A-Level Music offers a three-unit programme across the two years of study, based on performance, composition and the analysis of music. The same broad disciplines are also assessed at AS Level, again in three units, to be completed after one year. For entry to either programme, at least a GCSE Grade 7 in Music is required. Students should also have at least a pass at Grade 5 on an instrument/ voice before starting the course and commit to receiving regular and ongoing professional instrumental/vocal tuition. These courses combine traditional musical study, required in preparation for a degree course, with components which encourage each student to explore his/her own personal musical enthusiasms.
Solo recitals will take place in March of the year of certification. Students should prepare for this in conjunction with professional input on their musicality and technical capability from their instrumental/vocal teachers. The expected level of difficulty for AS-Level Music is Grade 6 or equivalent, with Grade 7+ recognised as “More Difficult”. For A-level Music, the standard level is Grade 7; performances at Grade 8 and above attract additional credit.
Students will encounter a number of compositional styles and techniques and will complete exercises aimed at developing their ability to compose ideas quickly. For both AS and A-Level, two items are developed for assessment, involving responding to specified composition briefs, free composition and an understanding of compositional techniques. Throughout, students will have access to compositional software, especially Sibelius, to assist their work. Both a printed score and a recording of the compositions are necessary for the final two submissions.
Analysing and appraising music
Set works drawn from a broad range of traditions and styles form the basis of musical analysis for both programmes. The musical features of these pieces will be studied during the course and a detailed level of description and interpretation of these features is assessed through students’ responses to essay questions. Students are expected to make comparisons across cultures and time periods and include in their analysis contextual knowledge from works outside of the specification.
The assessment of listening skills will form part of the written paper, where students respond to a combination of familiar and unfamiliar musical extracts. The unfamiliar music will relate in some key areas to one or more of the set works. Students should recognise links across various musical works and perceive how their understanding connects to their listening, composing and performing skills. Though these skills are assessed separately, the different disciplines are interlinked.
Visits and trips take place on an availability basis, according to the educational programmes offered by London-based professional orchestras. These include seminars, workshops and masterclasses, involving the set study works. Additionally, the Department encourages students to attend live musical performances by professional musicians.
The subject fosters a wide range of important transferable skills, including analysis, presenting, critical evaluation, communication, personal reflection, self-discipline and teamwork. Careers stemming from the study of Music are innumerable, because of the value of these desirable qualities. The list below highlights some of the obvious paths directly related to Music as a subject, and also some which place importance on those key skills rather than subject content:
Options timetable permitting, students can include Music A-level amongst any combination of other subjects and, as such, Music students are in no way precluded from going on to pursue any specialisms, indeed the creativity involved is often highly prized in a wide range of professions. Other than reading Music itself, former A-level Music students have also progressed to universities (including Oxbridge and Russell Group) to read: