Music Department Curriculum – Continuum Introduction

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Music Department Curriculum – Continuum

I have presented this evidence in response to the National Curriculum requirement that three musical strands should be present in the music curriculum from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 5. These three strands are Listening, Composition and Performance, and ultimately students that reach year 13 will be examined to very high and exacting standards in all three areas.
Before continuing I would like to thank Sheena Flynn for providing me with updated and more detailed information on the Year 7 and 8 schemes (she has in fact significantly remodelled all of the topics to bring them in line with learning and assessment expectations) and Elizabeth Woods for re-working the Year 9 Film Music scheme to make it more manageable in the spaces available at Church Chare.

The material below has been presented in the simplest way possible (without omitting necessary detail), each column representing the ‘continuum’ of information and practice in all three basic musical skills. Carrying out this exercise and presenting it in this way has been extremely valuable to me as Subject Leader. As I have worked through it I have found myself re-evaluating material and activities and identifying areas for improvement - specifically where the ‘continuum’ requires strengthening. (For example, at the end of Year 7 and the beginning of Year 8 there are two ‘Performance’ units end to end, thus leaving a gap in composition that may result in pupils losing momentum in this area). Without doubt the most effective Units are those that contain all three skills in close relationship (the Year 9 topics working particularly well in this regard). Thus action will be taken to redress the balance between Performance and Composition in the aforementioned Year 7 and 8 Units.

Without doubt the great challenge has been and remains establishing continuity and understanding in the area of Listening skills. Readers will observe that we have already taken steps to make sure that there are regular opportunities for students to hear examples of a whole range of musical genres and styles. There have already been positive outcomes to this – for example at the start of the Year 9 Minimalism Scheme the first composition improved dramatically for all pupils, their understanding of the task, and the techniques involved, being illuminated by classes listening and discussing a short extract of music from the film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. Listening to a close example proved to be much more effective than simply reading the instructions from the work booklet – the resulting compositions and performances were better than anything we had heard in previous years.

Our aim is to work on this success by establishing and rooting listening as the underlying essential that informs all other skills in class. We are therefore introducing:

  • More listening starters that link to previous learning and that reveal clues to learning in that lesson

  • A listening log where students can identify styles, genres, instruments/voices, performing artists and compositional details. This log can be carried through the school, thus providing evidence of and information on a wide range of musical pieces and providing a continuum through the listening strand.

Composition is also a challenging area for many pupils. It is made significantly easier for students in Year 9 when they have access to the Sibelius publishing package. This makes composition accessible to all, whatever their understanding of musical theory. There has to be an argument for having this technology available further down the school. Introducing it to Year 9 has certainly improved the continuum into Year 10 and Year 11, with students able to make a more confident start to their GCSE composition, having mastered the basics of the Sibelius programme in the previous Year. If Year 8 could do the same this would vastly improve the continuum and progress in composition.

In conclusion I feel that we have made significant progress in improving the continuum in music. However there is always more we can do and in this regard I identify the following areas for improvement:

  • Provide more opportunities for singing from Year 7 to 9. Introducing songs as starters related to the topic would be ideal – but we certainly need to improve in this area. Mrs Flynn piloted this idea last year and received enthusiastic responses from her classes. There is definitely a continuum to be established here – one which would foster individual and ensemble skills and encourage confidence, musicality and musical independence

  • Improve the balance between Listening, Composition and Performance in some Units in Years 7 and 8 (this I feel is more successful in Year 9), thus improving the continuum in all three skill areas

  • Continue to introduce more listening opportunities, encouraging discussion and appraisal of what is heard and creating closer links to inform composition and performance

  • Encourage students to attain higher levels in composition and performance in Year 9, thus supporting GCSE understanding and improvement

I will be raising the above issues with my department for further discussion and action and would welcome input from Head of Faculty and managers. I feel that we can improve in the areas outlined above but that also we are certainly moving in the right direction, thus enabling our students to make greater progress overall.

There follows detail on our present schemes of work, with three strands clearly explained. Continuum exists through the strands of course and at all stages I have pointed out the links between the disciplines. Departmental discussion will centre on whether the three columns actually do represent continuum i.e. opportunities to make levelled progress throughout the seven years.
Alan Woods 21st October 2015




Year 7


What is Music? Listening examples include:

Robbie Williams ‘Angels’

Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2

Iron Maiden

Tallis 40 Part Motet

Maxwell-Davies ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’

Cage ‘4 mins 33 seconds

Stomp DVD various examples
The Music of China

Listening to world music, identifying if possible the country from which the music originates and the features that give it a ‘national’ styles. Examples of music:

Chinese, African, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, Australian, Latin American etc

Further emphasis given to Chinese music and its main features

Out of Africa

Pupils listen to music from Africa and identify features. A range of examples are taken from the following sources:

GCSE Anthology CD

World Sound Matters

African Drummers CD

You tube clips

Pupils also see and hear clips of specific African instruments – some played live

Pupils listen to ‘Poppa’s Blues’ from Starlight Express and other Blues pieces

Plots and Conspiracies
Pupils listen to all of the examples to be used as performance pieces and identify the features that create mystery in the music

Having discussed what music actually is and drawn conclusions pupils then compose a percussion piece in the style of Stomp, utilising homemade instruments and anything from around the room that can be made to make a sound

The pentatonic scale is introduced to the pupils and they are asked to compose a piece of music using only the black notes on the keyboard

Pupils compose their own Blues song in groups of 4

This is a performance Unit therefore no composition as such here

The Stomp composition in performed to the rest of the class, recorded and assessed against National Curriculum criteria

The pentatonic compositions are performed to the rest of the class.

Further performances of Chinese pieces occur at the end of the unit and these are recorded and assessed

Pupils perform African songs as a class e.g. ‘Seeyahamba’

Pupils perform their Blues song to the rest of the class and the pieces are recorded and assessed

Pupils tackle music reading in this unit. Pieces include:

The X-Files Theme

James Bond Theme

Pink Panther Theme

The Godfather Theme

Year 8

Tropic of Capricorn

Pupils listen to a range of music and are asked to put it into context. Examples are:

The Wedding March (Mendelssohn)

African War Dance

Japanese Court Music

Scottish Pipes

Carnival Music

Pupils Listen to ‘Jamaica Farewell’ in preparation for performance of this melody

World of Work

Pupils listen to music that represents a person and his/her character/personality


Pupils listen to ‘I Wish That I Knew How It Feels to Be Free’ by The

Lighthouse Family and discuss the lyrics/music

They also listen to the original version by Nina Simone and compare the two

Other listen tasks include:

‘Broken Freedom’ by Kris Kristofferson and

‘Redemption Song by Bob Marley


Pupils listen critically to music considering its suitability for a given contextual space.

This is a performance Unit therefore no composition as such here

Pupils compose a piece that reflects their own personality

Pupils compose short pieces for four stereotypical characters from a soap opera

Pupils work in pairs to compose music on the keyboards that is relevant for three names spaces

The class sing/perform Jamaica Farewell and then work individually or in twos to learn the melody/chords of the piece on keyboards and/or other instruments

‘Personality’ pieces are performed to the class and pupils explain how they have used music to reflect aspects of themselves
Pupils perform their ‘Soap Opera’ pieces to the rest of the class
Pupils perform the three songs as listen in the Listening section opposite with notation

Pupils perform their pieces to the rest of the class and suggest improvements to their peers

Year 9


Thomas Crown Affair (Black and White x 5) To demonstrate basic Minimalist techniques

Clapping Music

Watch and listen to example on You tube

Protest Song

Listen to ‘Protest Song’ noticing use of chords at the basis of the construction

Further Listening (to be used as starters, inspiration for composition or listening tests)

Steve Reich

‘It’s Gonna Rain’

Music for 18 Musicians

Electric Counterpoint

‘Reich on Reich’

Michael Nyman

‘Time Lapse’

‘Michael Nyman in Progress

Film Music

Students listen to a range of film music, identifying various intervals and how they help to create mood i.e. tension, romance, super heroes, action comedy etc

Extracts include:

‘100 metres’

Lemony Snickett

Harry Potter



Star Wars

James Bond

Mission impossible

Love story

Love is All Around

Silent Movies

Then in assessment situation:

Cars: Tractor Tipping

Pirates of the Caribbean

Moulin Rouge

Cars: The Big Race

Peter Gunn

Listen to extract from Mahler Symphony and discuss the changes made to the melody we know as Frere Jacques

Listen to Variations by Andrew Lloyd Webber and answer written questions on the music.

Final Year 9 Listening Test. Answer questions on ‘Variations on Nursery Theme by Dohnanyi

Informed by listening and working as a team create a short minimalist piece that demonstrates basic techniques

Learn about chords and keep record for later composition task

Learn the basics of the ‘Sibelius’ programme to be able to compose a Minimalist piece incorporating previous learning on chords and the range of Minimalist techniques

Students compose a short film score in response to a storyboard, choosing from Action/Tension/Romance/or


Learn Frere Jacques melody and improvise simple variations upon it. These may be processed on Sibelius if preferred

Improvise or process variations on the Paganini Caprice (informed by the Lloyd Webber listening)

As an ensemble perform Minimalist composition (improvised but based upon simple planned structure)

Perform Clapping Music as a class (teacher-led) to discover method and difficulties. Then perform in groups

Learn, perform and record Protest Song with a partner or partners

Either perform/record or playback/download original composition

Students attempt keyboard performances of the following film themes to explore intervals and mood:



Star Wars

James Bond

Mission Impossible

Love Story

Love is All Around
Assessment: Choose one (or more) of the above themes and complete for assessment and recording

Improvise/perform/record variations

or process/playback/download variations

Perform Paganini Caprice Variations on an appropriate instrument – in part of full

Key Stage 4

Students study twelve set-works, divided in to Four Areas of Study as follows:

  1. Western Classical Music 1600-1899

Handel: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 1st Movement

Chopin: Prelude No.15

  1. Music in the 20th Century

Schoenberg: Peripetie

Bernstein: ‘Something’s Coming’

Reich: Electronic Counterpoint (1st Movement)

  1. Popular Music in Context

Davis: All Blues

Buckley: Grace

Moby: Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?

  1. World Music

Capercaillie: Skye Walking Song

Rage Desh: Shankar etc.

Koko: Yiri

Students compose two pieces, informed by two of the Areas of Study.

Students perform two pieces, one a solo and the other an ensemble. These can be recorded at any time during the course

Key Stage 5

AS Level

Set Work – Haydn Symphony No. 104

Musicals: West Side Story/Les Miserables/Sweeney Todd/ Oklahoma
A2 Level

Set work – Elgar Symphony No. 1

Jazz – 1910 to 1950 – Includes music by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charley Parker and Dizzy Gillespie (plus many others). Covers early jazz, Dixieland, Swing and Bebop

Students compose one piece of music incorporating harmony concepts as specified by the examination board (3-6 minutes)

Students compose one piece of music, incorporating more advanced harmony techniques, as specified by the board. (5-8 minutes)

Students give two recitals – one solo and one ensemble (there are other options). These may be recorded at any time during the course (5-8 minutes each performance)

Candidates gave a recital on their main instrument. (10-15 minutes total playing time)

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