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Music

Why music?

“Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else, rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost souls and take strongest hold upon it. Bringing with them and imparting grace if one is rightly trained” Plato.

Music is a science; it demands exact acoustics. A conductor’s score is a chart which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time.

Music is mathematical; it is rhythmically based on the subdivision of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper.

Music is a foreign language; it is a highly developed shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language.

Music is art; creating emotions that touch the soul of those who perform and listen to it.

Whilst music may not have such a clearly-defined career pathway as some other subjects, the varied nature of the course enables students to develop highly-desirable skills in areas such as self-management, teamwork, planning, analytical and critical thinking skills and communication; all of which makes them an attractive prospective for potential employers. Rather than limiting your career prospects, an A level in music opens doors to a wide range of careers both within and outside the arts.

If you have a passion for music then A level music is for you. If you have a gifting for music then A level music is for you.

Summary of content

The WJEC specification allows learners the opportunity to develop skills in the three distinct but related disciplines of performing, composing and appraising. All learners study the Western Classical Tradition, engaging with landmark orchestral or choral repertoire, to develop knowledge and understanding of music.

Learners will use the musical techniques and conventions of this tradition to compose one piece of music to a brief.

To offer contrast and breadth of study, at AS learners also choose one area of study from a choice of three, either Rock and Pop, or Musical Theatre or Jazz.

At A2, learners choose two further strands of music from a choice of five. There is a distinct Welsh flavour to two of these strands allowing learners to engage with the music of contemporary Welsh composers and performers.

Units

AS - Unit 1 - Performing

Performing - Total duration of performances: 6-8 minutes; 12% of qualification

Non-exam assessment: externally assessed by a visiting examiner;  60 marks

Learners are required to give a performance consisting of a minimum of two pieces either as a soloist or as part of an ensemble or a combination of both. The duration of the performance will be between 6 and 8 minutes (excluding breaks).

Selecting Music for Performance

One piece must be from one of the following areas of study:

  • Area of study A: The Western Classical Tradition (Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras)
  • Area of study B: Rock and Pop
  • Area of study C: Musical Theatre
  • Area of study D: Jazz

Learners may choose to perform one of their own compositions.

The criteria for the assessment of performing can be found in Appendix A of the full specification.

Performance can be in the form of:

  • Solo Performance
  • Ensemble Performance
  • Improvisation

AS - Unit 2 - Composing

Total duration of compositions: 3-6 minutes; 12% of qualification

Non-exam assessment: externally assessed by WJEC; 54 marks

Learners are required to prepare a portfolio of two compositions:

  • A composition which reflects the musical language, techniques and conventions associated with the Western Classical Tradition in response to a brief set by WJEC (from a choice of four). This composition should be a minimum of one minute duration. The piece may be either a complete section of a longer composition, e.g. the exposition of a movement in sonata form, or, a miniature e.g. a nocturne, as appropriate to the brief.
  • A free composition for which learners set their own brief. This composition must be a minimum of two minutes duration.

Note: Further information and guidance on composing in a Western classical style can be found in Appendix B of the full specification.

A2 - Unit 3 - Appraising

Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes approximately

16% of qualification; 72 marks

This examination will assess knowledge and understanding of music through two areas of study. Area of study A is compulsory and learners then choose one further contrasting area of study; either area of study B, or area of study C or area of study D.

Area of study A: The Western Classical Tradition (Part 1)

Either: The Symphony (1760-1830) - This area of study includes an in-depth study of:

Symphony No.103 in Eb Major, 'Drum Roll', movements 1 and 2: Haydn (Eulenberg, ISBN 978-3-7957-6558-3)

Or: Religious Choral Music (1730-1800) - This area of study includes an in-depth study of:

Requiem, (Requiem, Dies Irae, Tuba Mirum and Rex Tremendae): Mozart (Eulenburg Miniature, Score ISBN: 978-3-7957-6883-6)

Either: Area of study B: Rock and Pop (1965-1990) - Learners are required to study four rock and pop genres between 1965 and 1990: Pop (including Funk and Disco); Rock (including Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal); Soul; Country.

Or: Area of study C: Musical Theatre (4 representative composers) - Learners are required to study four musical theatre composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Cole Porter; Richard Rodgers; Claude-Michel Schönberg; Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Or: Area of study D: Jazz (1940-1965) - Learners are required to study three genres of jazz between 1940 and 1965: Big band (including Swing); Be-bop; Cool.

A2 - Unit 4 - Performing

Non-exam assessment: externally assessed by a visiting examiner

Learners must choose either Option A in both Units 4 and 5 or Option B in both Units 4 and 5.

Option A: Total duration of performances: 10-12 minutes; 22% of qualification; 90 marks

Learners are required to give a performance consisting of a minimum of three pieces. At least one of these pieces must be as a soloist.

Option B: Total duration of performances: 6-8 minutes; 14% of qualification; 60 marks

Learners are required to give a performance containing a minimum of two pieces either as a soloist or as part of an ensemble or a combination of both.

A2 - Unit 5 - Composing

Non-exam assessment: externally assessed by WJEC.

Learners must choose either Option A in both Units 4 and 5 or Option B in both Units 4 and 5.

Option A: Total duration of compositions: 3-6 minutes; 14% of qualification; 54 marks

Learners are required to prepare a portfolio of two compositions, one piece of at least one minute duration which must reflect the musical language, techniques and conventions associated with the Western Classical Tradition in response to a brief set by WJEC (from a choice of four).

Option B: Total duration of compositions: 5-9 minutes; 22% of qualification; 90 marks

Learners are required to prepare a portfolio of three compositions, one piece of at least one minute duration which must reflect the musical language, techniques and conventions associated with the Western Classical Tradition in response to a brief set by WJEC (from a choice of four).

Option B only

Compositions linked to a different area of study

Learners must compose a piece of music linked to one area of study apart from the Western Classical Tradition. They must choose from the list below:

  • Area of study B: Rock and Pop
  • Area of study C: Musical Theatre
  • Area of study D: Jazz
  • Area of study F: Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

A2 - Unit 6 - Appraising

Written examination: 2 hours 15 minutes approximately

24% of qualification; 80 marks

This examination will assess knowledge and understanding of music through two areas of study.

Area of study E: The Western Classical Tradition (Part 2)

Either: The Symphony (1830-1910) : Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, opus 68, Movement 4: Brahms (Eulenberg Miniature score ISBN: 3-7957-6682-6)

Or: Religious Choral Music (1800-1890): Requiem, ((Dies Irae, including Tuba mirum, Liber scriptus, Quid sum miser, Rex tremendae and Recordare ending at bar 446), Verdi (Eulenburg Miniature Score, ISBN: 978-3-7957-6918-5)

Area of study F: Music of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Choose one from List A and one from list B.

List A:

Strand 1: Impressionism: Learners will study set works by two representative Impressionist composers, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel

Strand 2: Chamber Music in Wales: Learners will study set works by three representative composers of Chamber Music, Lynne Plowman, Andrew Wilson-Dickson and Rhian Samuel

List B:

Strand 3: Popular Music in Wales: Learners will study the music of Gruff Rhys, Super Furry Animals, The Manic Street Preachers and Kizzy Crawford

Strand 4: American Musical Theatre: Learners will study the musicals of Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz

Strand 5: Jazz Legends: Learners will study the works of two Jazz composers Duke Ellington and Miles Davis

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