Blur man blasts state of exam system

Damon Albarn says it’s “disgraceful” that it is possible to gain an A grade in GCSE without being able to read or write music.

Composers and musicians have been arguing over the merits of learning musical writing techniques this week after it emerged that it is possible to score top exam grades without knowing how to read or write music.

“If you don’t learn to read music, then that’s a whole tradition that becomes very exclusive and it shouldn’t be,” the Blur and Gorillaz man told BBC Music magazine.

“I used to write for small orchestras when I was 15. I sold my soul to the devil and became a pop star and forgot about it, but in the past few years I have got back into orchestration,” he added. “I think anyone interested in music should be forced to learn that discipline.”

However Richard Baker, head of composition at the Guildhall School Of Music and Drama, disagrees with Albarn.

“It depends what you believe a secondary school musical education is for,” he suggested. “If it’s about accessing the western classical tradition, then of course you need to learn staff notation. If you think it’s about giving children some understanding of a wide range of musical traditions, then teachers should have the flexibility to talk about other ways in which music is transmitted,” he said.

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s opera ‘Monkey: A Journey To The West’ was recently staged at the Royal Opera House in London.