Exploring Music In Context - 20%

Exploring different styles of music is fundamental for this course. Use the various resources below to help you in this module

Firstly you should be exploring music using the four Areas of Inquiry

1. Music for sociocultural and political expression

This area focuses on music that expresses and communicates social and cultural messages, conveys political ideas and/or helps preserve social and cultural traditions.

Examples of relevant musical materials may include the following genres.

  • Protest songs

  • Liturgical music (music for worship)

  • National anthems

2. Music for listening and performance

This area focuses on music that expresses and communicates intrinsic aesthetic values - aims to simply sound good and appeal to an audience simply for that purpose. Such music is sometimes referred to as “absolute music”.

Examples of relevant music materials may include the following genres.

  • Chamber music of the Western art tradition

  • Jazz (Bebop, hardbop, gypsy, swing and big band, modal, free jazz, smooth jazz, afro-cuban jazz and much more)

  • Experimental music

3. Music for dramatic impact, movement and entertainment

This area focuses on music used for dramatic effect, music that supports choreographed movement or dance and/or music that is incidental or intended to purposefully serve as entertainment.

Examples of relevant music materials may include the following genres.

  • Music for film

  • Music for ballet

  • Musical theatre

4. Music technology in the electronic and digital age

This area focuses on music created, performed and/or produced using electronic or digital technologies. Such technologies are an important aspect of contemporary musical experiences, often transforming some of the ways that we understand and engage with music.

Examples of relevant musical materials may include the following genres.

  • Electronic dance music

  • Elektronische Musik (translates to 'Electronic Music'. Similar to above but concerned instead with all electronic styles as opposed to the above EDM which is intended for night clubs, raves and festivals and re-played by a DJ. One example would be Kraftwerk who create and perform their own electronic music)

  • Technology in popular music production

Use this Spotify playlist to give you an idea of the variety of music you should be listening to for this course and this module in particular:


Live Music Performance Videos

As well as listening to a variety of music styles you should also explore live performance videos. Hearing, and crucially watching, live performances can give you a more detailed insight of the music you are listening to.

For example the videos below show you the techniques for traditional Asian instruments for Pakistani and Indian music and the more unusual stage layout (harmonium, sitar and other players often sit on the floor):

This video below shows you the fusion of western instruments, such as the drum kit, the saxophone and bass guitar with traditional Pakistani and Indian instruments such as the tabla, sitar and harmonium:

This video shows you the effective use of music technology alongside traditional rock instruments found in a rock band. The performances at 5:40, 18:45 and further into the concert demonstrate this:


You should regularly watch live performances online so you can easily get the opportunity to see live music in action without the editing possibilities that are afforded with studio recordings.

Here are some very reputable and reliable sources:

NPR (Tiny Desk Concerts) - https://www.youtube.com/user/nprmusic

BBC Live Lounge (BBC Radio1VEVO) - https://www.youtube.com/user/BBCRadio1VEVO

From the Basement - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGxLOaA_QnWLhTnf5depKLg

Classic Live - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN2M6aS0Zqpofgx-f7h9N7w

Philharmonia Sessions - https://www.youtube.com/user/PhilharmoniaLondon/videos

Assessment Task Submission Overview

  • In this assessment task, you must demonstrate a broad exploration of diverse musical material in authentic ways.

  • Diversity and breadth (broad exploration) are achieved by a choice of contrasting materials from personal, local and global contexts in at least two areas of inquiry.

  • Submissions must include a balanced selection of materials and exercises in both written and audio form.

  • Candidate submissions that evidence musical diversity in a balanced way are most likely to score well in this component. You must consider this when preparing your submission.

Below is an overview of the focus for the assessment with the evidence collected.

The assessment task requires students to:

  • explore a range of diverse musical material in authentic ways

  • present their knowledge and understanding of the musical material that has been explored.

This is evidenced in:

Written work

  • the diversity, breadth and balance of the portfolio

  • the explanation of musical and extra-musical findings*.

  • evidence their musical knowledge and understanding of theory, conventions and practices

  • demonstrate their findings in ways that are authentic to musical research and music-making.

Practical exercises from two different areas of inquiry

  • one creating exercise

  • one performed adaptation of music from a local or global context for the student’s own instrument.

Therefore for this assessment you will be presenting as a researcher and as a creator

As researchers, you will need to:

  • select excerpts of relevant primary and secondary sources**

  • demonstrate how you have generated musical and extra-musical findings*

  • explain the findings made during the exploration.

You will provide additional evidence and source materials, as needed, to support the explanations (for example, images, diagrams, screenshots, scores).

As creators and performers, you will need to:

  • demonstrate your musical knowledge and understanding through short exercises that exemplify specific musical conventions and practices in two different areas of inquiry.

For submission, candidates select (from their music journals):

  • one creating exercise

  • one performed adaptation based on a local or global context that best demonstrate/s the musical understanding that you have gained.

The exercises are supported by a statement in which you explain the implications of your findings about the chosen musical conventions and practices on your exercises. Relevant excerpts from scores will be embedded into the written text. Audio excerpts will be referenced with timings in the written text and uploaded separately in the relevant upload slot (all work in the IB course is uploaded online).

*Extra-musical findings

*Extra-musical findings relate to when and where music was created or performed. This may, for example, include relevant social, cultural and political information about the chosen music in context, ideas about music in society, and knowledge of how music is communicated and transmitted in its context. Essentially this involves the context surrounding the music

• Extra-musical findings are generated from materials about musical works, including, but not limited to, journal articles, interviews or documentaries in order to extract relevant musical information and to contextualize musical findings.

• Musical findings relate to what, how and why music is created and performed. This includes musical practices and conventions, the use of musical elements and compositional devices, interpretations and forms of expression. Essentially this involves music theory and analysis

• Musical findings are generated from scores, audio/video recordings and live experiences of music, which students will analyse to extract musical findings.

**Primary and Secondary Research

Primary sources reveal information about the production and performance of music, aural traditions, histories of musical composition, notation, and technique, information about music theory and about individuals' and cultures' technological advancement, economy, education, cognition, and more.

Danielle Loftus (2012)

Examples of primary sources:

  • Manuscript music sources

  • Musical instruments

  • Sheet music

  • Composer's notes, correspondence or autobiographies

  • Musical performances/recordings/films of live performances

Secondary sources offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but use them to argue a contention or to persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion.

Danielle Loftus (2012)

Examples of secondary sources:

  • Dictionaries

  • Encyclopedias

  • Textbooks

  • Monographs and articles that interpret, analyze, or review research works

Submission Requirements

The submission is made in three uploads. Candidates select examples from their music journals to evidence:

  • diversity and breadth of music from two different areas of inquiry across personal, local and global contexts

  • understanding of the primary and secondary sources encountered

  • understanding of musical and extra-musical findings

  • understanding of creating conventions

  • understanding of how their explorations influenced their creating exercise

  • understanding of performing conventions and practices in a local or global context

  • understanding of how their explorations influenced their performed adaptation.

Upload 1: Written work

Document of maximum 2,400 words, containing:

  • written evidence of research of diverse musical material

  • explanation of the practical implications of research findings on the creating exercise

  • explanation of the practical implications of research findings on the performed adaptation

  • visual evidence integrated into, and referenced in, the written text, including:

      • images, diagrams, screenshots, scores for analysed works (maximum 5 pages)

      • scores for the creating exercise, if applicable (maximum 32 bars or reasonable equivalent).

          • The style of notation is not limited to staff/stave notation. The notation used should be appropriate to the style of the creating exercise and must clearly communicate the intentions of the exercise.

          • When staff/stave notation is not used, it is recommended that an audio track is submitted to accompany the score. The audio track must not exceed 1 minute.

The following are not included in the word count.

• Track lists as an appendix

The timings of the practical exercises (see “Upload 2: Audio evidence”) and the audio excerpts (see “Upload 3: Audio reference material”) must be clearly specified with exact timings and must be accurately referred to in the student’s writing.

• Citations, either in the text or as footnotes in line with the standard protocol of the chosen referencing style

• A list of all sources and stimulus material in the bibliography

Packaging of upload 1

• All written and visual information must be packaged into a single document (maximum 2,400 words).

• The file is to be compiled in the following order:

▪ Section 1: Exploration of a diverse musical material

▪ Section 2: Statement on the creating exercise with reference to the score embedded in the written text and/or the audio excerpt in upload 2

▪ Section 3: Statement on the performed adaptation with reference to the audio excerpt in upload 2

▪ Section 4: Bibliography (not included in the word count)

Upload 2: Audio evidence

Audio evidence of maximum 4 minutes, containing:

  • two practical exercises—one from each of the chosen areas of inquiry—as musical evidence to support the demonstration of inquiry and understanding.

  • Creating exercise (maximum 1 minute)

  • Stimulus (musical material) for performed adaptation (maximum 1 minute)

  • Performed adaptation (by the candidate) of music or musical material from a local or global context (maximum 2 minutes)

Packaging of upload 2

• All practical evidence must be packaged into a single audio file (maximum 4 minutes).

• The quality of the audio file must allow for a full understanding of the created and/or performed exercises.

• The file is compiled in the following order.

▪ Section 1: Creating exercise in audio format, if applicable (maximum 1 minute)

▪ Section 2: Stimulus for performed adaptation (maximum 1 minute)

▪ Section 3: Performed adaptation (maximum 2 minutes)

Upload 3: Audio reference material

Audio reference material of maximum 3 minutes, containing:

  • excerpts of the music that is analysed and discussed in the exploration portfolio.

Packaging of upload 3

  • All excerpts of reference material must be packaged into a single audio file (maximum 3 minutes).

  • Longer works must be edited for submission. Only the sections that are addressed in the exploration need to be included in the reference material.

  • The excerpts must be compiled in the order they are listed on the track sheet, according to the order in which they are explained in the exploration.

Use of sources

  1. Scores

Where students analyse scores, they will select the relevant excerpts or sections and embed them within the written text. The total of selected scores may not exceed 5 pages. All scores must be referenced in the text and listed in the bibliography.

2. Audio excerpts

Where students analyse audio excerpts, they will refer to specific sections in the chosen pieces. The excerpts of these pieces will be uploaded as an audio track as supporting material (see “Upload 3: Audio reference material”). The total of selected excerpts may not exceed 3 minutes. All audio excerpts must be referenced in the text and listed in the bibliography.

3. Citations and referencing

All source and stimulus materials must be referenced in the text and listed in the bibliography. In their writing, students must point examiners to the specific places in the scores and audio files by indicating exact locations. For scores, students must indicate bars/measures, beats, voices/instruments or other, as appropriate. For audio files, students must indicate exact timings.

Assessment criteria

Below is the assessment criteria from the IB Music Guide - pages 47-50

Exploring Music in Context Assessment Criteria.pdf