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Discussion in 'Music' started by yarrow, May 11, 2011.
I think it depends on the student. I use both options. We compose Arabic, Baroque, Chinese then look at arrangments of Christmas songs. Students then have the option to either compose or arrange a song of their own if they wish. Personally, I would arrange everytime, however, some students find this harder than a composition.
It's worth looking back through previous examiners' reports. These suggest that relatively few candidates offer arrangements. Those that do usually seem to get either very good or rather poor marks. The poor marks tend to arise from simply re-assigning the notes in the original to different instruments, without writing idiomatically or adding anything new. The good marks tend to go to those who re-harmonise the original, add countermelodies, write idiomatically for the chosen instrument(s), and so on. It's a bit of a gamble, IMO, but I agree with cmf that the option may suit some students.
It depends on the stimulus you give them as well. I've done the arranging option in the past for pupils who are musical but can't come up with that initial idea - I've given them mainly short folk song melodies (sort of like the old AS music technology task) which they then have to harmonise and develop in whatever style they chose. I now give the class an arranging task and a composing task before we start controlled conditions and see where their strengths best lie.
We had a couple of students who chose to do arrangements for one of their compositions this year, but they got better marks on their second compositions.
In effect, although Edexcel call them 'arrangements' they're not really that as they are not just a realisation of the music for different instruments. They're looking for something completely fresh and different and this can be pretty tough.
I hope this helps.