Girls who study Music at A level at Habs have a real mix of subject profiles.
The skills involved in Music at this level are both practical and intellectual and so Music is not always taken as part of an ‘arts’ bundle but is sometimes taken by mathematicians, economists, and even scientists too. Some girls study Music in the Sixth Form with a view to further study at University or at one of the Music Colleges (e.g. Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama) but others go on to study a whole host of subjects after their school years, often continuing their interest in and passion for Music in University choirs and orchestras and bands. The study of Music at this level is immensely practical and creative.
We follow the OCR specification, and for those who have studied Music at GCSE, the structure of the course will be very familiar.
The Performance unit usually has a heavier weighting than the Composition element, but there is flexibility to reverse this weighting if girls wish to major in Composition. The Performance takes the form of a 10 minute recital which is filmed and assessed externally. The Composition element takes the form of a folio of two compositions. The third element of the course is one of Listening and Appraising through the study of representative pieces contained within four out of six Areas of Study.
The four areas we study are:
- Classical instrumental music by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven
- Popular song from 1920 to 1960 (mainly vocal Jazz by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra)
- Instrumental Jazz from 1920 to the present day (music from Louis Armstrong to Herbie Hancock)
- Programme Music from 1820 to 1910 (pieces telling a story ranging from Mendelssohn to Debussy)
The skills that you will need and develop at this level include the ability to recognise and describe the key features of a piece of music. You need to make connections and comparisons between different genres or styles of Music. In written work you should develop skills in using information to back up a point that you are making whilst understanding the wider social and historical context of pieces. You will find that the links between the different sections of the course are very strong and you will soon be using skills across the elements.
During the course you will build on your practical and aural skills developed at both GCSE and through any ABRSM exams you may have taken. The aim of the course as a whole is to produce well-rounded musicians who can use transferable skills between the different elements of the course. Given the very high standard of practical music making at Habs, there is every opportunity for girls to gain recognition for activities that they naturally enjoy and pursue.
What you perform is very much up to you in consultation with your academic and instrumental teachers but in terms of standard, you would be looking at a minimum of Grade 6 standard for your chosen pieces. There should be three contrasting pieces presented in your recital.
Composing at A level takes the form of one composition to a brief chosen from a group of six set by OCR based on the Areas of Study, and the other being a free choice by the pupil. The combined duration of the compositions should be at least 4 minutes. The OCR briefs are not released until September of the Upper Sixth year.
Listening and Appraising
This is the only written paper involved in A level Music and lasts two and a half hours. In preparing for this element you will study a range of fascinating music and see how musical styles develop and change over time.
It is possible to study Music at A level without having taken GCSE Music if you have a suitably advanced performance and theoretical background. Girls taking Music will usually be confident performers involved in musical activities in School.