening, performing and composing activities covered in GCSE music (though it is not a prerequisite that a candidate has actually taken the GCSE course). It is hoped that, by the end of each stage (AS and A2), candidates will have gained a greater understanding of the ‘how' and ‘what' in various styles and pieces of music and have had the experience of putting this into action as a performer and composer. Students are exposed to a reasonably broad spectrum of music and can perform in a style most appropriate to their experience and skill, but they should be aware that there will be a focus in a number of the ‘units' on the detailed study of classical ‘art' music repertoire. For all candidates it is recommended that they are at a standard at least equivalent to grade 5 in both Practical and Theory.
There are three components. All assessed at both AS (Yr 12) and A2 (Yr 13) level:
Performing: Interpreting Musical Ideas (AS: 40%; A2: 30%)
At AS you will offer two performances from the following list with, in each case, one or more pieces that present a programme of 5-8 minutes (i.e. a total of 10-16 minutes):
solo instrument, solo voice, solo second instrument, ensemble performance, technology-based performance (sequencing and/or multi-track recording).
To gain a good mark in acoustic performance you should be of a standard equivalent to grade 5 level.
At A2 you will perform two (or more) contrasting pieces to form a short programme - lasting 10-15 minutes and showing a variety of style, technique and/or approach - for either acoustic performance and/or performance via music technology. To gain a good mark in acoustic performance you should be of a standard equivalent to grade 6/7+ level.
Composing: Creating & Developing Musical Ideas (AS: 30%; A2: 30%)
You will develop the craft of creating and developing musical ideas with technical control and expressive understanding, making creative use of musical devices, conventions and resources. At both levels it is envisaged that the coursework should be done within a maximum of 20 hours in school.
In the first term of the AS course all students will cover essential harmonic and compositional language before setting out on one of the following three briefs:
- Compositional Techniques - harmonising a 16-bar melody & writing a 24-bar piece for two instruments from a given keyboard accompaniment;
- Free Composition or pastiche to a given genre in an appropriate diatonic style lasting 3-6 mins. The choice of genres comprises: Vocal Music; Small Ensemble; Electronic Music & Keyboard Music;
- Arranging a given folk song melody and text for any vocal and/or instrumental and/or ICT sound sources, lasting 3-6 mins.
For A2 students the three brief areas are the same, but the requirements are slightly expanded as follows:
- Compositional Techniques - harmonising a Bach Chorale melody & completing part of a movement for a string quartet;
- Free Composition or pastiche - a single piece in any style or genre lasting 5-8 mins. It can consist of a single movement or may consist of up to three separate related sections;
- Arranging a given piece of popular 'classical' music that may come from any musical period from the Baroque onwards. The arrangement should be in a recognised pop, rock or jazz style and should last 5-8 mins.
Listening & Understanding: Influences on Music & its context (AS: 30%; A2: 40%)
(AS: 1 hr 45 min written exam; A2: 2 hr 15 min written exam)
Throughout the course you will be expected to develop and improve your listening and understanding skills so that you can recognise different sounds and make judgments about performances. The assessment of these units is in two parts:
- An aural exam at both levels (AS: 30 mins; A2: 45 mins) will require you to answer questions on unprepared extracts of music (from a range of styles) that you will be played on a CD. These questions will probe your perception of how the musical elements are handled (harmony, tonality, chord & cadence identification, melody notation, instrumentation, texture, meter, intervals, etc.)
- For the ‘Understanding' component you will study and answer essay questions on a few set works in three ‘Areas of Study' and both analyse how the music has been constructed and understand the social and cultural conditions that have influenced the composition and performance of the music. The areas of study that will be offered are currently:
- Western Classical Tradition: AS set work = Mozart Symphony No 41
A2 set works = Mahler Symphony No. 4 &
Vaughan Williams Symph No. 5
- Choral Music in the Baroque Era (AS only)
- either: i) English Choral Music in the 20th Century (A2 only)
or: ii) Chamber Music from Mendelssohn to Debussy (A2 only)
Each year a number of the Music ‘A' level students have gone on to read music at university or to Music College to pursue performance on their principal instrument. However, the ‘A' level music course develops a wide range of skills which are also applicable in situations outside music itself, notably analytical ability, a sense of historical perspective and the self-discipline and confidence that come from performing in public. Music A-level is recognised by all universities, who welcome the subject as a qualification for almost all their degree courses. Many other subjects go well with Music, from Humanities and Languages to Maths and Sciences.
Music Scholarship & Exhibitions
The Hans Keller Music Scholarship, worth up to 25% of the current school fees, is available to one (or two, divided equally) 16+ candidate(s) each year. Applications are welcome both from existing Alleyn's pupils and from applicants wishing to join Alleyn's in the Sixth Form. All applicants would be invited to an audition.
W J Smith Memorial Exhibitions may be available to those students who need financial assistance to follow a course of musical study.
Further details of both schemes are available from the Director of Music, who will be pleased to discuss individual cases at any time