How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, by Robert Greenberg; a Teaching Company lecture

I've said it before:  For accessible, serious, high-quality, adult-level educational materials (DVD, CD, mp3 download) it's hard to beat The Teaching Company.  Robert Greenberg is one of my favorite lecturers, and this—so far—my favorite of his courses.  

Here are the titles of the 48 lectures, as you can buy the course today.  It is now onto its third edition; our version, which is so old we bought it on cassette tapes,* differs in minor ways.

  1. Music as a Mirror
  2. Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church
  3. The Middle Ages
  4. Introduction to the Renaissance
  5. The Renaissance Mass
  6. The Madrigal
  7. An Introduction to the Baroque Era
  8. Style Features of Baroque-era Music
  9. National Styles—Italy and Germany
  10. Fugue
  11. Baroque Opera, Part 1
  12. Baroque Opera, Part 2
  13. The Oratorio
  14. The Lutheran Church Cantata
  15. Passacaglia
  16. Ritornello Form and the Baroque Concerto
  17. The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era
  18. The Viennese Classical Style, Homophony, and the Cadence
  19. Classical-era Form—Theme and Variations
  20. Classical-era Form—Minuet and Trio: Baroque Antecedents
  21. Classical-era Form—Minuet and Trio Form
  22. Classical-era Form—Rondo Form
  23. Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 1
  24. Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 2
  25. Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 3
  26. The Symphony—Music for Every Person
  27. The Solo Concerto
  28. Classical-era Opera—The Rise of Opera Buffa
  29. Classical-era Opera, Part 2—Mozart and the Operatic Ensemble
  30. The French Revolution and an Introduction to Beethoven
  31. Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 1
  32. Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 2
  33. Introduction to Romanticism
  34. Formal Challenges and Solutions in Early Romantic Music
  35. The Program Symphony—Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 1
  36. The Program Symphony—Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 2
  37. 19th-Century Italian Opera—Bel Canto Opera
  38. 19th-Century Italian Opera—Giuseppe Verdi
  39. 19th-Century German Opera—Nationalism and Experimentation
  40. 19th-Century German Opera—Richard Wagner
  41. The Concert Overture, Part 1
  42. The Concert Overture, Part 2
  43. Romantic-era Musical Nationalism
  44. Russian Nationalism
  45. An Introduction to Early 20th-Century Modernism
  46. Early 20th-Century Modernism—Claude Debussy
  47. Early 20th-Century Modernism—Igor Stravinsky
  48. Early 20th-Century Modernism—Arnold Schönberg

Forty-eight lectures of 45 minutes each sounds long and intimidating, but even at that length this is a brief, introductory, whirlwind tour of music history—and it never drags.  I find it easy to listen to while driving, and well worth hearing more than once.

My recommendation for this course is as high as I can give, with one small caveat.  Greenberg gears his lectures to adults, specifically college students, and he has obviously learned how to keep the attention of the teenage boys in his classes:  his brief composer biographies sometimes include their sexual proclivities, and if there's musical reference he sees as orgasmic, he doesn't hesitate to mention it.  (He also describes musical stomach rumbles and heartbeats.)

As music history, How to Listen to and Understand Great Music has received the endorsement of our favorite graduate of the Eastman School of Music, so I know it's good.  Smile 


*Family and friends who might wish to borrow this course will be happy to know that I have since converted the taped lectures to mp3 format.  For obvious reasons, we still can lend only one copy at a time.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 6:12 am | Edit
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That endorsement goes something like this: everything I've retained about music history I learned from Greeberg's lectures. His explanations of musical form gave me a firm basis from which to follow music theory courses and he was by far the most interesting and well prepared college professor I ever had - and I had some great teachers.

Posted by Janet on Thursday, September 02, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Of the many Teaching Company lecturers I've heard, I enjoy Greenberg the most.

I'm looking forward to getting some of his other courses.

Posted by Peter V on Thursday, September 02, 2010 at 1:37 pm