GCSE MUSIC Composing Music Report on the Examination June Version: 1.0

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1 GCSE MUSIC Composing Music Report on the Examination 4270 June 2013 Version: 1.0

2 Further copies of this Report are available from aqa.org.uk Copyright 2013 AQA and its licensors. All rights reserved. AQA retains the copyright on all its publications. However, registered schools/colleges for AQA are permitted to copy material from this booklet for their own internal use, with the following important exception: AQA cannot give permission to schools/colleges to photocopy any material that is acknowledged to a third party even for internal use within the centre.

3 REPORT ON THE EXAMINATION GCSE MUSIC JUNE COMPOSING As in previous years, the most effective work almost always came from centres where candidates had been given the opportunity to select their own compositional brief. In these instances it was very obvious that the candidates had real engagement with the music. Very often, they also took control of the recording and performed one or more of the parts. Selection of Controlled Assessment brief Successful topics Some examples of successful briefs / genres this year were: Songs in different genres. Many of these were well structured with good accompaniments, demonstrating idiomatic writing for instruments and including bridge passages. Compositions written for multiple parts for the same instrument, where the candidate had played one or more of the instruments. Compositions with a world music influence, mainly Africa, India and the Caribbean which was, of course, this year s Strand of Learning for Unit 2 - but also with some effective South East Asian influences Some very good examples of minimalist pieces exploring, in particular, the development of rhythmic and melodic ideas. Imaginative pieces written for larger ensembles such as dance bands, string ensembles and brass bands. Music for rock ensembles with imaginative and idiomatic guitar solos. Less successful topics Unfortunately, many centres are still setting a single prescriptive task for all their candidates. Occasionally these did allow the candidates to complete work to a high standard, but more often than not the task proved restrictive and candidates found it hard to compose in a genre with which they had little engagement or familiarity. Some examples of these restrictive tasks were: Dance pieces written in ABA form using Cubase. Theme and Variations based on given popular melodies. Tasks where candidates were encouraged to choose ideas taken from loop banks from music software packages, including melodies, harmonic sequences, instrumental riffs and rhythmic samples - many of which added little or no original material. Songs with scores produced in Sibelius and not realised live, but with the vocal line just played back by the software. Many of these simply did not work. Classical Rondo, all formula-composed in the same key with the same key changes and the same repeated sections. Twelve bar blues pieces, invariably in the key of C with little or no sense of idiomatic writing other than the three chord structure. Minimalist pieces that relied on constant repetition with very square unimaginative rhythmic writing. 3 of 6

4 REPORT ON THE EXAMINATION LEVEL AND SUBJECT CODE SERIES Rock / pop submissions (often for electric guitar only) which were largely chordal in nature and lacked significant melodic content. Areas of Study As last year, most candidates had selected two areas of study, but this year it appeared that more had expanded this to three or four. Some (usually the better candidates) selected all five. However, moderators also reported a large number of instances where candidates had named only one area of study or where they had selected none. Many of the weaker candidates chose Structure & Form. Often candidates (at all levels) could do better when working in Ternary Form if they varied the final appearance of the A section, rather than simply inserting it as a cut and paste section with a cadence at the end. There were occasions when Texture & Melody was selected but the melodic content was very limited or even non-existent. Generally, though, candidates (and teachers) seemed to have a better understanding this year of the importance of the Areas of Study in their compositions. Specification requirements Candidates are required to submit an audio recording of the composition on CD (or minidisc), a musical score and a fully completed Candidate Record Form (CRF). The vast majority of centres complied with these requirements and scores in particular seem to be improving. There were some excellent scores, some conventional (usually produced in Sibelius), and others such as lead sheets with well-written commentaries. Unfortunately there were also some very poor quality scores, with poorly written commentaries and tabs containing no further information. Some candidates merely submitted screen dumps with a brief explanation of the process. On the other hand, others wrote incredibly detailed commentaries. Recordings were generally of a high quality but some were forwarded in MP3 format. Centres are reminded that the CD recordings should be audio recordings. The completion of the CRF is vital in helping the moderator to understand the nature of the compositional brief and the extent to which the candidate has been able to fulfil that task. As in previous years, some candidates failed to explain exactly how computer software was used. Others, however, gave very detailed explanations of their use of software, and there were some excellent examples of imaginative composition work created using programmes such as GarageBand, Logic or Cubase. Some centres did not provide information about how the composition was recorded. This is especially important where the intentions of the candidates are not obvious from the score. For example, where songs were submitted with just lyrics and chords performed by someone other than the candidate it was necessary to provide an explanation of how the melody had been arrived at, or how the strumming pattern for the guitar or drum part had been decided. Where information of this kind was missing, moderation could not take place without clarification from the school. Despite the many improvements this year, a large number of centres still submitted work from candidates who had not been able to fulfil every aspect of the specification requirements. Common pitfalls reported by moderators were: Recordings Recordings with excessive input from the teacher or other musicians, to the extent that it was impossible to be certain what was the work of the candidate. 4 of 6

5 REPORT ON THE EXAMINATION LEVEL AND SUBJECT CODE SERIES CD recordings that had not been finished properly and would not play in either standard CD players or computers. CD recordings in MP3 format. Scores Very brief descriptions of the nature of the piece but with little musical detail. Screenshots from programmes such as Garageband or Cubase which give very little information other than the overall structure of the piece. Scores presented that had not been quantized, many of which were almost impossible to follow. Scores that were technically accurate but contained little or no musical detail in relation to phrasing, articulation and dynamics. Candidate Record Forms Insufficient detail from the candidate regarding the nature of the selected task and how the areas of study had been used. Very limited or no information regarding other musicians used in the recording process. Application of the Assessment Criteria The majority of teachers now seem to have understood the nature of the application of the assessment criteria ie the assessment of the composition in relation to two or more areas of study selected by the candidates. It was encouraging this year that many teacher comments on the CRFs were much clearer. Teachers should make full use of the sections that they are asked to complete on the CRF. There were still many examples of CRFs that were not enlightening and where teachers had written only a brief comment in support of the mark. In these cases, especially where candidates had chosen only one area of study, or none, it was difficult to see how the teacher had arrived at their assessment and many moderators had to request further information before proceeding. As in previous years, some centres seriously over assessed the work of their top candidate, and then appeared to graduate the lower marks accordingly, seemingly paying little attention to the assessment criteria. Some teachers only identified the positive qualities in the music without balancing the more negative aspects. There were still many who awarded marks in the top two bands for work that was limited in the way the musical material was handled. The most accurate assessments referred to the wording of the assessment criteria to justify the marking. This was most effective when suitable links had been made to the candidates work by drawing attention to specific elements in their music that exemplified the different mark bands. Less successful assessments were characterised by teachers making no comment at all on the CRF, or simply quoting the assessment criteria without qualification. In these cases the assessor was simply making a statement about what they believed to be the quality of the work without backing up that statement with evidence. 5 of 6

6 REPORT ON THE EXAMINATION LEVEL AND SUBJECT CODE SERIES As a starting point for the assessment, most teachers know that the first bullet point in each of the six mark bands will generally help in the initial placement of the mark (for example, for the top band, the composition is musically stimulating, interesting and satisfying ). However, it is important to consider the detail of the other four bullet points in each band as well. In particular, moderators noticed many compositions that had been assessed in the upper two bands where candidates had demonstrated little or no development of the musical ideas presented. The key word here is development and it is only referred to in the upper mark bands. It may well be possible for candidates to present coherent, well-structured pieces of music, but to qualify for marks in the upper bands they must demonstrate the ability to develop their initial ideas. In the top two bands candidates will also be able to demonstrate imaginative writing in relation to their selected areas of study. Unfortunately, pieces that had been assessed in the upper mark bands were often characterised by constant repetition of ideas rather than development and contrast. Teachers who assessed work correctly had often referred to the musical detail of the Organisation of Sound section of the specification (on the subject content page) - for example The composition is stimulating and satisfying in relation to Rhythm & Metre because the candidate has used the idiomatic features of the dance by composing in compound time. In relation to Texture & Melody, the syncopation and use of dotted rhythms in the string writing and the contrasting use of homophonic / contrapuntal textures give the music a sense of purpose and drive. Teacher guidance to candidates It was clear that the majority of teachers had followed the correct guidelines regarding the amount of help given to candidates during the course of the composition. By the time the controlled assessment starts, the candidates should have gained considerable composing experience and should be able to work largely unaided. Guidance should be of a general nature and might, for example, be related to the use of a particular function in a piece of software. However, in a number of cases the teacher guidance had been excessive and candidates had been given help with melodic construction, selection of harmonic / rhythmic patterns, form and structure, and recordings of the composition. On occasions it appeared that the teacher had indeed composed almost all of at least one part of the completed composition - for example the melody - but this additional input had not been accounted for when making the assessment. Teachers must provide detailed information on the CRF so that the moderator can be sure that it is the candidate s own work that is being assessed. Further guidance on the conduct of controlled assessment is provided on the AQA website in GCSE Music/Teaching and Learning resources. Mark Ranges and Award of Grades Grade boundaries and cumulative percentage grades are available on the Results Statistics page of the AQA Website. Converting Marks into UMS marks Convert raw marks into Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) marks by using the link below. UMS conversion calculator 6 of 6

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