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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November 2018

KS3

The elements of music

The elements of music. DR P SMITH or MAD T SHIRT; posters on the walls of your classroom; a handy checklist for writing a model answer to a GCSE question; or a guide to development in an A level composition.

The elements of music have long been an important component of KS3 music, whether they’re taught as a standalone unit or topic, or threaded through performing, composing or listening activities in a topic-based curriculum.

However, the elements of music are really just a set of labels and concepts under which sits a wealth of musical understanding, and a heap of vocabulary and musical language that can help to hone student responses to music that they hear, play, sing or compose from the very start of their music education.

It’s that further layer beneath the label and concept that’s much harder to measure, and which weaves through all good music learning and teaching. It’s about crafting an understanding of what makes music a medium through which to be expressive, to make sense of sound, and to arrange it into meaningful musical experiences that allow students to demonstrate their learning in ways other than a listening test or performance assessment.

Then there’s the reality of the need to prepare students for the requirements of GCSE or vocational courses while inspiring them to want to opt for the subject in the first place.

Regardless of the values that sit behind your KS3 curriculum and at the heart of your music department, the elements of music remain firmly embedded into all aspects of music education. So what does this mean in context?

This resource falls into two parts:

  • The first part contains a detailed overview of the many different variations of the elements of music that are designed to help teachers choose the labels and concepts that define the elements in a way that can ensure a continuity of learning between KS3 and KS4. These provide some background on how and where the musical elements appear in documents such as the GCSE specifications or National Curriculum Programmes of Study to help to inform choices over how they can be used at KS3.
  • The second part suggests approaches for threading the elements through the KS3 experience to ensure that students not only know the label and concept, but are able to recognise changes in music that they hear, and apply their understanding of what the elements of music can do to enhance a performance, or form the building blocks and support the development of musical ideas in a composition.

Author: Anna Gower

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KS3-4

Getting the most out of your rehearsals

The roots of the verb ‘to rehearse’ come from the medieval world of farming, and has to do with ‘re-harrowing’ the ground, in other words raking it repeatedly until it’s free of stones and snares, ready for the plough.

From time to time, our rehearsals can have a little too much of the ‘harrowing’, or even of the ‘hearse’ to them. This resource is about revitalising our approach within a school context. It looks at the principles of effective rehearsal technique across all stages of learning, whether in a choir, orchestra or band.

There are three main aspects covered:

  • Preparation of the rehearsal cycle.
  • The anatomy of the rehearsal.
  • How to lead your musicians.

All three place learning at the centre. How do we conduct a rehearsal that goes beyond ‘re-harrowing’ the piece in hand and improves general musicianship, both in terms of ensemble skills and individual technique?

Within the context of teaching, this broader premise for the rehearsal needs to be held in mind throughout each portion of the session. The pressure will always be there just to teach the notes and hone a piece for a concert.

This is a learning experience in itself, true, but the constant challenge is somehow to eke out more learning on more levels. That is the main concern of this resource.

Author: Jonathan James

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KS4

AQA AoS2: Computer gaming music

In the AQA GCSE specification, students are asked to study music from four areas of study:

  • Area of Study 1: Western Classical tradition 1650-1910
  • Area of Study 2: popular music
  • Area of Study 3: traditional music
  • Area of Study 4: Western Classical tradition since 1910

This resource looks at AQA’s Area of Study 2, specifically computer gaming music since 1990. It will help with the study of computer gaming music, but will also consider some of the ways in which we study and appraise music. There are some questions related to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and also some analysis of the music from Assassin’s Creed.

The more students can listen to music from the genre, the more they will understand it. It would be good to find out if they play any games at home, since a key part of understanding any genre of music is to consider its target audience and context. Although it might not be possible to play games in school, there are several videos on YouTube that show games in action. You may like to show one such video to help students picture the music during gameplay.

Author: James Manwaring

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October 2018

KS5

AQA AoS1: The operas of Mozart

The AQA A-level exam requires candidates to have a good understanding of the context and musical features of Mozart’s operas, with special focus on specific numbers from Act 1 of The Marriage of Figaro. The exam questions encompass identification of features in recordings of unfamiliar Mozart operas, some simple dictation using music from the area of study, description of musical features from a score excerpt from Figaro, and describing how a chosen excerpt relates to the opera as a whole.

There are excellent bar-by-bar analyses of all of the set numbers from Figaro in both the Rhinegold study guide and the teaching guide published on the AQA website. I do not intend to duplicate these here. Rather, this resource aims to provide resources and strategies for how to approach the area of study with your classes. These will include ideas for where to start with tackling the context of Classical opera, performing excerpts from Figaro in class, and teaching the musical features of the Figaro set numbers.

Author: Jane Werry

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KS5

AQA AoS3: Music for Media part 2 – Michael Giacchino and Nobuo Uematsu

In the first part of this resource (Music Teacher, August 2018) we looked at music by three of the five composers named by AQA in Area of Study 3: Music for Media – Bernard Herrmann, Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman.

 

In this second part, we’ll be looking at the other two names on AQA’s list. For both Michael Giacchino and Nobuo Uematsu, we’ll look at their careers and focus on some key music composed by them, mostly in the realms of video game music, though Giacchino is now very prolific in the film genre.

Author: Simon Rushby

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KS5

Edexcel A-level: Wider listening

A key component of the new Edexcel A-level specification is wider listening. In this resource, I will consider what ‘wider listening’ means, and how we can approach it in our teaching.

 

There are some barriers that can easily be broken down, and some misconceptions that can hopefully be sorted out. Wider listening is here to stay, and when we start to embrace it, we’ll see our students’ love of music increase – and their results following the same path.

Author: James Manwaring

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September 2018

KS3/4/5

Musical creativity in the classroom: part 2

In the first part to this two-part resource (Music Teacher, July 2018), we tried to pin definitions on what it means to be musically creative, finding that the more you try to corner the concept, the more it slips beyond grasp.

We discussed the implications of ‘thinking in sound’, alongside multiple expressions of creative musicianship and the theories that underpin them.

This second part asks: so what? We’ll look at the application of the theory across the following core areas, with ideas that are relevant to both GCSE and A-level:

  • Listening
  • Analysing set works
  • Performance
  • Composing

Creativity is a very personal subject. The following tips, exercises and suggestions may well have you muttering in dissent at the page or the screen. Good! The aim is not to give fail-proof recipes but to provoke a reaction.

Even if the specific ideas don’t quite fit with your current practice, the hope is that you’ll be inspired to adapt them to your own teaching situation.

Author: Jonathan James

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KS4

Performing at KS4

At KS4, students make their choices about which subjects to choose to study further. In the case of music,
schools can offer GCSE music with specifications offered by four main exam boards in England, and some
variations available elsewhere such as National 5 in Scotland, and IB or iGCSE internationally. There are also various vocational qualifications available to students who opt to take music beyond KS3.

As you would expect, most options include performing as a key part of the specification, and a performance forms some part of the expected assessment outcomes from the courses. The key difference between GCSE and equivalent and vocational qualifications is that the focus for GCSE is on the student as performer, whereas the vocational options dig a little deeper into the performance and all the things that come together in the planning and delivery of a performance or event. The aim is to make links to the music and creative industries,
and to open up pathways to further study of music for students who may not have followed a more traditional route through music learning, which may have been via instrumental study and knowledge of associated theory and theoretical language, a key part of the GCSE music subject conditions as required by Ofqual.

Author: Anna Gower

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KS5

AQA AoS2: Pop music

This wide-ranging area of study is likely to have massive appeal to teachers and students alike, since it contains a generous range of very accessible and enjoyable music. The featured artists are likely to be a mixture of familiar names and less familiar musicians, providing an easy way in as well as somewhere to go.

This resource aims to provide a structure for tackling the AoS, with advice on ways of presenting information to students and some ideas as to where to find useful teaching materials.

Author: Jane Werry

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August 2018

KS3

KS3 as preparation for GCSE music

The KS3 programme of study is an age-related phase of learning that most commonly happens at the start of secondary or high school education in England. The GCSE is a stand-alone qualification governed by a framework laid out by Ofqual that has been used by examination boards to develop their own specifications and assessments against defined learning objectives.

Author: Anna Gower

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KS5

AQA AoS3: Music for Media – Bernard Herrmann, Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman

In this resource, we will look at music by three of the five composers named by AQA in AoS3: Music for Media. For each composer, I provide an in-depth examination of an example of their music, a little context and some ideas for further study of other music that you can undertake with your students.

Author: Simon Rushby

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KS5

Edexcel AoS6: Saariaho’s Petals

Of all the ‘New Directions’ works in the Edexcel A-level Anthology, Saariaho’s Petals is the only one written by a living composer (at the time of writing). It is, without doubt, one of the most fascinating pieces in the Anthology, but also one of the most challenging to study.

Author: David Guinane

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July 2018

KS3

Hamilton

Hamilton is the hottest ticket in London’s West End and New York’s Broadway at the moment – and probably the biggest musical theatre phenomenon for decades.

The mix of hip hop and Broadway, together with a storyline concerning America’s founding fathers, has proved to be explosive. It’s dripping with musical and cultural detail, and its devotees are positively evangelical. It provides a rich seam of great material for the KS3 classroom, and has the added attraction of being particularly appealing to students.

What value can you extract out of Hamilton for your KS3 classes? This resource shows you how to put together vocal and instrumental performances from the show, and use this as a springboard for exploring chords, rhythms, structures, American history, the conventions of musical theatre and hip hop, and creating raps and backing tracks.

Author: Jane Werry

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KS3/4/5

Musical creativity in the classroom: part 1

Arguing the case for musical creativity in the classroom is easy. Few, if any, teachers would contest the importance of creative thinking and skills at any stage of the curriculum. And yet, defining what musical creativity means both in theory and practice is notoriously tricky, and has had educationalists and social psychologists dancing in semantic circles since the 1960s.

This is the first of two Music Teacher resources bringing you up to date on the latest creativity research, and hopefully helping you consider the subject afresh, encouraging reflection on who you are as a creative musician and what that could mean for the classroom.

Part one looks at how creativity has been defined in the broadest sense, before drawing out theoretical implications for music education. Part two then looks at applications of these theories within the KS3 curriculum and beyond.

The questions around creative identity are as valid to the teacher as they are to the student. We access our musical creative self in different ways throughout our lives. Whether through attentive listening, playing or composing, we are all expressing ‘creativities’ at every stage of musical learning.

These two resources are based on the premise that everybody is creative, and that the pursuit of creativity should be at the core of the music curriculum at every stage.

Author: Jonathan James

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KS5

Edexcel A level AoS3: Music for film, part 3

This is the last of three resources on film music (following part one in Music Teacher, November 2017, and part two in January 2018) based around Edexcel’s Area of Study 3. Here we’ll focus on Batman Returns, and also some further ways into film music composition for A level students.

Author: James Manwaring

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June 2018

KS3

Loop pedals: singing, layering and creating

This article provides teaching ideas and suggestions that focus on the use of a loop pedal or loop station.

There are a number of different approaches to looping, and it’s possible to use a pedal or a piece of computer-based software. For the purpose of this article, I’m referring to the use a looping device such as the Roland RC- 30 Loop Station. There are, of course, lots of options out there, and using a computer sequencer can produce similar results. I’ll explain in this article, however, why I’ve particularly enjoyed using the physical pedal.

The motivation behind this resource is to consider a new way of approaching a fairly common concept in music. The use of repeating ideas and patterns is not a new concept, but this approach may inject some fresh life into loops.

While the use of looping devices at Key Stage 3 is a fun and interactive approach, the scope of loop pedals themselves is far broader. Students may go on to use them to enhance their own practice; create their own GCSE composition; or perform their own music. This article is potentially just the starting point of an exciting musical journey revolving around loops.

Another motivation is to provide a whole-class approach to music making. Working with a class of 30, I’ve used a loop pedal to create music and teach students the basics of composition, melody, harmony and rhythm.

Author: James Manwaring

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KS5

Edexcel AoS2: Clara Schumann Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17 (first movement)

The G minor Piano Trio is undoubtedly one of Clara Schumann’s best-known compositions, and a fine example of Romantic chamber music. This resource covers the essential musical features of the work, as well as important contextual information, and suggestions for wider listening and research. Since this information is available from multiple sources, in order to avoid unnecessary repetition I’ll also present a number of potential approaches to studying this set work with A-level students.

Author: David Guinane

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KS5

AQA AoS1 Strand C: piano music of Chopin, Brahms and Grieg

The piano is an emblem of musical Romanticism. By the 1830s, no bourgeois household would have been complete without at least an upright piano in the sitting room, preferably with ornate candle-holders and freshly polished mahogany inlay. With its updated design and new range of colour, the 19th-century pianoforte inspired performers and composers alike to pioneer new musical frontiers.

AQA’s A-level specification celebrates three composers who made the most of the new instrument’s expressive potential, and who were also masters of the short form, another important feature of Romantic thinking. This resource examines the context for the pianism of Chopin, Brahms and Grieg, from the development of the instrument and its position in the Romantic repertoire, through to each composer’s individual performance style and composing approach at the keyboard. Key features for each of the set works are highlighted, with links to recordings for comparative listening.

Author: Jonathan James

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May 2018

KS3-4

Free online resources for music teachers: a guide

There’s no teacher in the world who doesn’t love a free resource. And the good news is that as time goes on, there are more and more of them available on the internet.

Whether you’re looking for lesson ideas, resources to use with classes, tutorial videos, playalongs, arrangements, or free software to use for creating music, there’s a real smorgasbord of things on offer that can be used straight away in your classroom at no cost whatsoever.

No guide to free resources can ever promise to be absolutely comprehensive, however. This resource is intended to highlight a large selection of useful online things that are tried and tested for use with KS3, 4 and 5.

Author: Jane Werry

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KS5

Edexcel AoS2: Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique

Hector Berlioz was born in 1803, and his use of large instrumental forces in his music led him to become one of the most influential French composers of the 19th century. His compositions include symphonic poems (including the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy), operas and large-scale works, including the opera The Trojans and the ‘dramatic legend’ The Damnation of Faust.

Berlioz also wrote extensively about music, including his Treatise on Instrumentation, a technical study on Western musical instruments, which had a huge impact on the development of orchestral music throughout the Romantic period. He did not learn the piano, which was unusual for composers of the time.

After realising that he had no interest in his medical studies, Berlioz began studying composition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1826. There he became familiar with the works of Beethoven, including his symphonies, string quartets and piano sonatas. Beethoven’s influence on Berlioz was huge, particularly on his symphonic works. As well as this, Berlioz developed a keen interest in literature. In 1828 Berlioz read Goethe’s Faust for the first time (in French translation) which became the inspiration for his Damnation of Faust (after several revisions). He also began to study English in order to read the works of Shakespeare, which influenced a number of his pieces, including his choral symphony Romeo and Juliet. Berlioz’s Harold in Italy is also inspired by Byron’s Childe Harold.

Author: Hanh Doan

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KS5

AQA AoS4: Music for theatre – part two

Students studying AoS4 of AQA’s music AS and A level qualifications need to understand the style, context and music of musicals by five named composers – Kurt Weill, Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Claude- Michel Schönberg and Jason Robert Brown – which roughly span a period from 1925 to the present day. All these composers took inspiration from traditional and contemporary opera and non-musical theatre, and contributed massively to the development of what is very much a 20th- and 21st-century genre, either working alone or in collaboration with other writers and lyricists.

In this second part of a two-part resource, we will look at the contributions to the genre of the three living composers of the five named by AQA – Stephen Sondheim, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Jason Robert Brown.

In the first part of the resource (Music Teacher, April 2018) there is a recap of the requirements of AQA’s Appraising component, and an overview of the history and development of musical theatre.

Author: Simon Rushby

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April 2018

Key Stage 3/4/5

How to start a gypsy jazz group

In my experience, many secondary music departments are awash with guitarists (usually evidenced by their inability to leave cases in a sensible place). There are, of course, countless ways to get them involved with a school’s music making: rock schools, bands, or the guitar chair in a big band, for example.

However, the ‘bedroom guitarist’ still thrives in many schools – the player who learns tunes from the internet, but lacks the experience of playing with others, thus not developing a whole range of essential musical skills. Without a guitar specialist in the department, or at least someone with the patience to watch them struggle to plug their instrument into an amp and tune up, guitarists can often be underused, or even abandoned entirely.

Gypsy jazz, best exemplified by the music of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, has provided a stimulating and challenging environment for guitarists (and many other musicians) in my school. This resource is designed to give all teachers a starting point for creating a gypsy jazz ensemble, a potential club or project that can involve potentially disaffected guitarists in your schools. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can expand the style to include a host of other musicians, developing their ability to improvise and play jazz.

Author: David Guinane

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KS5

Baroque solo concerto

The AQA A level exam requires candidates to have a good understanding of the context and musical features of Baroque solo concertos, with special focus on three set works by Purcell, Vivaldi and JS Bach. The exam questions encompass identification of features in recordings of unfamiliar concertos, some simple dictation using music from the area of study, description of musical features from a score excerpt from a set work, and describing how a chosen excerpt relates to the movement as a whole.

There are excellent bar-by-bar analyses of all three set works in both the Rhinegold study guide and the teaching guide published on the AQA website. I do not intend to duplicate these here: rather, this resource aims to provide resources and strategies for how to approach the Area of Study with your classes. These will include ideas for where to start with tackling the context of the Baroque concerto, performing Baroque concertos in class, teaching the musical features of the set works, and ways to approach analysis without necessarily resorting to a bar-by-bar description.

Author: Jane Werry

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KS5

Music for theatre – part one

Students studying AoS4 of AQA’s music AS and A level qualifications need to understand the style, context and music of musicals by five named composers – Kurt Weill, Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, Claude- Michel Schönberg and Jason Robert Brown – which span a period from roughly 1925 to the present day. All these composers took inspiration from traditional and contemporary opera and non-musical theatre, and contributed massively to the development of what is very much a 20th- and 2st-century genre, either working alone or in collaboration with other writers and lyricists.

In this first part of a two-part resource, we’ll look at the contributions to the genre of the two earliest composers named by AQA, and the only two no longer living – Kurt Weill and Richard Rodgers.

First, let’s recap the requirements of the AQA Appraising component.

Author: Simon Rushby

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March 2018

Key Stage 3/4/5

Sonic Pi for music teachers

Sonic Pi is an easy-to-use, freely downloadable software application. It is aimed at those new to computer programming, but powerful enough to generate really sophisticated music.

Part of the stimulus for its development was to stake a claim for music in the new computing curriculum for schools, with its emphasis on computer programming as an important digital skill. Students are already finding it a very engaging way to make music, and also one that makes strong connections with their musical cultures and helps them develop broader and deeper levels of musical understanding.

The program comes with tutorials and worked examples, which fully demonstrate the application’s possibilities. Users can generate melodic lines, chords and sequences, assign them to different synthesisers, edit the timbral profile of synthesised sounds, add various looping and chance structures, import sampled sounds and process these sounds using a range of effects. The coding makes it clear what is happening musically at each stage, so that students get good insights into how sounds can be organised musically.

In this resource, I provide some pre-programmed templates for musical activities. These can be set up to encourage exploration of a range of musical concepts such as chord progressions, theme and variations, building melodies and so on. Using the ‘live looping’ function allows students to make adjustments to various musical parameters as the music is playing. Using ‘what if’-type questions engages learners to try out ideas, make musical decisions and develop programming skills.

Although this is a relatively new approach to making music, the fundamentals of good music making still apply. We still need to think about how good melodies develop organically, and how rhythm patterns are structured and fit together in ways that listeners can appreciate and recognise. The priority still has to be making music that sounds good – this is not just about clever coding. So always ask the question – is it musical? Will a listener find in this music some musical reference points they can connect with?

This resource has been written specifically to support the classroom music teacher in exploring new, innovative ways of delivering the music curriculum. The activities are aimed at older students, but teachers will find that they can easily be adapted to suit a wide range of ages, abilities, levels and teaching contexts.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS2: Popular song – Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra

One of the attractive features of the OCR A-level syllabus is the thoroughly enjoyable repertoire covered by this particular Area of Study. However, while the songs themselves have instant appeal, it can be difficult to know where to start in giving students a thorough understanding of the musical style and its historical context.

For Section A of the A-level exam, students will listen to an unfamiliar song from the Area of Study, and are asked to comment on its musical features and how it fits into its context. In Section B, they will be asked to compare one of their set works with another recording of the same song, and also answer a more general question about the set works.

These questions require a thorough knowledge of the history of vocal jazz, as well as the ability to identify musical features aurally and describe them accurately using correct terminology. There is a quantity of factual information that students will need readily to hand, and frequent retrieval of that information will be required in order to embed it in the long term memory. Practical experience of performing the works and manipulating their features through creative work will help with aural identification of stylistic fingerprints.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AoS 2: Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor, Op. 3 No. 11

Aside from two years in Mantua (1718-20) and his final months in Vienna, Antonio Vivaldi spent his life in Venice, from where his reputation and fame emanated. Venice had a unique atmosphere that had grown out of the interaction of many different factors: its social and general history, landscape and climate, culture and arts.

By 1700 the Republic of St Mark was no longer a leading economic or political power. It had lost its dominant position for trading with Asia due to the shift of international trade to the oceans and the colonial expansions of other European states. It also lost its political authority, losing its possessions in the eastern Mediterranean and to Austria. But having been known for its trade, Venice’s identity refocused around culture. The arts and entertainment flourished, and the Venetian carnival attracted tens of thousands of foreigners every year. As well as being a city of amusement for tourists, it was also enjoyed by the Venetian nobility.

By the 18th century, Venice had become a city of music. A wealth of vocal and instrumental music was performed in the city’s churches, opera houses and palazzi, and in the open air.

Author: Hanh Doan

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February 2018

Key Stage 5

AQA AoS6: Contemporary traditional music

In this resource we will look at music by the artists and composers prescribed by AQA in Area of Study 6: Contemporary Traditional Music. The focus will be on providing background on these artists and exploring selected music, with suggested listening and essay questions that you can use with your AS and A-level students.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AoS1: Vaughan Williams’s On Wenlock Edge

On Wenlock Edge is a song cycle by Ralph Vaughan Williams that sets some of AE Housman’s poems from his collection A Shropshire Lad. Published in 1896, the 63 poems in A Shropshire Lad reflect a variety of different themes (including the simple pleasures of rural life and a longing for lost innocence). They are written in different voices, including conversations from beyond the grave. As well as Vaughan Williams’s settings of six of these poems, other composers to set extracts from A Shropshire Lad include George Butterworth, Arthur Somervell and Ivor Gurney.

Vaughan Williams set the following poems from the collection (the Roman numeral indicating the poem’s place in A Shropshire Lad):
1. XXXI ‘On Wenlock Edge’
2. XXXII ‘From Far, from Eve and Morning’
3. XXVII ‘Is My Team Ploughing’
4. XVIII ‘Oh, When I Was in Love with You’
5. XXI ‘Bredon Hill’
6. L ‘Clun’

On Wenlock Edge is set for tenor and the unusual accompaniment of string quartet and piano. (Vaughan Williams also provided an alternative solo piano accompaniment.)

Edexcel has chosen numbers 1, 3 and 5 for study at A-level, but it is of course essential that students get to know the whole work.

Features of Vaughan Williams’s writing found in On Wenlock Edge include:

  • English folksong: this composition followed a period in which Vaughan Williams was committed to folksong and ensuring its survival.
  • Use of modes: this is something found not only in folksong, but also in early choral music, particularly that of Tallis and Byrd, some of which was modal in character.
  • French influences: Vaughan Williams studied briefly with Ravel around the time of composing this piece, and some of Debussy’s ‘La cathédrale engloutie’ can be heard in ‘Bredon Hill’, though this work was published shortly after On Wenlock Edge.
  • Parallel movement between parts, especially 4ths and 5ths: this is typical of Vaughan Williams’s writing, which also bears similarities to the parallel chords of Ravel and Debussy.

Author: Hanh Doan

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS1: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, first movement

Right from its opening canon-shot chords, Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the Eroica, signals a musical revolution. The composer’s student Ferdinand Ries predicted that ‘heaven and earth’ would ‘tremble at its performance’. Certainly, the world of the symphony would never be the same again.

It’s an exciting choice by OCR for their ‘prescribed piece’ in the orchestral section of the A-level AoS1,  Instrumental music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The first movement of the Eroica is of epic length, built on a nexus of closely related themes, with rebellious touches that merit inspection in every paragraph.

This resource is about how to navigate through that complexity, and present Beethoven’s revolutionary genius in ways that connect with the learner. The approach is to start wide with a look at broad themes and historical context, and then narrow down to specific musical elements in each section of the movement.

Author: Jonathan James

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January 2018

Key Stage 4

Composing to a brief

All the GCSE boards stipulate that one of the two submitted compositions must be composed to a brief set by the board. The good thing about this is that choosing from a range of options is almost always easier than having a free choice, and students tend to find freedom within the constraints of the brief.

There are certain similarities between the briefs set by the various boards. All have a film/TV music option, and a pop song is a possible response to briefs from all four boards. Two have a solo-plus accompaniment, concerto-inspired option; two have a piece intended for a formal occasion; and there are also various options for using a melody, rhythm or chords as a starting point.

It’s not possible to cover every brief in lots of detail here. The film music and pop song briefs are likely to be the most popular with students, so we’ll investigate those in more depth in this resource. Many of the ideas here, though, can be transferred to other briefs, as they are concerned with the basics of composing melodies and harmonies, and developing ideas within a structure.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel A-level AoS3: Music for film, part 2

In the previous resource on Edexcel’s film music Area of Study (Music Teacher, November 2017), we looked in detail at music from the film Psycho. In this second resource, we’re going to consider the next film score in the Edexcel Anthology – The Duchess by Rachel Portman.

Before embarking on a similar analysis of the music, we’ll first consider some routes into using film music with composition: it’s a useful way for students to learn how to understand both atmosphere and storytelling in music.

Author: James Manwaring

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AoS5: Anoushka Shankar’s Breathing Under Water

Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar’s fifth album, Breathing Under Water, was recorded in numerous locations over the course of ten months, and released in August 2007. It was a collaboration with the percussionist, producer and songwriter Karsh Kale. The album presents a fusion of Indian classical and folk music (from Shankar) with Indo-Western electronica (from Kale), and includes further collaborations with singer-songwriters Sting (formerly of 1970s/80s band the Police) and Norah Jones (Shankar’s half-sister), and with legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar (her father). It was not a particularly big mainstream success, but reached number six in the US Billboard world music charts.

Three tracks from Breathing Under Water comprise one of the set works from Edexcel’s Area of Study 5: Fusions. However, this set work is only studied by students taking A-level music, and not those taking AS level.

Author: Simon Rushby

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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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