Rated 5 out of 5 by PBK63 A Masterful Course Well Designed and Presented
I have two Great Courses somewhat related. This one which focuses on mathematics and music with the presenter using his violin to demonstrate many of his points and one by Professor Greenberg on "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music" in which he focuses more on the piano to demonstrate. Both courses are excellent and they make a fine pair.
I had wondered if there would be too much overlap between these courses but found instead that they compliment each other. Where one (Greenberg) discusses a bit of mathematics (differently from Professor Kung) the other from Professor Kung approaches music mostly from a mathematical standpoint. As a result putting both together I have a much better understanding of music than when I started.
One word of warning and that is that both courses get into a great deal of technical material that for those of us who are not serious students of math or music can make for a challenge to stay with them. Especially as each gets deeper into their course. That said one does not have to follow the math or the details of thirds, fourths and augmented sevenths to come away with a much better understanding of why music "works" or does not "work" in terms of our appreciation of music. Having played piano and clarinet in my younger days did help with this material but even without that background I would have gotten a great deal from these courses.
I especially found the graphics in this course very useful, especially the showing of wavelengths and frequencies and I came away with a far better understanding of overtones from this course and why they contribute to timbre. His discussion of tuning was excellent and I now understand the difference in various methods of tuning from Just Tuning to equal tempered tuning and why pianos are never fully in tune as well as how they are tuned. His explanation of various scales and how they are useful as well as why there are 12 keys in an octave was enlightening. In this regard he and Professor Greenberg cover the same areas but very differently and the result, at least for me, was a much better understanding having watched both courses.
I wondered which of the two courses to watch first and frankly I came away thinking it did not matter much as the two courses will require watching more than once to absorb well the materials they are covering. These are not courses to sit back in your recliner and relax watching as they will require mental engagement to get the most out of them. But I certainly know that the next time I listen to a symphony or a string quartet or a piano solo I will have much more understanding of what I am hearing and think it will give me more enjoyment from the experience.
If you are interested in the technical aspects of music this course and the one on "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music" make a fine set and I can recommend either or both.
November 25, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by jamcar78 UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE
Although I have a undergraduate degree in instrumental music, I was a little skeptical about purchasing this course, since, Math was not my best school subject. However, after completing this course, I discovered that my fears were base-less.
Dr. Kung gets right to the material in the first lecture, and he had my un-divided attention from then-on-out . For example, He drops dark seeds onto a vibrating tympani head, and it is interesting to see the seed form into a mathematical curve, that can be graphed. His illustrations of dividing a vibrating string into different lengths, and showing how the ancient Greeks used this to relate to musical intervals, were very clear.
There are several key points that really make this course "tick" (many of these have been mentioned by other reviewers)
1) Dr. Kungs' knowledge and enthusiasm for his material. He also teaches a course in the same vein, at his home university.
2) The professor's use of the violin to illustrate key ideas, although, in some cases, he also uses other instruments, when appropriate. For example, in one lecture, he explains basic procedures for piano tuning, demonstrates how, and why, a piano will always be slightly out-of-tune.
3) The excellent graphics and illustrations. I found these very useful, when he would discuss a mathematical equation, and highlight the part that he was discussing.
I don't have any negative feedback, but I would caution not watching these lectures when ones' mind is fatigued. It does take considerable mental concentration at times, even sometimes stopping the player, in order to digest the wealth of material being presented. There were a few times, when it seemed the math was going "over the top of my head," but once I took time to pay closer attention, I readily understood.
I especially appreciated some of the material and resources covered in the final two lectures.. In one of these, of special interest to musicians, Dr. Kung gives information about a website, in which one can "Plug in" musical notes, or motives, into a data base, and one will be given compositions in which these musical sequences or motives appear.
Some other reviewers have mentioned the relation of this course to those of Dr. Robert Greenberg, especially Dr. Greenberg's course on, "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music." The style of Professor Kung is very different, but it evident, I think, that he has knowledge of Dr. Greenberg's material. For example, those of you that have taken Dr. Greenberg's course on Understanding Great Music, know that one of his key points is that the term, "Classical Music," should more correctly be called, "Concert Music," unless one is talking about music from the Classical Era. Dr. Kung mentions this same point in an early lecture. Some of the basic material in this series, and the Fundamental of Music series, complement each other quite well.
In closing, this is one of the best courses the Teaching Company has ever produced, and I can't recommend it enough, to anyone that has any interest, in either Mathematics, or Music.
April 12, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Horsesaver This would have helped me understand Fourier Serie
My background is high school band, electrical engineering, and mathematical simulations. I wish I had this course in the '50s and in EE to help understand waves. Music is the key to making this science interesting. The instructor is brilliant. I have not completed all the sections, but I am sold.
September 19, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by JCJC You'll Never Think of Music in the Same Way Again
The librarian at my town library noticed that I had taken out a DVD of Polanski’s “The Pianist” and suggested I watch Professor Kung's lecture series for Great Courses, a recent library acquisition. I’m glad she suggested it: What an engaging and illuminating nine hours! Such visual and auditory invention to present essentially abstract material and make it not only intelligible but striking. I confess that, as I am not a mathematician, much was difficult to absorb — not a shortcoming of the presentation, but a products of my limitations (math studies have long since been in my rear-view mirror). Even so, the experience was eye-opening. (Or should that be ear-opening? Probably both.)
For example, and it's but a single example out of many, Professor Kung's treatment and illustrations of the effects of transposition, inversion, retrograde, retrograde inversion had such clarity -- especially of their interplay and how they may be graphed along x or y axes -- that the concepts will stay with you. The use of historical images and information was particularly keen, as was his treatment of the atonal or pantonal revolution. (I liked his brief discussion of Camille Saint-Saëns as a child prodigy: as a small boy, he played the piano for King Louis Philippe and yet lived to write a chorus celebrating French airmen (Aux conquérants de l’air) after World War I — the latter just as Schoenberg in Mödling was turning things upside down.) I especially enjoyed how well-integrated and well-structured the course and its internal references were. No small feat.
I’ve been to many concerts of all kinds of music in the years stretching from 78-rpm disc to digital downloads; but I’ve never seen anything to equal your lecture series for giving people a glimpse of the correspondence and difference between math and music. Professor Kung, his production engineers, and Great Courses have produced a masterpiece of pedagogy. It’s a real gift and well worth watching. There will be parts that you may find difficult (not all that many), but work through them and you'll get a rich reward.
September 14, 2016