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Music Extension Performance Examination

Further advice for teachers and students

This document explains some key differences between a solo and an ensemble work. It should be read in conjunction with the:

How solo and ensemble works differ in the HSC Music Extension examination:

  • A solo work is where an instrument or voice is featured distinctly in the principal role and takes the main musical interest throughout, though musical interest may be shared by other performers at times.
  • A solo work may be accompanied by one or more performers.
  • An ensemble work is where the musical interest is shared among a group of instrumental or vocal parts throughout the whole work, with the parts interacting with each other.
  • An ensemble can consist of two or more instruments or voices.
  • The part performed by a student in an ensemble must be clear and apparent for HSC markers to clearly identify the part played by the student being examined.
  • The syllabus does not require the specific parts of the ensemble work to be equal. However, the student’s role within the work must provide adequate scope for the student to demonstrate the syllabus outcomes related to performance.

Important points regarding ensemble works:

  • Ensemble direction can be explicit or implicit and will often be displayed through sophisticated musical communication and interaction between the performers.
  • Structural coherency refers to both the macro and micro structures, ie the overall form and subtle rhythmic, harmonic and melodic ideas.
  • Stylistic endeavours need to display validity and integrity in meeting the composer’s intent.
  • Sophistication and sensitivity will often be evidenced in the genuine musicality displayed by the candidate.
  • Technical skills are demonstrated by displaying a command across the instrument that shows agility, control of intonation, and mastery of articulation, tone, personal expression, etc.
  • The success of ensemble playing is the overall achievement of unity and balance. Areas that should display unity and balance:
    • clarity of individual lines and blend
    • articulation and expressive techniques
    • intensity and direction
    • stylistic coherency
    • dynamics and expression
    • structural demands
    • rhythmic drive and tempo
    • intonation
    • phrasing.
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