To “Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co” or Not To “Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co?” Is That the Question?

It’s the time of the year when many IB music teachers are cramming the acronym Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co into their students arsenal of listening paper strategies. IsMe Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co a great idea listening paper strategy or not?  While not from Hamlet’s soliloquy, to be or not to be using Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co on the approaching IB music exam, is definitely a question worth investigating!

A wise IB Music teacher invented Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co decades ago. Seasoned IB Music teachers have been using this for as long as I can remember, and I have been teaching IB Music for over twenty years.  Let’s take a look in this blog at what the acronym stands for and the pros and cons of using this strategy on the exam.

The Acronym:

Me – Melody

Me – Meter

Ha – Harmony

Me – Medium

Fo – Form

Sty – Style

Co – Context

Advantages of using the acronym:

  • A terrific way for beginning students to organize their listening paper answers!   With so little guidance on the exam in regard to structuring answers, this provides a skeleton upon which students can begin.
  • STYLE AND CONTEXT, the two often forgotten aspects of listening paper answers are included. (Please see my recent post Expanding Your Context:  The Often Forgotten Criterion of the Listening Paper Rubric)
  • The elements of melody, harmony and form are included.

Disadvantages of using the acronym:

  • Missing important categories of musical terms like TEXTURE, not to mention dynamics, articulations, rhythm etc.
  • Candidates may spend the majority of their time on the first category, “ME” or “melody”, and run out of time to write about form, context or style.  This means detailing an answer that fits mostly into Criterion A from the listening paper rubric.
  • Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co gives the impression that there are seven equal weighted categories for assessment.

If we use the IB Music Listening Paper Rubric as our guide to filter the acronym, we discover the categories are not equally weighted.  To make this point evident, see the chart below.

Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co  vs. Listening Paper Rubric

Note:  The Listening Paper Rubric information is from the IB Music Listening Paper Rubric and can be found here.

As students become more advanced with their analysis, it is evident to achieve marks in the upper bands of the Listening Paper rubric (Part B), will require a weighting of their written analysis toward form and context/style, rather than focusing on the first four categories of melody, meter, harmony and medium from the acronym.   This is not to say that these categories should not be included in the answer.

Have we found the answer to IB Music’s most persistent questions?  To be or not to be, to Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co or not Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co?  The bottom line is each teacher and student need to devise strategies that work for differentiated ability levels and differing situations.  Yes, Me Me Ha Me Fo Sty Co needs to be a part of IB Music as it has been for decades but needs to be taught in a way that is supported by the Listening Paper Rubric.  Have students detail form clearly while incorporating aspects of melody, meter, harmony and medium and include terminology not in the acronym including texture and the many other terms.

For Listening Paper Tips and Strategies, click here.

Good luck to everyone as you work with the prescribed scores and listening paper strategies!

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