Music Teacher online teaching materials (MT Plus Subscribers)

Welcome to the Music Teacher online teaching materials. Every month Music Teacher publishes materials for KS3, 4 and 5, offering complete units of work, GCSE and A level set-work info and activities, and practical ideas across all levels. All materials are written by experienced teachers and examiners and provide indispensable content for your classroom teaching.

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December 2017

Key Stage 3/4/5

Nine Lessons of Christmas

At Christmas time, the life of a music teacher and a music department is usually rather full. Carol concerts, local events, rehearsals and Christmas functions all crowd our calendars. But of course, we still need to teach, and it’s a great time of year to try something different – and, naturally, to link lessons with the festive season.

This resource will therefore not only give some Christmas-themed lesson ideas, but also suggest some one-off lessons that you might like to try. It might be that you’re at the end of a scheme of work, or just want to do something different. Whatever you do, enjoy Christmas – because music at Christmas really can be full of joy!

Author: James Manwaring

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel A level AoS4: Revolver by the Beatles

The Beatles’ seventh album Revolver was released in August 1966. Following Rubber Soul and preceding Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (discussed in its own Music Teacher resource, February 2017), it was a huge success, occupying the number one spot in the album charts for seven weeks in the UK, and six in the USA.

Four songs from Revolver comprise one of the set works from Edexcel’s Area of Study 4: Popular Music and Jazz. However, this set work is only studied by students taking A-level Music, not those taking AS-level.

It’s worth recapping the requirements for component 3 set out by Edexcel in the specification for A-level music (covered in detail in the Music Teacher resource Edexcel AS- and A-level Music: Appraising – an introduction, January 2017). Put briefly, in the summer exam at the end of Year 13, students will be asked to answer three listening questions on extracts from three of the set works in Section A, along with a short melody or rhythm completion exercise. In Section B they will have to write two ‘extended responses’, one of which will draw links from the set works to a piece of unfamiliar music presented to them on CD in the exam. The other essay, worth more marks, will be about the musical elements, context and language of one of the set works (from a choice of three).

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS5: Programme music, 1820‑1910

Programme music of the Romantic period covers some of the most dramatic and appealing works in Western art music. Choosing this Area of Study will not only give you a great contrast with your compulsory classical and jazz set works, but will also provide your students with an inspiring and hugely enjoyable listening experience.

For each of the main pieces covered by this resource, there will be information about its context, background and programme (story). Details regarding each of the musical areas likely to come up in exam questions will also be given: harmony and tonality, melody, texture and timbre, and use of instruments. There will also be a link to a subsidiary work for the purposes of comparison.

Author: Jane Werry

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November 2017

Key Stage 3/4/5

Women composers

This resource follows on from one of Britain’s biggest exam boards changing its A-level music syllabus to include female composers, after a student launched an online campaign calling for better female representation on the course. In 2015, Jessy McCabe noticed that Edexcel’s A-level music syllabus featured 63 male composers and no female ones. Since her intervention, the syllabus now refers to a range of composers including Clara Schumann, Rachel Portman, Kate Bush, Anoushka Shankar and Kaija Saariaho. Women musicians included elsewhere across the specifications include Joni Mitchell and Beyoncé (AQA A-level), Esperanza Spalding (Edexcel GCSE), Bette Midler, Kylie Minogue and Adele (OCR GCSE), Ella Fitzgerald (OCR A-level), and Sally Beamish (Eduqas A-level).

It’s important that we now build on this initial momentum by showcasing the work of even more women composers. The ones included by Edexcel and the other boards are only the tip of a very large iceberg.

However, in this resource I want to go beyond just raising awareness. I want to help teachers and students get ‘under the bonnet’ by looking at some of the rich and diverse composing approaches and strategies used by some these women composers, not only to understand these ideas but also to guide students into trying some of them out for themselves.

Our selected composers all work within what can loosely be referred to as a contemporary classical idiom, often drawing their influences from a much wider range of musical styles and genres. For each featured composer, a brief background biography is followed by some key works with links to online listening where possible. We find out about their approaches to composition, which include ideas about harmony, structure, instrumentation, styles and genre.

We then provide some suggestions for composing activities that students can work on, based on strategies used by these composers. For teachers or students who wish to explore music by women composers further, there are some links at the end of the resource. All pieces referred to in the activities are available on CD, or from the usual online streaming and download services.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE AoS1: Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D, Clock

The slow movement to Haydn’s Clock Symphony ticks happily away in a very genteel 18th-century fashion. You could easily leave it there, as an ornate timepiece in a stately home from centuries past. And yet, once you prise open the back to reveal the cogs and wheels that make up this intricate movement, it becomes immediately apparent why AQA have used it to represent the quintessence of the Classical style in their GCSE Area of Study 1 (Western classical tradition 1650-1910).

Aside from identifying the standard musical elements, the AQA specification also requires students to comment on:

  • the effect of audience, time and place on how the study pieces were created, developed and performed;
  • how and why the music across the selected areas of study has changed over time;
  • how the composer’s purpose and intention for the study pieces is reflected in their use of musical elements.

This resource takes students into the 18th-century world of a jobbing Kapellmeister and his hectic life in an illustrious Austro-Hungarian court. It takes a deeper look at why Haydn ended up as ‘Papa’ of the symphony and at his travails along the way, before appreciating the final creative chapter of his ‘London’ symphonies in more detail, including their purpose, reception and how they build on earlier elements of Classical style.

The resource concludes with a bar-by-bar analysis of the slow movement from the Clock, highlighting the elements and musical vocabulary expected from students at this stage, as well as considering what might lie behind Haydn’s musical choices.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel A level AoS3: Music for film, part 1

I’m passionate about film music, and I just love listening to it. Whether enjoying it within a movie, or listening to a new film score at home, I really enjoy the whole world of cinematic music.

Using film music to teach, and also teaching about film music, are two things that I therefore always look forward to. When choosing the A-level specification for my school, I was excited by the selection that Edexcel have chosen for the New Anthology.

This resource will begin to unpack film music and also consider ways in which students can approach the study of film music. I will touch on techniques for studying the set works, approaches to wider listening, and links to composition for A-level students. I will then consider the first set work from Area of Study 3 – Psycho.

Author: James Manwaring

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October 2017

Key Stage 3/4/5

Identifying and presenting eras of classical music

More emphasis is being given to wider listening in the new GCSE specifications, making the task of discerning between different musical periods and styles more relevant. To be effective, the practice of ‘style-spotting’ needs to start early, from KS3 onwards. Those preparing for ABRSM exams Grades 5 to 8 will be used to a similar challenge in their aural test, when spotting key features in a piece played by the examiner.

This resource is more about the ‘how’ than the ‘what’. How do you present the differences and evolution in styles in a way that works for new, young listeners, so that they can pick them apart with confidence? How do you capture their imagination so that they feel like exploring the styles for themselves? How do you describe the experience of listening to those different styles?

We’ll revisit the well-known key features of styles from new angles, considering presentation tactics for making style-spotting fun, starting with the principles of attentive listening, and the pitfalls to avoid. There is also a Spotify playlist to accompany this resource.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 4

OCR AoS3 Rhythms of the World, part 2: Africa, and Central and South America

In the last resource on OCR’s Rhythms of the World area of study (September 2017), we looked at the Indian Subcontinent the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

In this resource, we’ll look at the remaining styles and traditions included in the area of study:

  • African drumming
  • Calypso from Trinidad and Tobago
  • Brazilian samba

Once again, this resource contains required knowledge as well as details of musical activities that will deepen students’ understanding of the traditions.

Author: David Guinane

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AoS 1: Mozart’s The Magic Flute

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and raised in Salzburg, where he and his father, Leopold Mozart, were on the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg’s music staff. On discovering and nurturing his children’s musical talents, however, Leopold decided to tour the courts and cities of Europe to show them off.

The young Wolfgang loved the years of travelling, and was exposed to a huge range of music and styles in the main musical centres of Western Europe, which included Munich, Mannheim, Mainz, Frankfurt, Brussels, London and Paris – in the latter two cities the Mozarts had longer stays. He thrived abroad, with a tour of Italy in his teenage years inspiring a huge output of operas, symphonies and chamber music. His return to Salzburg was always disappointing, since commissions there were confined to masses and anthems. Mozart was desperate to leave Salzburg, and it was Vienna that had captured his imagination.

In the 1700s, Vienna was the heart of the Habsburg Empire and also the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. The city was rich in culture, with opera, churches and plenty of potential patrons. In 1773 Mozart attempted to find employment there but was unsuccessful, and therefore forced to return to Salzburg. Over the next years, Mozart redoubled his efforts to look for employment outside Salzburg and away from the Prince Archbishop.

In 1781, Mozart seized his chance. The Archbishop and his entourage had been travelling across Europe and were due to visit Vienna. Mozart caught up with the tour there, having been in Munich for the premiere of his opera Idomeneo. During this visit to Vienna, Mozart made a number of new contacts, as well as getting back in touch with the Weber family (whom he had met in Mannheim, and who had since moved to Vienna). After disagreements with the Archbishop, Mozart’s contract was terminated and he did not return to Salzburg.

Author: Hanh Doan

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September 2017

Key Stage 3

Year 7 Can: the what, why and how of getting Year 7 off to a musical start

The focus of this article is on the Year 6 to Year 7 transfer point. But the material is relevant for any period of transition – we’ll look at how to capture accurate baseline information, ways to think about and plan for progression, and ideas for how to get those first few lessons off to a really musical start.

Engaging students from the very first lesson, setting up musical expectations and creating an ethos of what it means to be part of the musical life of your department – these are all important parts of ensuring that you get to know the needs and aspirations of your new intake, and respond to these in ways that embed the idea that ‘Year 7 Can’.

Author: Anna Gower

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Key Stage 4

OCR AoS3 Rhythms of the World, part 1: the Indian Subcontinent, the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East

OCR’s Area of Study 3, Rhythms of the World, covers a huge variety of what we often call ‘world music’. This term usually refers to any music that isn’t part of the Western classical tradition. It’s a huge area, with hundreds of years of history, and vast amounts of social context.

To bundle it all as ‘world music’ isn’t actually a very helpful term. ‘World music’ is really just ‘music’. This resource covers around half of the styles specified in the OCR AoS, and contains required knowledge as well as details of musical activities that will deepen students’ understanding of the traditions. It will be followed by a second resource covering the remaining styles in the specification.

Author: David Guinane

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Key Stages 4-5

Effective mentoring for young musicians

You’ve probably already been a mentor – either formally, or without naming it as such. In many ways, mentoring is an extension of good pastoral practice, and the skills involved are those we use in any ‘big-picture’ conversation.

This resource is about examining those skills and how we might adapt them when giving advice to young musicians. Although mentoring has been introduced as early as primary school age, the following guidance is best suited to older students – typically when they are considering longer-term goals such as A-level choices, university courses or career direction.

Mentoring has been proven to have a positive impact beyond just the personal level, affecting organisational mentality as well. Research in the workplace has shown a mentoring system can lead to increased productivity, better change management and a more collaborative, supportive workforce. Despite these benefits, the busyness of classroom teaching often means that mentoring gets put into the ‘desirable’ rather than the ‘essential’ column. This resource is about reaffirming why mentoring is a must.

Author: Jonathan James

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August 2017

Key Stage 3

Formative assessment and differentiation

It’s essential that we make every effort to cater for the needs of every student in our classes, and plan for maximum progress to be made. However, sometimes it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Here I present some ideas about how best to organise formative feedback and differentiation for maximum efficiency – that is, the greatest return for the least teacher faff.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE AoS2: Unpacking Purcell’s ‘Music for a While’

This article provides teaching ideas and suggestions for Area of Study 2 of the Appraising component of the new Edexcel GCSE music course, which we have now started teaching to Year 10 students (see also a previous Music Teacher resource, November 2016). Here I offer two approaches: one is practical, and the other is more of a written approach that may also aid with the study of other set works.

The motivation behind this article is to consider how we can approach the study of set works, and how this can help students to unpack music from the ground up.

In the exam, students will be expected to answer a range of questions, some short and closed, others more broad and analytical. In order to prepare students for the exam, we need to make sure that they are prepared for these differing question styles.

As well as questions on the set works themselves, students will also have to answer questions on unfamiliar pieces of music. This article will also look at ways in which we can embed this approach into our teaching and the learning process of our students.

Author: James Manwaring

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AoS1: Bach’s Cantata ‘Ein feste Burg’ BWV80

Students will study Bach’s Cantata ‘Ein feste Burg’ in preparation for AS or A-level. A previous Music Teacher resource (January 2017) gives a comprehensive overview of what’s required. It’s worth remembering, however, how each work may appear at both levels:

  • Section A: extracts from the Bach Cantata may appear in one of the three listening questions.
  • Section B: the ‘extended response’. In the first essay, students may be asked to draw links from ‘Ein feste Burg’ to a piece of unfamiliar music they will hear on the CD. In the second essay, students may choose to write about the musical elements, context and language of ‘Ein feste Burg’.

As well as including essential information, this resource will suggest strategies for approaching this set work, particularly since the work contextualises a Bach chorale and two-part counterpoint.

Author: Hanh Doan

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July 2017

Key Stage 3

Practical starters and warm-ups for the classroom

Three-part lessons exist in many different areas of education. In Montessori teaching, very young children are encouraged to learn through introduction, then association and recognition, then recall. John A Van de Walle, a mathematician at Virginia Commonwealth University, developed an inquiry-led approach to ‘student-centred mathematics’ with three phases, complete with timings for each:

  • Getting started phase (10 to 15 minutes)
  • Work phase (30 to 40 minutes)
  • Consolidation and practice phase (10 to 15 minutes)

Then there are music activities that have often followed these same structures by the very nature of what is involved. A warm-up, designed to get everyone sounding and functioning musically together. Playing, exploring, refining through rehearsal, unpicking the detail to take it apart and then put it back together for a final performance at the end. Within this refinement stage, ‘mini-plenaries’ just happen as the music is rehearsed then played section by section, then knitted together again for a final play-through.

In the UK in 2001, the KS3 National Strategy brought recommendations for teaching strategies including the three-part lesson. This was straight-jacketed into a model of starter, activity, plenary, linked to clear lesson objectives to be identified and shared with students from the start of the lesson and embedded throughout.

So began the culture of tick-box lesson observations, and the challenge many teachers faced of shoehorning their lessons into the required structures, regardless of how learning was unfolding in front of them, because they thought that was what was required of them by their school leadership.

Beginning with Literacy and Numeracy, then expanding out into other subjects (including what were known as the Foundation Subjects), this model became the focus for staff training that included the sharing of ideas for ‘starter’ activities designed to engage students from the very start of the lesson. Practical warm-ups such as singing, icebreakers and pulse games were replaced by word searches, hangman or card sort activities laid out ready on the desks in the music classroom.

The three-part lesson structure quickly took hold. Then came four- and even seven-part lessons, mini plenaries, peer testing, quizzes and keywords, and a minefield of obstacles for music teachers to navigate around when delivering what has always been embedded into musical practice so beautifully.

Author: Anna Gower

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Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE AoS4: Copland’s Rodeo

It’s quite a soft touch to use Copland’s Rodeo as an example of AoS4’s Western classical tradition since 1910 in the new AQA GCSE specification. Certainly softer than, say, a Maxwell Davies or Bartók score, both of which feature in the unfamiliar music for that Area of Study. Copland’s writing, though, gives an excellent introduction to the use of a larger orchestra for those new to the genre, not least because of its relative economy and clearcut textures. There are plenty of intricacies for the more advanced learner to enjoy as well. It’s a canny choice for ensuring good levels of differentiation.

This resource is about providing context for Rodeo’s runaway success in 1942, and appreciating the suite as part of Copland’s other orchestral output and overall development in style. It will comprise:

  • an overview of Copland’s main compositional styles.
  • insights into how he uses the orchestra.
  • ‘Americanism’ and how to identify it.
  • Copland’s music for dance, and why his style suits ballet so well.
  • the three populist ballets.
  • the commission, story and structure of Rodeo.
  • detailed analysis of ‘Saturday Night Waltz’ and ‘Hoe-Down’.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE AoS4: Fusions

With Year 10 students, teachers are now nearly halfway through teaching the new GCSE music courses, and here I provide some support for Area of Study 4 of the Edexcel specification, which is simply entitled ‘Fusions’. There are two set pieces of music for study here:

  • ‘Release’ by Afro Celt Sound System
  • ‘Samba em Prelúdio’ by Esperanza Spalding

It might be helpful to look back to an earlier, more general Music Teacher resource (September 2016) on teaching the appraising component of Edexcel’s course, which focuses on the importance of teaching the skills of aural analysis, given that students will have to answer questions in the exam about unfamiliar music as well as about set works.

In the specification, the wider listening suggested includes music by Celtic band Capercaillie, Turkish singer Demet Akalin, Cuban collective Buena Vista Social Club and jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie. It is essential to study unfamiliar music alongside the set works so that students get used to finding key characteristics and features for themselves, rather than simply ‘learning’ the features of their set works, so I will take that approach with this resource.

Author: Simon Rushby

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June 2017

Key Stage 3

Planning a KS3 programme with the new GCSEs in mind

The new 9-1 GCSEs are supposedly more rigorous than their predecessors. In practice, however, this looks like a slight increase in the amount of music theory knowledge expected for the exam, and an expectation that previously unknown music will form part of the listening. So to what extent should we be planning our KS3 programmes with that in mind?

To answer this question, you need to have a good idea of what the purpose of KS3 music actually is. Your views on this may vary considerably depending on the context of your school and your students, but it is unlikely that you see KS3 music purely as a preparation for KS4, given that not everyone chooses it as an option. You will have your own philosophy about using time with KS3 students to ‘sell’ music, hook students in, and give them knowledge and skills that will enable them to pursue their own musical interests in an active way for life.

However, achieving these aims while at the same time setting up a solid foundation for subsequent study is not at all impossible to achieve. This is not, though, a case of starting to think about GCSE content from Year 7. Rather, it is about building musical competencies and a sense of mastery, so that students are equipped with relevant knowledge and skills, and the confidence to use them.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 3

Getting started with songwriting

Songwriting. An ageless craft of storytelling, sharing our deepest feelings, emotions and experiences, communicating messages of love, sadness, resistance, protest? An accessible form or structure for composing for students and teachers alike? A nice synergy of musical elements, and familiar to most of us with thousands of songs available at the push of a button on our smartphones or when we turn on the radio or TV, or walk into a shop? Or a relevant hook into the music that engages and drives students who may have been writing their own songs for years and never shared them, or who feel an affiliation with the genre through their own commitment to the music they enjoy and are passionate about, often in very personal ways?

Whatever our motivation for setting our students off with a songwriting task, there’s always a danger that with familiarity comes an assumption that it’s something they’ll be able to ‘just go off and do’. This resource is designed to be a series of starting points, tasks and activities that can scaffold the process for students in order to make it a valuable and engaging experience for all.

Dip in and out as appropriate across your KS3 curriculum to start to build confidence and familiarity with lyrics, grooves or chord progressions. Or cherry-pick your way through to designing a songwriting scheme of work that’s relevant to your students and resources, and fits within your departmental and personal musical values.

The key to success with songwriting is building confidence within each student to try out their ideas, whether that’s in terms of lyrics, a rhythm, a melody, a chord sequence.

We live in a world where if it doesn’t sound perfect first time, students can be reluctant to risk giving it another go in case it takes them out of their confidence zone in front of their peers. Bite-size, achievable tasks can form the stepping stones for building that confidence, and thereby open a new world of expression for students. They often have a lot that they’d like to be able to share if we’re able to give them access to the musical language, forms and structures that allow them to be heard.

Author: Anna Gower

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE AoS3: Music for stage and screen – context, analysis and creative approaches

Edexcel’s GCSE specification for examination in 2018 includes a new Area of Study, AoS3: Music for Stage and Screen, which features two big hits from Hollywood and Broadway. Feedback so far from teachers is that they appreciate being able to use the ‘Main Title’ from Star Wars or ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked to ease students into the new set works, or as a ‘respite’ from the less well-known works. However, the music’s familiarity can also present a challenge, as students resist going beyond the big tunes and into the elements of the score.

This resource gives a context for both set works before analysing their key features and suggesting practical ways for communicating them in the classroom. It includes:

  • a brief history of the genre and performance style.
  • an overview of the composer’s work and approach.
  • an in-depth analysis of key elements.
  • ideas for creative responses.

Author: Jonathan James

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May 2017

Key Stage 4

Creative responses to the new Edexcel GCSE set works

How do we ‘animate’ the new Edexcel GCSE set works (for first examination in 2018), bringing them alive and off the page in the classroom? This is at the centre of good practice around the Appraising component: using the set works as a springboard into practical exercises that deepen musicianship and knowledge, crossing over into the other components of composing and performing.

This resource draws on the techniques of an ‘animateur’ (workshop leader) and puts them in the context of the curriculum, considering practical ways to approach features in all eight of the set works from Year 9 onwards. For each set work, a creative response is suggested that draws together those key features into a simple structure, boosting creative confidence and helping to embed core knowledge.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 5

AQA & OCR: John Adams

Many music departments include modules on minimalism in their KS3 and KS4 schemes of work. A contemporary musical style that uses simple repetitive diatonic phrases with catchy rhythms and engaging harmonies has considerable appeal for young students, who can themselves use computer sequencers to devise and develop effective-sounding music in this style.

But what next? For many students and indeed older composers, minimalism can become something of a prescriptive musical cul de sac with limited opportunity for further musical development.

The music of John Adams (and indeed the later music of the older minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass) shows how a post-minimalist style can emerge from these foundations, which gives greater scope for a more diverse musical expression.

John Adams first became attracted to this musical style when, as a young student, he was rejecting the rule-based serialist techniques of his professors in music college, which he described as ‘a mausoleum where we would sit and count tone-rows in Webern’.

The writings of John Cage provided him with a stimulus for alternative lines of musical enquiry, which, in turn, led to an interest in exploring ways of working with minimalist techniques. At the same time, he was making considerable use of pioneering synthesizer technology in his work, which continues through to the present day.

His ‘post-minimalist’ style uses many of the hallmarks of minimalism. A steady pulse coupled with repeated diatonic phrases, combined in intricate interlocking rhythms, underpin much of his work, But this is combined with elements we perhaps associate more with Romanticism. So within the course of a single movement, there is often a great deal of development and variety, light and dark, serenity and turbulence, all of which he achieves with judicious use of instrumental colour – orchestral and electronic – and big contrasts in texture, dynamics and tempos.

Another interesting feature of Adams’s music is the way in which he draws on an eclectic range of nonclassical musical styles, which he feeds directly into his work. Charles Ives is a major influence, and Adams uses the same techniques of musical collage and unusual stylistic juxtapositions in many of his works. His parents were both jazz musicians, and as a youngster Adams listened to a lot of 1960s and 1970s pop and rock music, and aspects of all of these styles can be found in several of his compositions. Indeed, it is these elements that serve to broaden the appeal of his music in reaching a wide and diverse audience of enthusiasts.

Finally, the importance of education. Adams has worked with young musicians from institutes such as New York’s Juilliard School and London’s Royal Academy of Music, and he has recently taken a post as visiting professor at the Royal Academy. Coupled with the fact that this year we celebrate John Adams’s 70th birthday, this means that there should be an increased opportunity to hear his music being played live across the UK over the coming months.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

AQA, Edexcel & OCR: Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen was quite simply one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. As a teacher, he taught many of the figures who became giants in the post-war avant-garde – among them Boulez, Stockhausen and Xenakis. And as a composer, he sits on a line from Debussy to Boulez and beyond, creating music of such sensuality and religious devotion that we’re still coming to terms with it today.

Perhaps that’s why his music inspires fervid devotion in some – and downright incredulity in others. In any case, encountering the works of Messiaen as part of a school course can have a transformative effect on students’ understanding of music’s power, can capture their imagination, and can provide entirely new ways of looking at music in terms of symbolism, colour, time and spirituality.

Messiaen is included in three of the current KS5 specifications (detailed below), and his music can provide countless starting points for composing activites, a few ideas for which are also included in this resource. We’ll look at four key works from across Messiaen’s career – Le banquet céleste, the Quartet for the End of Time, the Turangalîla Symphony and Des canyons aux étoiles… – and examine key elements of Messiaen’s style that are apparent in each of them.

AQA
Messiaen is one of four named composers specified for study in AQA’s AoS7: Art music since 1910. The board also details specific music elements relevant to Messiaen’s music, which are covered throughout this resource:

  • Melody: modes of limited transposition
  • Harmony: chord extensions, eg added 6th
  • Structure: cyclical structures
  • Sonority (Timbre): organ stops
  • Sonority (Timbre): unusual instruments, eg ondes Martenot
  • Texture: layering
  • Tempo, metre and rhythm: additive rhythms
  • Tempo, metre and rhythm: palindromic rhythms

EDEXCEL
Messiaen is one of the composers mentioned in the wider listening examples for Edexcel’s AoS6: New Directions, specifically movements 8 and 10 from his 1974 Des canyons aux étoiles…, which are covered in detail in the final section of this resource.

OCR
Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is one of the specific works listed as suggested repertoire for OCR’s AoS6: Innovations in Music 1900 to the present day (covered in two previous Music Teacher resources, December 2016 and January 2017). We’ll look in detail at Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in the second section of this resource.

Author: David Kettle

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April 2017

Key Stage 4

Unfamiliar listening in the new GCSE specifications

The new GCSE music specifications have ensured that all four boards now expect students to be confident listening to and appraising unfamiliar music. With three of the boards providing students with set works to study, this new expectation runs the risk of being perceived as the more challenging element of the examination.

Despite the lack of certainty that comes from having studied pieces in depth, candidates should still be confident when approaching unfamiliar listening. Across all exam boards, the goal of the unfamiliar listening is always to assess pupils’ understanding of core musical vocabulary and the areas of study.

While all four boards expect students to enter the listening and appraising examination prepared to analyse unfamiliar music, there are subtle differences between their specific methods of assessment:

  • AQA dedicates the first section of the exam to unfamiliar music.
  • Edexcel emphasises students’ ability to compare unfamiliar music to the set works.
  • Eduqas asks six questions relating to unfamiliar music.
  • OCR reserves the entire listening exam for previously unheard extracts.

A more comprehensive overview can be found below.

Author: John Kelleher

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS4: Religious music of the Baroque period

The Baroque period in music was long and eventful, and covers the development of both the orchestra and the diatonic tonal system. This makes this AoS the perfect complement to the Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven of AoS1, and together with AoS5 (Programme music 1820-1910) or AoS6 (Innovations in music 1900 to the present day, covered in two earlier Music Teacher resources, December 2016 and January 2017) would give students a thorough overview of musical history that would be ideal preparation for a music degree.

If students are thinking of doing the Composing A option, which includes technical exercises, or if you’re keen for your students to study Bach chorales, then this AoS also gives all the background to Baroque approaches to harmony and tonality. There is no compulsion, however, to do AoS4 questions in the exam just because students have done Bach chorales for their Composing A technical exercises.

The other, more direct, reason for choosing AoS4 is that it simply covers a wealth of great music. If it is the sort of repertoire that you find exciting, and you think you will be able to enthuse your students with it, then that in itself is reason enough to choose it.

In this resource, I give advice on how to tackle the background to the topic, recommend some online resources, and provide a ‘way in’ to the music itself, including specific works that could be studied in each sub-genre required by the specification. Where longer pieces such as oratorios are concerned, I pick out some of the most useful sections to study.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

AQA, OCR, Edexcel & Eduqas: a Jazz Primer, Part 2

In part one of this two-part jazz resource (Music Teacher, March 2017), we traced how jazz evolved from humble beginnings as a folk music into being the mainstream popular music of its day. By 1945, where we left off, the Glenn Miller Orchestra had become the sound of America, rallying record-breaking crowds and symbolising free-world values.

The jazz community had never had it so good. Bandleaders such as Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Count Basie were musical idols. And yet there was a growing sentiment that the highly organised, impressively arranged swing bands were no longer true to the spirit of jazz. The genre had, after all, always thrived as a counterculture, giving a voice to the oppressed. Could this music really belong to the white-dominated establishment? What had happened to its founding identity?

New factions inevitably appeared. Bebop, cool and hard bop all kicked back against the mainstream. And this fascinating reboot in the history of jazz is where we pick up in the second part of this primer.

Author: Jonathan James

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March 2017

Key Stage 4

OCR AoS5: Conventions of Pop

Of all the Areas of Study for the 9-1 OCR GCSE, AoS5 on Conventions of Pop is likely to be the one where students already have at least some familiarity with the music.

However, although they may think they know a lot about it, chances are they will need to be provided with activities that will allow them to build a picture of the chronology and evolution of pop styles. Some of the older styles and artists may be unfamiliar to the millennials in our classes. After all, the 1950s and 1960s probably seem like ancient history to most students.

As well as being given an overview of the historical and cultural background to the conventions of pop, students will need to be trained to identify the constituent parts of a pop song, and use the correct terminology to describe what’s happening in the music.

As ever, the most efficiently musical way of getting acquainted with any style is by experiencing it from the inside, in other words by performing examples of the music itself. If students do this as a class, the process will necessarily involve having to talk about what they are doing, which is where the teacher can provide examples of relevant terminology, so that students are describing what they are doing accurately from the outset.

This process will make doing exam-style listening questions a whole lot easier later on, as not only will they be better at identifying the layers and structures of the song in question, but they will also be able to correctly use the musical terms that will gain them marks.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AS and A level AoS5: Debussy’s Estampes

Students are studying Debussy’s Estampes and the other set works in preparation for a summer Edexcel exam paper either at AS or A-level. A previous Music Teacher resource (January 2017) has already given an overview of the appraising paper, including which questions will be asked in the exam papers; details of what students need to learn in terms of musical elements, context and language; and advice on how to break down the areas of study. Some specific sample questions are also suggested at the end of this article.

A suggested strategy for approaching each set work is also set out in this article, and it covers not only how to plan the study of works such as Debussy’s Estampes, but also how to incorporate wider listening into the scheme of work. In section B of both the AS and A-level papers there will be a question that requires students to be able to draw links from their set works to a piece of unfamiliar music, so it is essential to include practice at picking out features from music less familiar to them as part of the set work study.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

AQA, OCR, Edexcel & Eduqas: a Jazz Primer, part 1

Jazz is an important area of study for A-level across several of the boards. Like most musical styles, its evolution doesn’t fall into a neat timeline. Instead, it is better thought of as a delta, where different stylistic streams merge and separate. This two-part resource gives a bird’s-eye view of that delta for those new to the genre, and for those who want to present helpful through-lines for A-level learners.

This first part traces jazz history from its ‘raggedy’ beginnings in the 1890s through to the gloss and sophistication of swing bands up until 1945. The second part picks up from the rise of bebop and ends with a survey of today’s artists.

A Spotify playlist is also available for each resource, with benchmark recordings of the prescribed artists and ideas for wider listening.

In each part, a brief outline of the main stylistic developments will be given, together with their key musical
features and the artists who exemplified them.

Author: Jonathan James

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February 2017

Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE AoS2: The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

‘It was 20 years ago today…’ sang the Beatles on the opening track of their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And it is now actually 50 years ago that they first sang these words.

So it’s a good time to take a closer look at this extraordinary collection of songs, and figure out how we can use ideas from them in the classroom. All the songs have musical features of interest, and we draw freely from across the range, with special attention being given to the three songs featured on the refreshed AQA GCSE course:

  • ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’
  • ‘Within You Without You’
  • ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’

We’ll go beyond mere analysis of the songs, however, by providing a range of suggestions for practical activities – working with the musical ideas, and playing the songs. The intention is that this will help give students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the music on the album.

The aims of this resource are:

  1. To perform, listen to, review and evaluate the music from one of the key popular music recordings of the 20th century.
  2. For students to create and compose music on their own and with others, using conventional instruments and music technology applications.
  3. To explore and understand how this music was created, through a consideration of its key musical features.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AS & A level Music AoS4: Courtney Pine’s Back in the Day

Courtney Pine’s album Back in the Day was released in 2000, and is one of the set works that both AS and A-level students have to study as part of Edexcel’s Area of Study 4: Popular Music and Jazz.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

IB SL/HL 2017-19: Kodály’s Dances of Galánta

It’s an odd pairing at first glance: Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (covered in its own Music Teacher resource, February 2016) with Kodály’s Dances of Galánta. And yet these prescribed works for IB’s music diploma (for first examination in June 2017, through to 2019) invite some cunning comparison.

Both works involve dance music that draws on elements of national styles, and both rely on ingenious scoring for effect. They also offer a useful wormhole into each composer’s mind. The Galánta dances epitomise Kodály’s nationalist principles and are a brilliant example of his absorption of Hungarian folk style and particular brand of classicism.

This investigation into Kodály’s masterpiece starts by setting some context:

  • Who was Kodály and why is he so interesting?
  • What did nationalism mean for Hungarian composers?
  • What are the key features of the Hungarian folk style?
  • How are these features reflected in the Dances of Galánta?

This is followed by a detailed analysis of each section of the Dances of Galánta, where possible addressing the objectives given by IB in their specification for both Higher and Standard levels of the diploma. In the listening paper on music perception and analysis, students are expected to demonstrate:
„„

  • knowledge, understanding and perception of music in relation to time, place and cultures,
  • appropriate musical terminology to describe and reflect their critical understanding of music,
  • comparative analysis of music in relation to time, place and cultures,
  • critical-thinking skills through reflective thought.

Author: Jonathan James

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January 2017

Key Stage 4

Radiohead in the classroom

Delicacy – calm, gentle sonorities, lush textures. Highly contrasting passages with loud, violent, harsh sounds … underpinned with a feeling of restlessness and unease generated by clashing and ambiguity in harmonic and rhythmic elements…

This is the music of Radiohead.

And it is this highly distinctive collection of musical features that make the study of this music a treasure trove for music teachers. In this resource, we take a closer look at some of the musical devices used by Radiohead and consider ways in which we can use them in teaching and learning in the classroom.

Many of the activities here look at an innovative use of rhythm as a key element in effective composition – an element that is often ignored when students focus far more on melodic and harmonic elements. We consider ways in which Radiohead extend the use of harmony beyond the usual confines of rock music, drawing on a range of jazz and classical influences. The importance of technology and electronica are also covered with some realistic, practical music making activities. We give consideration to the diverse musical influences that contribute to their highly original and distinctive output. By listening closely to some of the key works, followed up by relevant practical activity, students should find they are now able to broaden their perspectives compositionally in creating more interesting and more varied music.

Why Radiohead?

Teachers will find much of interest in this resource for use across all key stages in a secondary school. However, this Radiohead-themed resource is particularly relevant for KS4 classes preparing for:

  • AQA GCSE AoS 1-5: with particular emphasis on AoS 1 Rhythm and Metre, and AoS 2 Harmony and tonality.
  • OCR GCSE AoS5 Conventions of Pop: focusing on how Radiohead use and develop musical elements and compositional devices from a wide range of styles and genres.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AS and A level Music: Appraising – an introduction

The new AS and A level qualifications from Edexcel are set up in a very similar structure to the legacy course – which many of us are still teaching to our Year 13 students. We still have three components with the same weighting, and the Appraising component is the only one that is examined by means of a written paper at the end of the course.

There are some big differences, however. The key difference is that in all new A levels, the AS and A level specifications have been ‘decoupled’. So teachers and students are now faced with the dilemma that if they take the AS exam at the end of Year 12 and then do the full, new, linear A level, their AS result will not count towards it.

This new set-up has led to a bit of a mixed reaction in schools and colleges: some still encourage students to do the AS first and then move on to the full A level in Year 13, while others are focusing entirely on the A level specification and doing it over two years.

Thankfully, the Edexcel AS and A level appraising requirements share a lot of common content, which allows for either approach, and also means that Year 12 students and their teachers can choose one of three possible paths:

  1. Take the AS exam at the end of Year 12, and progress on to A level in Year 13.
  2. Take the AS exam over two years.
  3. Take the full A level over two years.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS6: Innovations of the 20th Century, part 2

Having covered late-Romantic symphonic styles, Impressionism, Expressionism, atonality and serialism in Part 1 of this resource (Music Teacher, December 2016), we resume our exploration of this vast topic by taking a look at the following styles:

  • Neo-classicism
  • National styles
  • Post-1945 avant-garde, including electronic and post-modern music
  • Minimalism
  • Contemporary approaches to composition

For each style, we’ll examine two works here. Although it’s only strictly necessary to be able to write about one piece in detail for each style in the exam, students will gain a much deeper understanding of a style if they have two pieces to contrast. After all, composers rarely pigeonhole their own music neatly into a particular style, and stylistic distinctions are, at best, something of a generalisation. Added to which, there are so many amazing pieces from the 20th century that it seems a shame to be stingy with its riches.

Author: Jane Werry

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