Investigating the canon in A-Level music: Musical Prescription in A-Level Music Syllabuses (for first examination in 2018)

Whittaker, Adam (2018) Investigating the canon in A-Level music: Musical Prescription in A-Level Music Syllabuses (for first examination in 2018). British Journal of Music Education. ISSN 0265-0517

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The canon forming the backbone of most conceptions of Western music has been a feature of musical culture for decades, exerting an influence upon musical study in educational settings. In English school contexts, the once perceived superiority of classical music in educational terms has been substantially revised and reconsidered, opening up school curricula to other musical traditions and styles on an increasingly equal basis. However, reforms to GCSE and A-levels (examinations taken aged 16 and 18 respectively) which have taken place from 2010 onwards have refocused attention on canonic knowledge rather than skills-based learning. In musical terms, this has reinforced the value of ‘prescribed works’ in A-level music specifications.

Thus far, little attention has been paid to the extent to which a kind of scholastic canon is maintained in the Western European Art Music section of the listening and appraising units in current A-level music specifications. Though directed in part by guidance from Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, the regulatory body for qualifications in England), there is evidence of a broader cultural trend at work. The present article seeks to compare the historical evidence presented in Robert Legg’s 2012 article with current A-level specifications. Such a comparison establishes points of change and similarity in the canon of composers selected for close study in current A-levels, raising questions about the purpose and function of such qualifications.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
Date: 19 August 2018
Subjects: X300 Academic studies in Education
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > Centre for Study of Practice and Culture in Education (C-SPACE) > Re-thinking Creativities
REF UoA Output Collections > REF2021 UoA23: Education
Depositing User: Adam Whittaker
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2018 08:36
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2020 15:36

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