A-LEVEL Music. MUSC4 Music in Context Report on the Examination June Version: 1.0

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1 A-LEVEL Music MUSC4 Music in Context Report on the Examination 2270 June 2014 Version: 1.0

2 Further copies of this Report are available from aqa.org.uk Copyright 2014 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 school or college.

3 General The Unit 4 examination always produces a good range of responses and students achieve a correspondingly varied range of marks. 40% of the marks on this paper come from Section A, a listening test based on unfamiliar excerpts of music; this is followed by essay questions on the chosen set work in Section B (30% of the total marks) and on the chosen Area of Study in Section C (also 30%). The CD of music excerpts lasts approximately 45 minutes after which students will have about 90 minutes to write their two essays. The essay questions in Sections B and C give students the opportunity to write about the music they have studied. This is particularly true for Section C where teachers are able to tailor the choice of works to the interests and experience of their students; this is often revealed in the great enthusiasm shown in students' responses. Teachers are asked to remind their students that they may answer the questions in Sections B and C in any order - it is perfectly acceptable to answer the question from Section C first if this enables students to write to their strengths. A significant number of students choose to do this every year. Section A The excerpts in this section are not related to the set works or drawn from any particular period of musical history. Teachers are reminded that the knowledge likely to be tested is described on page 19 of the specification, the most up-to-date version of which is on the AQA website. Teachers and students are advised to read this section carefully in order to be familiar with what may be asked. More marks are available in Section A (total 40%) than for the questions on the set work or Area of Study (30% each), so it is essential that students undertake regular practice in listening skills. Looking at past papers will help identify the different approaches necessary for each style of question contained in this section. As in recent years the marks gained in Section A were often out of step with those gained in Sections B and C. It was common for students with good marks in Section A to score poor marks in B and C or vice versa. Students with a good aural sense might only sketchily have studied set works and topics, or those who had worked extremely hard at the essay topics might well have been weaker aurally, which could explain this. When there are two marks or more for a question the same number of pieces of information are sought. 3 of 7

4 Question 1 The two short excerpts here were YMCA and 'April is in my mistress' face'. YMCA seems to have been a popular choice amongst students. Questions at this level need to be more challenging than those found at AS hence Suggest a suitable time signature for 1(a) needing the answer 4/4 and not 2/4 or even 2/2. In 1 (b) not all students worked out successfully that the introduction began on the mediant. Writing more than one answer for questions, such as tierce de picardie and perfect cadence for 1(j), gets no credit, in the same way that underlining dominant and tonic major in 1(h) would receive no mark. Question 2 This excerpt was from the Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky. This question was answered fairly successfully by a large number of students. 2(a) was for 2 marks so there were two facts which needed to be offered about the chord - dominant and 7 th - for both marks. The chromatic chord in 2(b) was often not correctly identified, even by students who went on the get the rest of the question correct. The modulation to the dominant at the end of Section B was often missed. Question 3 The excerpt with skeleton score was the opening of the second movement of Piano Concerto K488 by Mozart. A large number of students found this style of question difficult to answer with some failing to gain any marks at all. Identification of chords and cadences, and melodic dictation are essential skills which continue to need regular practice. Knowledge of basic harmony is a huge help some students failed to notice that the music was in F sharp minor and, therefore, unlikely to have modulated as early as bar 4. This is an example of the basic knowledge required at A2. Melodic dictation in 3(c) was a problem for many. The bass part was asked for this year, but it was at a perfect cadence point so basic harmonic awareness should have been a help in identifying at least the C sharp and F sharp. The final question (3(f)) had 3 marks so three pieces of information were needed - and features of the texture were sought. The melody was in thirds; the clarinet plays rising and falling triplets; the bass line was slow moving and static. Many wrote homophonic, melody and accompaniment, or melody dominated homophony; that was simply offering a fact and not identifying a feature and, therefore, scored no marks. Question 4 The music for this question was from Dawn from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. This question, although on a short excerpt, brought forth some pleasing answers. Many students gave more facts than the 9 marks allowed for. It was pleasing to see some weaker students gaining credit here. 4 of 7

5 Section B Set Works As in 2013 students were required to answer one question on either Symphony No.5 by Shostakovich or Symphony No.1 by Elgar. Analytical detail is required in this section - answers should focus on the musical elements. Harmonic knowledge - identification of keys and chords was particularly weak this year. The mark scheme contains some useful extra information which teachers could share with their students. As well as the bullet points used by examiners to place the essay in its correct band there is extra information giving some idea of what a typical answer in each band might contain. Questions 6 and 8 asked for focus on specific sections of the set works. The best approach is to go through the movement chronologically and, ideally, equally detailed attention should be given to the whole of the passage when this is specified in the question. Questions on both symphonies asked for harmony/tonality. Many students identified keys centres (tonality) but paid little attention to the harmonic aspects (identification of, for instance, chords and cadences). Some of the weaker answers tended to be descriptive, saying what the student saw on the page, as opposed to what he/she heard. A student can only achieve up to half marks if only the visual aspects of the work are addressed and there is no evidence of musical understanding. Students do not need to copy out musical quotations from the score in their answers. Since they are allowed to take an unmarked score into the examination this is an unnecessary and timeconsuming exercise. Accurate reference to rehearsal numbers is sufficient to identify the location of musical features. Teachers are requested to tell their students to use these (which are in every edition) rather than bar numbers even if they are printed in the score, particularly for the Shostakovich. Question 5 asked about the use of the motto theme in the Elgar Symphony. Taking into account the obvious references to the motto theme in the first and fourth movements it was a puzzle to find students using convoluted ways of finding examples in the second and third movements which, at best, are tenuous, and at worst wrong. Students needed to show how, for instance, harmony/tonality and orchestration etc differed in each presentation of the motto theme. In other words, there was no trickery in the question, just a test for students to display their analytical skills at important and obvious points in the score. Whilst there were many very good answers to Question 7, some students did themselves no favours by speculating about what the music meant writing about the anti-stalin background, often identifying what the strings and the brass might mean. Sadly much of the requirement of the question (melody, harmony/tonality etc) was lost in a welter of political rhetoric which scored poor marks as there was little or no comment on the music. 5 of 7

6 The second movement of the Elgar asked about in Question 6 is quite complex and therefore required considerable skill in deciphering the specifics of melody and harmony/tonality. Some students tackled this bravely, producing some excellent observations, but others went through the music page by page simply describing what they saw. Similarly in Question 8 those who really answered the question and included harmonic language got much credit, although some unfortunately made mistakes by not being aware of transposing instruments (eg at [54] horns playing in C, not F). Section C - Areas of Study Students offered a wide range of responses to the questions in this section. Many of them were a pleasure to read, showing work as detailed as that for the set work questions. This section requires students to write in detail about the music they have studied. The questions in this section will necessarily be open-ended and, no matter how they are phrased, are a means to elicit from students a detailed appreciation of some of the music they have experienced whilst giving them a focus for their writing. Analytical detail is vitally important - to score a high mark students must write about harmony/tonality, melody, rhythm, texture (unless only one or two of these are specifically asked for). Teachers are encouraged to make sure that their students understand that this is the case and that there may be different ways of approaching the question. The mark scheme shows this, referring throughout to the quality of responses in terms of students references to music, although the marking must also reflect how well the essay addresses the question set. English Choral Music in the 20th Century In Question 9 Dream of Gerontius, Belshazzar s Feast, War Requiem, and The Lamb were the most common works under discussion. Elgar s Demon Chorus, Walton s Praising the Gods and, interestingly, Britten s Te Decet Hymnus were often chosen, and, for many reasons, quite rightly so. However, apart from the recurring reference to C F# in the Britten, the answers mostly concentrated on writing for voices, ignoring, for the most part, harmony/tonality and rhythm. Question 10 attracted some good responses with writing for voices the most popular choice by far. However observations needed to go further to score a high mark; the way the musical language is used in the vocal writing needed to be addressed. Otherwise responses risked erring on the side of description and lacking the necessary musical understanding for a high mark. 6 of 7

7 Chamber Music from Mendelssohn to Debussy There were some good answers to Question 11. Mendelssohn and Debussy were popular and good choices, but there was also work on Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. The question asked about structure and harmony/tonality. Again harmony received little attention here or was wholly ignored. Many students wrote only about the structure of each piece, identifying in passing the keys of each section. Question 12 might have been a gift for chamber instrumentalists, who are constantly interacting between themselves and the rest of the group. Evidence of this was lacking in most cases. The works chosen often included piano quintets and string quartets but techniques in writing for the instruments and the part they were playing in the bigger picture were rarely considered. Four Decades of Jazz and Blues Musical detail is just as important here as in the other Areas of Study. Students seemed more aware of this need this year with a consequent improvement overall in their marks. Jazz-influenced pieces (for example Rhapsody in Blue, Ravel Piano Concerto for the Left Hand) sometimes featured here - these pieces were not relevant to either of the questions set. There were, however, some engaging accounts of some of the jazz repertoire including commendable detail. Question 13 asked students to choose the decade they thought was the most significant in the development of jazz. A substantial number of students wrote all they knew about the pieces they had studied leaving the examiner to decide which decade they had chosen. Very few offered a justification of their choice which was borne out in the music. Question 14 was an opportunity for students to write with enthusiasm about the piece they had studied and make some musical judgements about them. The justification for the music being a masterpiece was very rarely forthcoming. A bar by bar blues outline, the use of chords I IV and V, scat singing and descriptions of hot fives and sevens didn t go far enough. There were, however, some engaging accounts of some of the jazz repertoire including commendable detail. Conclusion Teachers and students are once again to be congratulated on their careful and detailed preparation and enthusiasm in tackling the wide range of music necessary to do well in this unit. 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 7 of 7

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