AQA’s A-Level Music Specification
I recently wrote a series of posts about my first reaction to each of the draft specifications for GCSE Music that the exam boards published last month. Starting today, I’m going to be continuing that series with a look at the A-Level specifications. As with the GCSE series, the intention is not to write a comprehensive overview but to give a first impression perspective. Equally, the sole focus of these posts will be on the A-Level course rather than the separate AS specifications, which I will look at in a future blog series. First up is the new AQA specification.
- Appraising music (40%)
- Performance (35%)
- Composition (25%)
Areas of study
- Western classical tradition 1650-1910 (mandatory)
- Pop music
- Music for media
- Music for theatre
- Contemporary traditional music
- Art music since 1910
Unit 1: Appraising music
- Section A: listening
- Section B: analysis
- Section C: essay
Unit 2: Performing
“If the students’ performance is less than 10 minutes, it will not be accepted as assessment evidence.”
This stands in really quite stark contrast to an approach that simply deducts marks on a sliding scale depending on the extent to which candidates have fallen short of the required time. A great deal of precision will need to go into the planning for this aspect of the course.
I was pleased, as I’m sure many teachers will be, to see that there is explicit mention that a guide recording is acceptable in place of a score. This tweet from Anna Gower during a recent MufuChat came to mind outlining a discussion between her and an A-Level moderator regarding a pupil who learnt a drum piece aurally:
@johnskelleher me “he learned it aurally” then “it doesn’t matter how he learned it, we need notation and DYNAMICS #pethate #mufuchat
— Anna G (@tallgirlwgc) May 20, 2015
The technology pathways through this unit are well defined and it’s interesting that the ‘solo’ technology option states that the minimum requirement is one audio and one MIDI track while the ‘ensemble’ option requires that at least five tracks be performed by the student. I think that teachers deserve more in the way of clarification for exactly what this means and I sincerely hope that the board will provide an abundance of exemplar recordings and session folders so that teachers can really get to grip with the expectations.
Unit 3: Composing
The total duration of the two compositions combined is 4mins 30secs to 6mins and, similar to the performing unit, the specification makes it clear that portfolios short of this “will not be accepted as assessment evidence”. I can see some candidates being caught out by this and I’ll be interested to see the steps AQA takes to keep this requirement clear in the minds of teachers delivering the course.