IELTS|Adults|Advanced|Unit 7|1. Music matters

Have you ever seen any of these instruments being played live in concert or on television? What do you know about them? Which one do you think is the most difficult to play? Why?

1. Quickly list as many situations as you can where you might hear music playing — for example, in a restaurant, swimming in a pool. Do you find background music pleasant or irritating?

2. Check your understanding. Which is the odd word out in each set? Why?

1 carefree 2 depressed 3 confident
cheerful elated excited
light-hearted gloomy hypnotised
miserable sorrowful optimistic

3. Listen to three very different extracts of music — A, B and C. How does each one make you feel? Tick the words in exercise 2 that best describe your feelings.

4. Compare your reactions with a teacher/partner. Then listen again and say which extract, A, B or C …

  1. has the most regular rhythm.
  2. is an orchestral piece.
  3. makes you most want to dance.
  4. engenders a feeling of sadness.
  5. has the strongest melody.

1. Read this passage quickly to get a general idea of its meaning. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every word. Then suggest an appropriate title.

* about 600 words

Test spot

An IELTS reading task will often include three or four multiple-choice questions They are likely to follow the order of the text.

  • Read the question or ’stem’ only and decide what part of the text it refers to.
  • Read the relevant text carefully, underlining any key phrases
  • Try to answer the question or complete the stem in your own words.
  • Look at choices A-D and decide which is the closest to your answer
  • Check that the other three choices are incorrect by re-reading the text.

It was the Greek philosopher Plato who said that music gave ‘soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life’. According to the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, it was the ‘shorthand of emotion’. From our earliest societies, we have filled our lives with music. Nowadays, we are increasingly surrounded by music of all kinds, which we sometimes cannot escape. The difference in our modem world is that while we listen to more music, we make less.

Why docs music affect us so powerfully? Professor of Psychology John Sloboda believes that there are three reasons for this. Firstly, music is a strong source of personal associations. Research into the psychology of memory and the psychology of emotion suggests that close to events of high emotion, your brain takes a ‘recording’ of all die other things that were going on at that heightened moment. So, a piece of music linked to an emotional event in your life may well bring it flooding back when you hear it again. However, this reaction is unpredictable and by a virtue of its individual nature, idiosyncratic.

A second important reason is rooted in our physiology, which dictates the range and organisation of the sounds we call music. Some of the most popular rhythmic patterns in music- reflect rhythms in our own bodies, especially heartbeat and breathing. This mimicry extends to emotional 25 signals, such as the manipulation of human speech, if you speak very slowly, pitching your voice down al the end of words and sentences, anyone listening will assume you are pretty depressed. In the same way, slow music with a falling cadence engenders a feeling of sadness. Sloboda observes that this is an ‘Iconic connection’: when you listen to music, you make links to innate human vocalisations of excitement, depression, anger, and so on. Tins might explain the universal appeal of many forms of music, since basic human emotions are common to all cultures.

For Sloboda, the third reason is die most interesting one. He points out that a key aspect of our emotions is that they are tuned to detect change. The change may be positive (falling in love, winning the lottery ) or negative (sickness, bad luck), but either way, the message of change is: pay attention now! In general patterns are early recognisable to us humans and, more to the point, so are deviations in patterns. Since music is essentially pattern In sound, it Is easy to see how It can ‘hook’ its is listeners with subtle variation in melody, structure or rhythm. People pick up on the patterns and make predictions about what will come next, without needing any formal music training. When musical surprises happen, emotional responses are guaranteed.

In recent experiments, Sloboda has been plotting emotional highs and low s by having his subjects move a joystick while they listen to music. In this way, he has been able to record a trace of their emotional reaction. Interestingly, unlike the associative memories, these reactions are not idiosyncratic, and by and large, people experience higher or lower emotion at the same point in the music. This is scientifically useful because the investigator can isolate those points and question what’s going on.

So we may in fact have little control over the roller-coaster co ride from sorrow to joy that music seems to take us on. Some melodies are quite manipulative, working on our emotions very effectively, and composers have often exploited this to the full: take an orchestral piece by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, for example, which for most listeners is a  gripping and totally involving experience. Such is the raw power of music, which should never be underestimated.

2. Read the passage again more carefully and answer questions 1-3, following the advice given in the Test spot.

Choose the correct letter: A, B, C or D

1. What explanation is given for why a certain piece of music can bang back memories?

A Music making is still of central Importance to our lives.

B If music is playing during a period of emotion, we register this.

C Our recall of music is highly predictable and universal.

D We remember music more readily than other experiences.

2. According to Sloboda,it is possible for music to:

A mirror universal emotions.

B reproduce bodily sounds.

C reflect individual cultures.

D mimic the human voice.

3. Why is the notion of change important to Sloboda’s work?

A It is easier to recognise musical patterns if they change.

B His subjects prefer to listen to music that is unpredictable.

C Listeners show better concentration when music varies.

D People never fail to react to the unexpected in music.

Word building

3. There are many examples of affixation in the reading passage — that is, words formed from another words by the addition of prefixes or suffixes (or both).

4. Write the words from exercise 3 and other words in the same family in your vocabulary notebook, noting the part of speech each time.


Philosophy (noun)
Philosopher (noun)
Philosophise (verb)
Philosophical (adjective)
Philosophically (adverb)

5. Complete the table with related forms of the words given. The first five words have related forms in the second half of the article.

Noun Adjective Adverb


Test spot

In the Listening and Reading Modules you may be asked to classify pieces of information. There are normally three options. In the Listening Module the questions follow the order in which you will hear the information, but in the Reading Module the questions are not in the same order as the information in the passage. You will be asked to write letters — either A, B, C, or others. Don’t write anything else.

1. You are going to hear two students planning a performance for their college project. Read the task below. Then listen to the section of the recording that goes with the example.



Hannah: Chris, we need to get on with planning our performance.

Chris: OK, Hannah. Are you happy with the pieces of music that we chose?

Hannah: Yes, they’re fine.

Chris: Right. So we need to choose what should be happening during each piece. We’ll be performing in the college theatre, so there’s a good sound system for the recordings, we’ll have the stage for the live action, and there’ll be a giant screen at the back of the stage that the film and slides will be projected onto.

Hannah: Excellent.

Chris: Have you got the running order of the music we agreed on?

Hannah: Yes, here it is. The first piece is that exciting section from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. What do you think would go well with it?

Chris: How about one of us reading a really dramatic speech?

Hannah: But the music’s very loud! It’d be impossible to hear any kind of speech, even if we shouted. I think projecting a film of a firework display onto the screen would work better.

Then listen to the rest of the recording and answer questions 1-8.

Questions 1-8

Chris: What’s next?

Hannah: The Balinese gamelan orchestra. It’s a very delicate sound, as though the instruments are some distance away, and the sound is being carried by the wind.

Chris: How about if we stand on opposite sides of the stage and say sentences that aren’t connected, as though the audience is hearing snatches of different conversations, blown by the wind?

Hannah: Mm, nice…Then the mood changes, with a Jamaican steel band. That’s very upbeat and exhilarating. I’d like us to do some tap dancing in a factory, surrounded by steel drums.

Chris: In a factory? Film us there, you mean? Yeah, good idea. I’ll find out about possible locations.

Hannah: Next it’s the Indian sitar music.

Chris: Mmm, I think we should have someone on stage doing traditional Indian dancing. In fact. I know just the person – Jayshree Begum. I’m sure she’d agree to do it!

Hannah: Perfect. OK, then the next piece of music is the South America pan pipes. Any ideas?

Chris: Mm, I could recite a South American poem.

Hannah: Or maybe we could have some pipes and mime playing them ourselves?

Chris: Isn’t that too literal? I’d like to be a bit more imaginative.

Hannah: Mm, maybe you’re right. OK, we’ll have the poem. With you in a spotlight, and the rest of the stage in darkness.

Chris: Right. It’s all beginning to take shape, isn’t it?

Hannah: Yeah. Now the next piece it the slow part of Mahler’s fifth symphony. I imagine this starting with the stage still in pitch darkness, then the lights come up very slowly, so the audience gradually realises there are people standing there, absolutely motionless.

Chris: Maybe lit from behind, so were in silhouette.

Hannah: Lovely… and then we start swaying, and doing very stylised, formal gestures, mostly with the arms.

Chris: Oh. that sounds great. Right, what’s next?

Hannah: The African band, you know, the one from Mali.

Chris: Ah yes, that’ll be a complete contrast, really lively. It’ll make people want to leap to their feet and fling themselves around How about getting the audience to dance?

Hannah: What, suddenly shout out. Everybody stand up and dance? I don’t think so! I’d rather we created a sense of place and endless time, with slides of Mali, showing the Sahara desert, Timbuktu, some of the ruins … each one dissolving into the next It’d he n striking contrast with the music.

Chris: Mm, I still like the idea of audience participation.

Hannah: Hut it would be awfully embarrassing if we asked them to dance and they didn’t!

Chris: Yeah. I suppose so. OK, we’ll go with your idea.

Hannah: Right.

Chris: And the next section?

Hannah: That’s the didgeridoo. As it’s an Australian Aboriginal instrument, and so unusual, maybe we could show a film clip of it being played.

Chris: Or we could learn some traditional Aboriginal dancing.

Hannah: No time… I know – how about a complete contrast, to make people sit up and think? We could do a comedy sketch, standing quite still on opposite sides of the stage. If we get the timing right, we could fit the sound of the didgeridoo to the words.

Chris: Hannah, that’s an absolutely crazy idea! And I love it!

Hannah: Thank you. Well, the last piece is the electronic music by that German group Kraftwerk. That’d really lend itself to a way out gymnastics display.

Chris: Maybe some film footage of the Olympic Games from years ago.

Hannah: Or we could ask the college gym team to perform on stage.

Chris: Yes, let’s do that. After all, we want to involve a lot of people in this.

Hannah: OK, well there’s plenty for us to do, isn’t there, so…

What will accompany each piece of music?

A images on screen

B live movement

C live speech

Example: 1812 Overture

Answer: A


Concessive clauses

1. What is the difference in the use of while in these two examples?

2. Which sentence in each pair contains a concessive clause?


a Kim used to love playing the cello, even though he wasn’t very good!

b Even if you aren’t sure you can come to the concert, please buy a ticket.


a Ellen can play the tenor saxophone as well as the flute.

b Much as I’ve tried, I can’t master the correct breathing technique for the clarinet.

Some linking words can be used in front of an -ing form, or a noun or adjective group without a verb, to make concessions.

Despite practising regularly, I made little progress on the piece.

It was an uneven concert, although quite a lively one. Though fairly straightforward to play, the guitar needs careful tuning.

Concessive clauses

Concessive clauses (clauses of concession or contrast) imply a contrast between two circumstances: in the light of the circumstance in the concessive clause, the circumstance in the main clause is surprising.

Conjunction + finite clause

Finite clauses are normally introduced by these conjunctions: although, though (informal), even though (more emphatic), while, whilst (formal)

While they may not be able to analyse their pleasure, most people enjoy some form of music.

Whereas (formal) is mainly used to contrast two equivalent ideas, without implying that one is surprising:

Gamelan music relaxes me, whereas steel bands make me want to dance.

Condition + contrast even if, whether … or…

1 listen to music all the time, even if I’m working. ( = You wouldn’t expect me to listen if I’m working, but 1 do.)

Other finite constructions:

Much as I would like to come to the concert. I’m really too busy.

(= Even though I would very much like to come to the concert…) Strange as it may seem, that was the pianist’s first public performance. (= Even though it may seem very strange …)

Conjunction + verbless clause

The words in brackets can be omitted.

Although (he was) unable to read music, Keith could sing well.

Words that can be omitted are the subject and verb of the concessive clause, when the subject of the main clause is the same, and the verb is to be. This omission is most common in more formal or literary language.

Preposition + noun or -ing form despite, in spite of

Ticket sales for the concert were poor, in spite of all the publicity.

Despite trying really hard, I didn’t enjoy the music Marian played me.

3. Choose the correct ending (a-f) for sentences 1-6.

a cellos and double basses are played upright

b having no printed music in front of her.

c you can download a whole album for half of that

d the band you’re in isn’t performing at the moment

e its smoky atmosphere and high prices.

f the quality’ of the sound wasn’t very good.

4. The following sentences show common errors that IELTS candidates have made with linking words. Correct them either by replacing the linking word or by changing what follows it.

Every child should know how to play a musical instrument by the age of 10.

1. Decide whether you agree or disagree by thinking about these questions. Discuss your ideas with a partner/teacher. Then join in the debate.


  • Is there enough time in the primary school curriculum to introduce music?
  • Does every school have the financial resources to support such a programme?
  • What are the benefits learning of musical instrument at a young age?
  • What are the challenges in teaching music to young children?


elated /ɪˈleɪ.tɪd/ /-t̬ɪd/ adjective
extremely happy and excited, often because something has happened or been achieved
The prince was reported to be elated at/by the birth of his daughter.
sorrowful /ˈsɒr.əʊ.f ə l/ /ˈsɔːr.ə-/ adjective LITERARY
very sad
With a sorrowful sigh she folded the letter and put it away.
light-hearted /ˌlaɪtˈhɑː.tɪd/ /-ˈhɑːr.tɪd̬ / adjective
happy and not serious
It was a fairly light-hearted discussion.
engender /ɪnˈdʒen.də r / /-dɚ/ verb [ T ] FORMAL
to make people have a particular feeling or make a situation start to exist
Her latest book has engendered a lot of controversy.
The minister’s speech did not engender confidence in his judgment.
gaiety /ˈgeɪ.ə.ti/ /-t̬i/ noun [ U ] OLD-FASHIONED
happiness and excitement
I felt there was an air of forced gaiety about her manner.
shorthand /ˈʃɔːt.hænd/ /ˈʃɔːrt-/ noun [ U ] ( ALSO stenography )
a system of fast writing which uses lines and simple signs to represent words and phrases
Their conversations were taken down in shorthand by a secretary.
by virtue of FORMAL
because of; as a result of
She succeeded by virtue of her tenacity rather than her talent.

idiosyncratic /ˌɪd.i.ə.sɪŋˈkræt.ɪk/ /-ˈkræt-̬/ adjective a strange or unusual habit, way of behaving, or feature that someone or something has
The film, 3 hours long, is directed in his usual idiosyncratic style.
mimicry /ˈmɪm.ɪ.kri/ noun [ U ]
the act of copying the sounds of behavior of a particular person or animal, often in order to make people laugh:
The mockingbird is known for its mimicry of other birds.
pitch /pɪtʃ/ noun LEVEL
2. [ C or U ] the level or degree of something
The piano and organ were tuned to the same pitch (= note) .
If you teach children and adults in the same class, it’s difficult to get the pitch (= level of difficulty or interest) right.
cadence /ˈkeɪ.d ə n t  s/ noun [ C ] VOICE
1. the regular rise and fall of the voice
innate /ɪˈneɪt/ adjective
An innate quality or ability is one that you were born with, not one you have learned
Cyril’s most impressive quality was his innate goodness.
by and large
when everything about a situation is considered together
There are a few small things that I don’t like about my job, but by and large it’s very enjoyable.
concessive clause /kənˌses.ɪvˈklɔːz/ /-ˈklɑːz/ noun [ C ] SPECIALIZED
a clause, often beginning with ‘though’ or ‘although’, which expresses an idea that suggests the opposite of the main part of the sentence
The sentence ‘Although he’s quiet, he’s not shy’ begins with a concessive clause.

finite /ˈfaɪ.naɪt/ adjective GRAMMAR
in a form that shows the tense and subject of a verb, rather than the infinitive form or a participle
In the following sentence ‘go’ is finite: «I often go to the cinema.»
*Much as – как бы ни
whereas /weəˈræz/ /werˈæz/ conjunction
compared with the fact that; but
He must be about sixty, whereas his wife looks about thirty.
You eat a massive plate of food for lunch, whereas I have just a sandwich.
imminent /ˈɪm.ɪ.n ə nt/ adjective
coming or likely to happen very soon
imminent disaster/danger
A strike is imminent.
rebate /ˈriː.beɪt/ noun [ C ]
an amount of money which is returned to you, especially by the government, for example when you have paid too much tax
a tax rebat
doable /ˈduː.ə.bl/ ̩ adjective
If something is doable, it can be achieved or performed
This project may be difficult, but I still think it’s doable.
apprehend /ˌæp.rɪˈhend/ verb [ T ] FORMAL UNDERSTAND
2. FORMAL to understand something

accomplish /əˈkʌm.plɪʃ/ /-ˈkɑːm-/ verb [ T ]
to finish something successfully or to achieve something
The students accomplished the task in less than ten minutes.
She accomplished such a lot during her visit.
I feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing since I left my job.
scope /skəʊp/ /skoʊp/ noun [ U ] RANGE
1. the range of a subject covered by a book, programme, discussion, class, etc.
I’m afraid that problem is beyond/outside the scope of my lecture.
Oil painting does not come within the scope of a course of this kind.
We would now like to broaden/widen the scope of the enquiry and look at more general matters.
scope /skəʊp/ /skoʊp/ noun [ U ] OPPORTUNITY
2. the opportunity for doing something
There is limited scope for further reductions in the workforce.
egalitarian /ɪˌgæl.ɪˈteə.ri.ən/ /-ˈter.i-/ adjective FORMAL
believing that all people are equally important and should have the same rights and opportunities in life
an egalitarian society
The party’s principles are basically egalitarian.
blowtorch /ˈbləʊ.tɔːtʃ/ /ˈbloʊ.tɔːrtʃ/ noun [ C ] ( UK ALSO blowlamp )
a tool used to heat metal or remove paint from a surface by producing an extremely hot flame

charcoal /ˈtʃɑː.kəʊl/ /ˈtʃɑːr.koʊl/ noun [ U ]
a hard black substance similar to coal which can be used as fuel or, in the form of sticks, as something to draw with
charcoal for the barbecue
I prefer sketching in charcoal to pencil.
a charcoal drawing
The uniform is charcoal (grey) (= dark grey) and red.
durability /ˌdjʊə.rəˈbɪl.ɪ.ti/ /ˌdʊr.əˈbɪl.ə.t̬i/ noun [ U ] the fact of something continuing to be used without getting damaged
the durability of the materials used
cast /kɑːst/ /kæst/ noun ACTORS
1. [ C + singular or plural verb ] the actors in a film, play or show
After the final performance, the director threw a party for the cast.
Part of the film’s success lies in the strength of the supporting cast (= the actors who were not playing the main parts) .


IELTS Discussion Essay: Useful Academic Expressions


1. Rewrite 1-5 as single sentences with a concessive clause, using the linking words in brackets and making any other changes necessary. There may be more than one possible answer.

Example: The singer was excellent. The backing group was poor, (while)

While the singer was excellent, the backing group was poor.

2. Complete the second sentence so that it means the same as the first, using the words in brackets.

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