Music in Context


In Music in Context students acquire awareness and appreciation of music by studying individual works and their composers, listening to music, analysing, and discussing.

About the subject

Students study one or more set of works in a historical and cultural context, and analyse the work or works using a score, transcription, chart, and/or recording. Students communicate their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of musical style in writing.

Course content

This 10-credit subject consists of two compulsory areas of study:

  • Section 1: Topics (Part A: Core Topics, and Part B: School-developed topic)
  • Section 2: Investigation

Section 1: Topics

Students study two core topics from Part A and one school-developed topic from Part B.

Part A: Core Topics

Teachers select one core topics for study from the following list:

  • Topic 1: Bach: Music and Patronage
  • Topic 2: Beethoven: Music Finds Its Voice
  • Topic 3: Schubert: The Romantic Voice
  • Topic 4: Stravinsky: A New Musical Direction
  • Topic 5: Contemporary Australian Indigenous Music
  • Topic 6: The Blues: Of Sadness and Joy
  • Topic 7: Duke Ellington: Pianist, Composer, and Bandleader
  • Topic 8: Miles Davis: Jazz Comes of Age
  • Topic 9: The Beatles and the Beach Boys: Soundtracks of a Generation.
  • Topic 10: Contemporary Australian Non-Indigenous Music.

Part B: School-developed Topic

The school develops one topic for the class, which must be approved by the SACE Board. (see the Arts Learning Area Manual for details).

A school-developed topic consists of one or more works, which must be different from those studied in the core topic. A work may be either a single movement or a group of shorter pieces. The total work or works should be approximately 10 to 15 minutes long. The study of each work requires the use of scores or charts, and recordings.

Possible topics are listed below. Other school-developed topics may be chosen:

  • The American Musical
  • The Birth of Rock and Roll
  • The Classical Concerto
  • Contemporary Australian Indigenous Music
  • Dance Music
  • Late Romantic Keyboard Music
  • Minimalism
  • Music of the Digital Age
  • Music for Film, Games, or Advertising
  • 1970s Progressive Rock
  • Opera
  • Postwar Avant-garde
  • Punk and Grunge Music
  • Ragtime, Stride, and Boogie-woogie
  • Traditional Australian Indigenous Music
  • Work Songs.

Section 2: Investigation

Students investigate a question or topic of their choice, and present their findings. Individual investigation questions and topics must be submitted to the SACE Board for approval.


Students demonstrate evidence of their learning through the following assessment types:

School-based AssessmentWeighting
Skills Development30%
External Assessment 

Information on the External Assessment

Students undertake a 1½-hour written examination in which they discuss aspects of the set works they have studied for their two core topics. Students answer one essay question and a combination of questions that require short answers and extended-paragraph responses. Students may bring to the examination, and refer to, ungraded scores, transcriptions, or charts to help them with their responses.

The examination is graded by external assessors with reference to performance standards.

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