Teaching and resources for English, Art History and Music

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Mediant Studies

Set Work Module

As is usual in examination questions about set works, candidates are expected to make close and relevant reference to the score in their answer(s).  Fortunately, some years ago Trinity College decided to allow candidates to take their scores into the examination room – provided that “bars are numbered correctly, beginning afresh with each movement.  Otherwise the score must be unmarked.”

There is a choice of answering two questions in the examination. 

The first question is a series of questions about the set work  These usually focus on harmony and structure, although questions can include any of the following:

  (The skills needed in answering such questions are covered in the Score Analysis Module.) 

The Set Work module has detailed analyses of each movement.

The second question is an essay. In past examinations, questions have asked candidates to discuss one of the following:

  1. whether the work is typical of a its genre. 
  2. to what extent the work demands well-developed instrumental techniques
  3. which features in the work make it stand out from other music for this medium.
  4. how effectively the composer uses instrumental colour 
  5. whether the work could be considered "symphonic"
Mohit Kumar, 
Hyderabad, India,
October 2014


(If you are not experienced in writing essays about set works for an English examination, you should study the Processing Information section of the Musical Knowledge module.)

It is obvious from the some of these topics that you do not need to know about only the work you have studied.  Indeed, Trinity College have made it clear in the past that “the candidate should demonstrate an understanding of the stylistic and historical aspects of the set works as well as their structure and form.”  Unlike many other examinations, it is not possible to gain high marks simply by analysing the score;  you should be familiar with other works written at the same time, before, or after the work being studied.   This is covered to some extent in the Musical Knowledge Module;  however that is about music in general.   There are scores of music by the same composer and by different composers, so you can compare their instrumentation, structure and style.  Some of the questions focus on one movement in particular - so you have to know each movement well. There are detailed notes about each.  There is also some advice given by Trinity College about studying scores.

Mozart Serenade (for examinations in 2019 and 2020

The material supplied includes notes about the serenade, and for each movement notes and a detailed analysis of the movement, as well as an assignment.  There is information about the origin and early development of the symphony - from the sinfonias of Sammartini and the symphonies of Stamitz and Bach's sons to the symphonies of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.  There are essay questions (often taken from past examinations) about the work.  There are suggestions as to how to answer particular essay questions.   A specimen essay answer is included.

Bartok Concerto for Orchestra (for examinations in 2021 and 2022)

The material supplied includes notes about the work, and for each movement notes and a detailed analysis of the movement, as well as  assignments.  The Concerto is presented in its context, related to Bartok's life, historical events in the period before the work was written, other concertos for orchestra, orchestral instruments used (and folk instruments imitated) in the score, and movements in art and music likely to have influenced the composer.  There are analysis and essay questions (in the style of those asked in past examinations) about the work, as well as model answers.  There are comments about the essay answers, showing how the essay has been answered.

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