Aim of the course
A level music embraces the creative, interpretative, historical and analytical aspects of the subject. The syllabus encourages an integrated approach to the three main elements of performing, composing and appraising. It also allows students to explore either performance or composition in more depth. Through the wide variety of historical topics, students will be both inspired and challenged.
Although A level music is especially suitable for students who aspire to read music at university, it will also appeal to those who simply wish to deepen their involvement and abilities in music.
The subject provides opportunities for students to broaden their intellectual and emotional responses, stimulates critical discrimination and heightens social and cultural awareness, and provides the basis for an informed and lasting love of music.
In the Lower Sixth we cover the following historical topics:
- Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven
- Popular Song: Blues, Jazz, Swing and Big Band
- Programme Music 1820-1910
- Innovations in Music 1900 to the Present Day
We also look at approaches to composition in preparation for the composition non-examined project assessment in the Upper Sixth.
The performance component is a recital which is externally assessed via an audio recording. This can be either a six or 10-minute recital depending on which option is chosen.
The composition component requires students to complete two compositions – one to a brief set by OCR and one to their own brief. If the extended composition component is selected, students will also complete three short technical exercises.
We encourage students to deepen their understanding of the topics through wider listening and reading. Suggested texts include The Historical Performance of Music by Lawson and Stowell, The Rest is Noise by Ross and Musical Composition in the Twentieth Century by Whittall.
We hope that students will take an active role in the wide range of extra-curricular ensembles that rehearse weekly and perform to a very high standard. International soloists also visit the school to give masterclasses and workshops to our musicians.
The two non-examined components (performance and composition) together are worth 60% and are completed during the year of examination. The examined component is worth 40% and takes place at the end of the Upper Sixth.