Music

Music ….. gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.

Plato

Music as a subject in the curriculum is like no other.  It shares characteristics with various other disciplines, but brings them together in a unique way.

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There is a body of knowledge, much of which is quite abstract in concept,  that it shares with science.  However, the meaning of such knowledge is only understood within a context of organised sound – i.e. music, in its three elements - heard & understood, composed and performed.  To be able to access these three components of music requires considerable levels of skill (motor skills of a high order, with a clear correlation to sporting and other practical skills like DT and Art).  But the understanding of these concepts and the performance of such skills are only a means to an end - the understanding of Meaning and Emotion in Music (a book by Leonard B Meyer), an area of emotional intelligence perhaps most obviously developed in other areas of the curriculum such as English and Art. 

The aim in music education is therefore to provide the key to enable our students to access the subject in these areas – basic grammatical knowledge, performance skills and understanding of the communicating powers of music.

At RGS we have therefore established a strongly practical curriculum in KS3, with all lessons in Year 7 and most in Year 8 and 9 having a substantial emphasis on acquiring skills which will enable a hands on experience now, but also hopefully enable those that wish to pursue music in some form at a later date.  The climax of the KS3 experience is the Musical Futures module, the second of two modules in Yr 9, which enable all boys to put forward a group performance (usually of a pop song) at the level and in the form which is most appropriate to them, with a strong emphasis on independent learning at that stage.

An overview of Year 7 (three modules):

Module

Practical skill

Knowledge/Theory

Emotion and Meaning

1

Singing

 

Keyboards

Understanding of Rhythm – Pitch: notation for both. Also concept of texture through singing of rounds.

Joy of communal singing – and contrasts of differing styles and moods

2

Brass

 

Keyboards

Continuation of Musical Grammar – scales, major/minor, 4 bar phrases

Joy of making a big physical sound, both solo and together

3

Ukuleles

Percussion

Keyboards

Continuation of Musical Grammar –  Chords

Impact of differing moods – Eleanor Rigby, Musicals

 

 

 

An overview of Year 8 (two modules):

Module

Practical skill

Knowledge/Theory

Emotion/Meaning

1

Guitars

Keyboards

iPads

Chords and patterns of chords

Classical music basics

Use of Garageband on iPads

The Blues – and associated styles

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

2

Guitars

Keyboards

iPads

Percussion

Developing musical ideas  with answering phrases in a jig and jazz improvisation.

Creating an atmospheric piece in Japanese style

Jazz styles

 

Folk styles

 

Traditional Japanese styles

And why we study different cultures

 

An Overview of Year 9 (two 8-week modules):

Module

Practical skill

Knowledge/Theory

Emotion/Meaning

1

Use of Sibelius and Fruity Loops on computer

Samba percussion

Composing simple score to a short video (Sibelius)

Composing simple dance track (Fruity Loops)

Contrasts of moods according to film

Mood/vibe of dance track

Physical feeling of a samba band

2

Use of any instrument available – keyboards, guitars (incl bass guitars), drum kits, pianos or individual’s instrument

Musical Futures approach – choice of four songs to create a cover of – working in groups of 4/5 – learning melody line and chords from basic lead sheet, adding vocals, rhythm, leading to a recording

Group ethic is vital – organisation, application, mutual encouragement….

 

The KS3 programme thus provides a foundation for further study, with key concepts and methods of learning established. Assessment is carried out mostly by the half termly cycle, with interim and some informal assessments also being made as appropriate.

KS4 follows up this at GCSE Level with the three elements of Performance, Composition and Knowledge/Appraising. Although it was said at the foundation of GCSEs that a C grade at GCSE is possible without any further external specialist help, in practice, few boys attempt GCSE without considerable skill at an instrument backed up by a programme of individual study with an instrumental specialist, either in school or outside. Composition provides the main coursework activity, with two finished and completed original works being required for the exam, but usually with several more being attempted throughout the course.

Knowledge and Appraising provides the backbone of the course over two years, with a detailed analysis required of 12 set works (shortly to change to 8 plus an expected general knowledge of specific topics). An overview of the course thus looks like this:

Each area of study usually takes a term to complete, meaning that the set works are covered by Christmas of the second year, allowing time for revision and for focussing on the compositions after the mocks.  The new GCSE syllabus starting next year maintains the same basic format of four areas of study, but the set works within those areas are changing, reducing to eight, and leaving room for a greater general knowledge section and unseen element in the exam.

Performance is also usually focussed on in the 5th term of the course, although it can be carried out any time in theory.

KS5/ A Level

The basic structure of performing, composing and knowledge/appraising is the same as GCSE, but the set works change every year, and the composition and performance is of course much more rigorously assessed. The detailed Scheme of Work varies each year according to the set works, with the two members of the department dividing up the works according to their specialisms in terms of knowledge and experience.

Overview: AS Level

TPV teaches 4 periods and RJB 2 each week throughout the sixth form.  TPV therefore leads on harmony and composition, in one double a week, while both teach the set works as stated above. 

Term

Set Works

Harmony

Composition

Performance

Sept/Oct

Start with baroque or classical to cover basics of A Level harmony

Lay foundations of proper harmony

Begin to consider composing options re the briefs from Edexcel, and try out a few samples of these styles

Encourage all to perform in recital

Nov/Dec

Continue to 19th cent/20 cent set works

Regular harmony exercises to hone skills

Settle on a particular brief, give more models, start to compose in earnest

Prepare for next recital early in New Year

Jan/Feb

Continue to popular style set works, complete all by half-term

Regular harmony exercises to hone skills, push on to post AS standard

Bring compositions to final stages, with set days for “writing up”

Perform in Feb recital

March

Revise set works, swapping teachers where appropriate

Press on with harmony skills for next year

Compare compositions, have composition day with other schools? Perform where possible

Record 6 minute recital for AS

April

Revise

Perfect skills for AS exam

Present score and recording of composition

N/A

 

Overview A2 Level:

Mr Venvell teaches 4 periods and Mr Bolton 2 periodseach week throughout the sixth form.  Mr Venvell therefore leads on harmony, counterpoint and composition, in one double a week, while both teach the set works as stated above.  The pattern is very similar, but A2 candidates have more flexibility re composition, and can drop it altogether to do harmony and counterpoint exercises instead, or a combination of the two.

Term

Set Works

Harmony

Composition

Performance

Sept/Oct

Start with baroque or classical but establish more detailed approach, and differentiated style of questions

Lay foundations of counterpoint and continue with harmony

Begin to consider composing options re the briefs from Edexcel, and try out a few samples of these styles

Encourage all to perform in recital

Nov/Dec

Continue to 19th cent/20 cent set works

Regular counterpoint exercises to hone skills but keep harmony going

Settle on a particular brief, give more models, start to compose in earnest

Prepare for next recital early in New Year

Jan/Feb

Continue to popular style set works, complete all by half-term

Regular harmony and counterpoint exercises to hone skills, push on to post AS standard

Bring compositions to final stages, with set days for “writing up”

Perform in Feb recital

March

Revise set works, swapping teachers where appropriate

Press on with harmony skills for next year

Compare compositions, have composition day with other schools? Perform where possible

Record 12 minute recital for AS

April

Revise

Perfect skills for A2 exam

Present score and recording of composition

N/A

 

 

 

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