Great Music of the Twentieth Century

Course No. 7006
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
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56 Reviews
73% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 7006
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What Will You Learn?

  • You will learn what happened to Western concert music in the 20th century-how visionary composers departed from the traditions of the musical past to create new musical languages and works of phenomenal brilliance.
  • You will follow the unfolding of these new musical languages across the 20th century, and learn to both understand what 20th -century composers were up to, and to appreciate and enjoy their works.
  • You will encounter and get to know a dazzling range of 20th -century musical works, representing a multitude of new compositional approaches, and experience the greatness of the music the century produced.

Course Overview

The 20th century was a breeding ground of musical exploration, innovation, and transformation unlike any other era in history. Breaking with the traditions of the past, early 20th-century composers upended the old order of concert music, igniting both passionate admiration and white-hot controversy with works such as Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, whose ethereal, otherworldly sonic textures initiated musical modernism; and Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, whose jarring primitivism and the near-riot of its premiere are the stuff of musical legend.

But these were only the tip of a monumental iceberg—the beginning of an explosion of new musical languages and syntaxes that would last for the entire century, ranging from the non-tonality of Arnold Schoenberg and the individualist vision of Charles Ives to the the stylistic synthesis of Béla Bartók, the ultraserialism of Milton Babbitt, and the remarkable eclecticism of Henry Cowell.

As always in music history, these artistic currents directly reflected changes in the world at large, as composers responded to the upheavals, dislocations, paradigm shifts, world wars, globalism, and other momentous happenings that the century brought—creating masterworks that rank among history’s greatest moments of musical expression.

And yet, parallel with these transformations came the perception—which echoes to this day—that the new music could be difficult, challenging to grasp, and at times simply unintelligible—all of which figured within tumultuous and unending debates about what music should or could be.

Now, speaking to these extraordinary and galvanizing events, Great Courses favorite Professor Robert Greenberg of San Francisco Performances returns with one of his most provocative, most compelling, and most rewarding courses ever. In Great Music of the 20th Century, Professor Greenberg unfurls a huge spectrum of new works and material that have not been covered in depth in previous courses. Ranging across the 20th century in its entirety, these 24 lectures present a musical cornucopia of astonishing dimensions—a major presentation and exploration of the incredible brilliance and diversity of musical art across a turbulent century.

Discover a Breathtaking Epoch in Western Music

Taking a chronological approach, the course explores the fascinating gamut of 20th-century musical “isms,” from impressionism and fauvism to serialism, stochasticism, ultraserialism, neo-classicism, neo-tonalism, and minimalism, as well as the inclusivity and synthesis within concert music that embraced Western historical styles, folk and popular music, jazz, rock, Asian, Latin American, and other influences in the service of heightened expression. Through the panoramic view of the course, you’ll discover the genius of composers such as Webern, Antheil, Stockhausen, Bernstein, Takamitsu, and many others.

From the very first lecture, Professor Greenberg tackles the bugbear of 20th-century concert music directly, showing with remarkable clarity what these composers were up to, how to understand their compositional processes and visions, and how to appreciate and enjoy the sublime music this century produced.

For those familiar with Professor Greenberg’s previous courses, these lectures present a new approach to the musical excerpts themselves, and one that is aligned with the way people access music in the 21st century. Instead of playing musical excerpts within the lectures, Professor Greenberg provides easily accessible online resources to complete performances of all the works discussed, allowing you to explore them in their entirety, either while listening to the lectures, separately, or both. This approach offers the benefits of easy access to full performances of the works, plus a full 45 minutes of Professor Greenberg’s celebrated teaching and commentary in each lecture.

Grasp the Passionate Ideals and Groundbreaking Methods of Musical Modernism

Early in the course, you’ll delve into the historical, sociological, and psychological factors that underlay early 20th-century composers’ abandonment of musical tradition. In clear, accessible terms, you’ll learn about the trailblazing compositional approaches of the century’s great composers, and what motivated them, in cases such as:

  • The Astounding Journey of Igor Stravinsky—Follow the trajectory of the 20th century’s most integrally influential composer, from his legendary “fauvist” scores for the Ballets Russes and his unexpected turn as a neoclassicist to his constant, lifelong experimentation and self-reinvention. Study Stravinsky’s rich range of masterpieces, including his iconic Pulcinella, his Symphony in Three Movements,and his career-capping Requiem Canticles.
  • Beyond Tonality: The Legacy of Arnold Schoenberg—Learn the dramatic story of Schoenberg’s “emancipation” from traditional musical tonality, and his magisterial non-tonal and serial or “12-tone” works. Take account of the searing controversy surrounding his compositions and methodology, and his imprint on a lineage of brilliant composers. Experience landmark works, such as his masterful Pierrot Lunaire, Variations for Orchestra, and Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte.
  • America’s Kaleidoscopic Offering to New Music—Across the span of the course, learn how 20th-century U.S. composers broke new ground in numerous and ingenious ways. Witness how American musical minds introduced jazz and popular idioms into concert music, created alternate tonal systems and musical instruments, pioneered electronic music, incorporated non-Western musical languages, and gave birth to genres such as minimalism.
  • Ultraserialism and Its Backlash—Observe how a cadre of post-World War II composers sought to distance themselves from the mindset of fascism, ironically producing intellectualized music which audiences found difficult or impossible to listen to. Also note the counter-reaction that spurred other spirits to seek new expressive means, leading composers such as Iannis Xenakis and György Ligeti to create “sound mass” music of stunning beauty.
  • Spanning the World: Globalism in Concert Music—Learn how concert music in the second half of the 20th century saw an unprecedented meeting of world cultures. Hear the inspired infusion of Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Native American musical forms in the music of composers such as Lou Harrison and Henry Cowell. Discover the fusion of Western and East Asian sensibilities in the works of Isang Yun (Korea) and Chinery Ung (Cambodia).
  • A Multiplicity of Riches: Musical Pluralism—Grasp how the challenge for late 20th-century composers became the question of how to make use of the vast array of available musical languages, not only from 1,000 years of Western history, but from every culture across the world. Hear the amazing synthesis of musical forms in the brilliant works of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Luciano Berio, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Thomas Adès.

In his characteristic style, Professor Greenberg brings to each lecture a far-reaching and thoroughly absorbing historical context—delving into the circumstances that surrounded the writing of many key works, and showing how 20th-century composers responded to historical, socio-cultural, and personal events in their music. You’ll witness how the music of Béla Bartók was shaped by Hungarian nationalism; how devastating wartime experiences changed the music of Olivier Messiaen and Karlheinz Stockhausen; how Hindu aesthetics and Zen Buddhism influenced the “indeterminate” music of John Cage; and how a deeply personal event affected Arnold Schoenberg’s final break with Western tonality.

Experience the Genius and Dazzling Diversity of the Century’s Greatest Masterworks

Far more than simply a course of lectures, Great Music of the 20th Century comprises a huge and many-sided resource for discovering the endless riches of 20th-century concert music across the globe. The phenomenal range of genres and composers covered and the wealth of suggestions for specific works make this a reference that could easily inspire years of musical exploration and glorious listening. As just a tiny sampling, you’ll learn about majestic works such as:

  • Alban Berg’s great Piano Sonata Op. 1 of 1909;
  • Carlos Chávez’s invocation of native Mexican music in his Sinfonía India (1936);
  • Elliott Carter’s polyphonic String Quartet No.2 (1959);
  • George Crumb’s deeply poetic Ancient Voices of Children (1970);
  • Luigi Nono’s grand-scale Prometeo (1984), a haunting meditation on the myth of Prometheus; and
  • Jennifer Higdon’s luminous, expansive Blue Cathedral (1999).

As always, Professor Greenberg speaks with a composer’s intimate understanding of the act of musical creation, and with profound insight into his subjects’ thinking and creative processes. And, after 28 courses and over 600 individual lectures for The Great Courses, Professor Greenberg talks about his own music for the first time—ending the course with a memorable, firsthand account of one celebrated composer’s journey through this remarkable era.

Great Music of the 20th Century opens the door to an extraordinary spectrum of contemporary masterpieces that await discovery and deep listening. Within these unique and riveting lectures, Professor Greenberg offers you the keys to understanding and deep enjoyment of a revolutionary, visionary, and magnificent era in music. In Great Music of the 20th Century, you’ll experience the living, evolving, and superlative musical art that so vividly and unforgettably speaks to the life of our times.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    20th-Century Music: Be Afraid No Longer!
    Look first at the goals of this course, as it will explore the principal trends in 20th-century concert music, and the historical issues and events that shaped them. As background, delve into the history of musical notation as it gave rise to composed music, and take account of the upheavals, political and social catastrophes, and paradigm shifts that affected music in the 20th century. x
  • 2
    Setting the Table and Parsing Out Blame
    Examine historical and social factors that influenced 20th-century composers' abandonment of tradition and obsession with originality. Then learn about the influence of 19th-century German art on the French, and the new French nationalism in music that followed the Franco-Prussian War. Take a first look at Claude Debussy, whose revolutionary music created a new musical syntax. x
  • 3
    Debussy and le francais in Musical Action
    Investigate the qualities of Debussy's music that connect it to French art and poetry as well as to the sensuality of the French language. Learn how his landmark work, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, began musical modernism. Study the wealth of compositional innovations in his piano Prelude #10, and note how his impact on 20th-century music mirrors Beethoven's in the 19th century. x
  • 4
    Russia and Igor Stravinsky
    In the first of two lectures on this giant of 20th-century music, trace the early life of Stravinsky, the environment in which he grew to maturity, and his musical education and influences. Follow Stravinsky's relationship with the impresario Sergei Diaghilev, their legendary partnership in the ballets The Firebird and Petrushka, and grasp the striking musical originality of those works. x
  • 5
    Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring
    Relive The Rite of Spring's riotous premiere, and examine the qualities that made it the most influential musical work of the 20th century. Observe how Stravinsky evoked ancient pagan rituals through stunning rhythmic asymmetry, bi-tonal harmony, and other daring compositional techniques. Take account of how the Rite changed the way composers thought about rhythm, melody, and orchestration. x
  • 6
    The Paradox of Arnold Schoenberg
    Schoenberg was both substantially misunderstood as a composer, and one of the greatest influences on 20th-century music. Learn about the enormous enmity and dissent that greeted his compositions, as they challenged tradition and offended musical conservatism. Trace his early life and music, his vision as a composer, and the achievements of his most “popular” work, Transfigured Night. x
  • 7
    The Emancipation of Melody!
    Learn about Schoenberg's friendship with Gustav Mahler, who defended Schoenberg's groundbreaking compositions. Study Schoenberg's remarkable metamorphosis in which he sought to free melody from the limits of functional tonality, as exemplified in his Six Little Pieces for Piano. Examine events in Schoenberg's personal life that may help explain his final break with musical tradition. x
  • 8
    The Second Viennese School
    Here, take the measure of the Viennese triumvirate of Schoenberg and his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern, who advanced a historically new, non-tonal music. Delve into the most representative work of this era, Schoenberg's song cycle Pierrot Lunaire, and experience Schoenberg's stunning compositional language. Investigate the extraordinary works and contributions of Berg and Webern. x
  • 9
    The "New" Classicism
    The 1920s saw both an explosion of new compositional languages and a conservative backlash against modernism. Follow the fortunes of Stravinsky, as he created a new ballet score for Diaghilev, incorporating themes from the Baroque composer Pergolesi. In Pulcinella, see how Stravinsky's ingenious treatment of the score created a neo-Classic musical hybrid of astonishing modernist sensibility. x
  • 10
    Schoenberg and the 12-Tone Method
    In 1925, Schoenberg developed a compositional system that would dominate Western concert music for 50 years. Study the elements of his “12-Tone Method,” based in the use of a “tone row” where all 12 musical pitches are used in a pre-determined sequence. Observe how this system allowed composers to write large-form, non-tonal music. Grasp its enormous influence, and its challenges for listeners. x
  • 11
    Synthesis and Nationalism: Bela Bartok
    Learn about Bartok's early life and career as a pianist, and the imprint of Hungarian nationalism on his composing. Follow his remarkable travels, collecting and preserving indigenous folk music across Central and Eastern Europe. Witness these musical influences in some of his greatest compositions, and note how his works represent a musical synthesis of nearly global scope. x
  • 12
    America's Musical Gift
    This lecture explores the rich diversity of American vernacular music, as it influenced and inspired American composers. Take account of the integral impact on America of West African musical forms, and their role in the development of blues, ragtime, and jazz. See how George Gershwin and Aaron Copland synthesized these forms in jazz-tinged masterworks that became icons of American music. x
  • 13
    American Iconoclasts
    The composers under discussion here were nonconformists whose works stand virtually as separate genres of music. Begin with celebrated individualist Charles Ives, and his programmatic masterwork, Three Places in New England. Then contemplate the alternate tonal system of Harry Partch, the mega-polyphony of Elliott Carter, and the unique music scored for player pianos by Conlon Nancarrow. x
  • 14
    The World Turned Upside Down
    Following the horrors of World War II, note how many composers sought to create music that was purged of the past, based in intellectual and scientific rigor. Investigate Ultraserialism, a compositional system in which nearly every musical element is organized "serially," as musical pitch is in the 12-Tone Method. Experience American Ultraserialism in the brilliant works of Milton Babbitt. x
  • 15
    Electronic Music and European Ultraserialism
    Learn how the advent of musical synthesizers and the tape recorder gave rise to both electronic music (using sounds created electronically) and musique concrète (manipulating real sounds with a tape recorder). Witness how Ultraserialism developed within Europe, leading paradoxically to hyper-complex music which in performance sounded random—a fatal problem for listener comprehension. x
  • 16
    Schoenberg in Exile
    Trace Schoenberg’s period of great creative output and professional flowering in the late 1920s—years which coincided with the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany. Following Schoenberg’s self-exile to the United States, take note of his efforts on behalf of European Jews, and study two war-inspired masterworks; his Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte and A Survivor from Warsaw. x
  • 17
    Stravinsky in America
    Delve into the singular aesthetic philosophy behind Stravinsky's neoclassic music, in which he describes his compositional process as purely formal and objective. Learn about Stravinsky's relocation to the United States, and how in his seventies he turned to writing 12-tone music. Grasp how his last major work, Requiem Canticles, functions as a musical retrospective of his career. x
  • 18
    For Every Action an Equal Reaction
    Discover the music of visionary composers who turned away from Serialism and Ultraserialism, beginning with Hans Werner Henze and Luigi Nono. Assess the place of postwar Ultraserialism, and the factors that led many to reject it. Explore the extraordinary Stochastic or “sound mass” music of Iannis Xenakis, and how his innovations prefigured and influenced the phenomenal works of György Ligeti. x
  • 19
    The California Avant-Garde
    The cultural environment of California produced some of the most original musical thinkers of the 20th century. First encounter Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison, composers of astonishing eclecticism whose works incorporated non-Western musical forms. Also meet John Cage and Morton Feldman, whose “indeterminate” music introduced new conceptions of unpredictability and a non-directional sense of time. x
  • 20
    Rock around the Clock
    In approaching minimalism, trace the development of rock ‘n’ roll, and its integral impact on both American musical culture and 20th-century concert music. Grasp the musical ethos of minimalism—its rhythmic pulse, cyclical patterning and melodies, and hypnotic drive—through the groundbreaking works of the “triumvirate” of the style: Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. x
  • 21
    East Meets West; South Meets North
    Cover global ground in this lecture, which looks at important 20th-century composers outside of the European/American orbit. Hear the fusion of Asian and Western traditions in the music of Tru Takemitsu (Japan), Isang Yun (Korea), Chinery Ung (Cambodia), and Tan Dun (China). Discover the musical riches of Latin American composers Heitor Villa-Lobos, Carlos Chavez, and Alberto Ginastera. x
  • 22
    Postmodernism: New Tonality and Eclecticism
    Postmodernism in music represented both a return to the musical values of Romanticism and an amalgam of diverse musical influences. Investigate the music of George Rochberg and David del Tredici, both of whom embraced musical styles from the past. Then explore “pastiche”—direct quotation from earlier works—in the phenomenal music of Luciano Berio, Peter Maxwell Davies, and George Crumb. x
  • 23
    The New Pluralism
    The 20th century ended with a trend toward “pluralism”—the practice of employing a range of different musical languages within a single work or movement. Witness the incredible range of this musical inclusivity and synthesis in composers ranging from the Americans Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Jennifer Higdon to the British composer Thomas Adès. x
  • 24
    Among Friends
    Finally, as a firsthand, contemporary account of one composer's life in music, Professor Greenberg discusses his own professional journey. Trace his performing arts family background, his musical education, career path, and the finding of his voice as a composer. Hear a range of his acclaimed works, highlighting his string quartets, song cycles, and concerti. x

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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 6 DVDs
  • 248-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 248-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Performance and Text URLs
  • Suggested reading

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Your professor

Robert Greenberg

About Your Professor

Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions—which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles—performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles,...
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Great Music of the Twentieth Century is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 56.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great Master Does It Again I have almost every course Dr. Greenberg has constructed over the years--many are on cassette tapes. I have listened to all of them many times--more than three--because I always find there are nuances I have missed on previous hearings. Road trips, hotel stays, snow shoveling, long flights, gardening, bike riding--he has always been happy to accompany me and keep me interested and laughing. He is one of the master lecturers of our time, and his breadth and depth of knowledge is always evident, just as it is in his beautiful introduction and background of this course, Music in the 20th Century. Some have complained about not hearing musical examples in this course, but his explanation is valid--copy write laws make it impossible. Too many of the pieces are not in the public domain. Besides, the availability of the pieces on the internet (if you don't have them in your personal collection) make me happy he doesn't slow and interrupt the narrative for hearing some of the piece---better to hear the whole selection than some 2 minute clip. This course is an opportunity to get some bedrock in your appreciation of the music of the just-past century. I have been collecting recorded performances, attending concerts in a university town, and studying the history of composers and musical eras for 50 years, and the good Professor Greenberg still can come up with things I didn't know. You get the picture--now get the course!
Date published: 2018-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modernism in music is finally defined I took a graduate class on "Music and Modernism" and had a difficult time with the entire concept, but Dr. Greenberg's lectures on "Great Music of the 20th Century" helped me comprehend the subject.
Date published: 2018-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREATEST MUSICAL TEACHER EVER !! I have purchased ALL of Professor Greenberg courses. They are very informative, funny and he is so knowledgeable. Every course is worth taking , they are GREAT.
Date published: 2018-04-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A shame Other reviewers are correct. No music in this class. The supposedly redeeming feature is a series of URLs that allow the listener to hear the music. Alas! The URLs are so complex they are difficult to wrestle with. We did better going straight into YOUTUBE and searching for the composer/pieces we wanted to hear. Now we just need some speakers for our handheld device!!! Professor Greenberg is his usual wonderful self.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The logical next course in the series I am currently about 25% of the way through this course. I purchased this course because of my respect for Robert Greenberg's fine previous courses. "Great Music of the 20th Century" is the logical course to follow Dr. Greenberg's immediately preceding "Music as a Mirror of History", especially since so many other past composers and musical genres have been covered in his other courses. The shift in his lectures from music of the past, to the history associated with music throughout the ages, and now finally the music of the 20th century seems to have been a project kept long in mind and now finally brought about. I really enjoy this merging of history and the music it inspires, and find myself with a much better understanding of history and music with each new course. "Great Music of the 20th Century", so far, does not disappoint in this regard. As for the musical selections: I have read the other reviews and completely understand the points of view presented; I would like to share a different perspective on the matter of the audio clips. I have listened to entire lectures and entire courses of Dr. Greenberg's more than once, an event usually precipitated by attendance at a local opera or symphony orchestra concert. While some of these lectures' presentations were greatly enhanced by the musical clips, I found that extended discussions without the clips are very pleasant to listen to - when I knew the music. Sometimes I found the length of the clips too long and found myself wishing the lecture could simply proceed - this always occurred when it was a piece of music I already knew. I am therefore putting in the time locating all the urls now and while this adds a layer of complexity during the first time I listen to the course, I believe that this effort will pay off in the long run, with future re-listenings. Right now, there are at least 45 composers I never knew existed whose music will be discussed in this course. Such a list of composers and their works is an incredibly valuable starting point for me to begin to explore 20th century music. As for the course topic, I believe Dr. Greenberg is very courageous to tackle the topic of 20th century music and to include his own music for comparison. This course will be a summary of his 2018 views and decades from now, some of this content might be viewed very differently! Whether I 'like' or 'don't like' any or all of the music discussed in this course, I will be sure to know much more 20th Century music by the end than I do right now - and that was my primary purpose in purchasing this course.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome Survey of Modern Music As one who studied both music theory and music history in the late 1970s, I felt a personal connection to this course. When Dr. Greenberg discusses the politics and dogma of total serialism, which dominated music departments for decades, well, I know exactly what he is talking about. For music fans only familiar with the biggest names in 20th century art music; i.e., Stravinsky, Bartok, Debussy, etc., this course is a real treat as it takes the listener to uncharted waters; for example, the sound canvases of Xenakis and the homemade instruments of Harry Partch. Dr. Greenberg is clearly open minded, but he gives an honest appraisal of the composers and music he surveys. I find this quite refreshing since such honest appraisals seem to be missing in the art history courses I have watched. Dr. Greenberg finishes the course with a lecture that describes his own evolution as a composer. I found this last lecture to be frankly, both informative and very moving. I have taken more college courses than I can count, and I have had many excellent professors; however, Dr. Greenberg's ability to both educate and entertain is absolutely without parallel. There really isn't even another Teaching Company professor who compares. It is true that one has to click on URL's to hear the musical examples, but, as another reviewer pointed out, this means you get just that many more minutes of Dr. Greenberg's wit and wisdom. I must warn you, Dr. Greenberg is like an infectious agent, or, better yet, a book that you can't put down. Once you turn one on of his lectures, I defy you to turn it off.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg in top form Even though I own all of Greenberg's previous courses, I hesitated to buy this one because of the "no music!" comments by other reviewers. I am very glad that I went ahead and got it anyway: I think this is one of Greenberg's very best. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Greenberg is great as usual I'm about half way through the course and find it very good, as usual for Professor Greenberg's courses. I do have a couple of issues with the link-to-music replacement for excerpts on the CD. Five of the YouTube links (through talk 16) either cannot be found or are "not available in your country" (USA) Another links to an Account Terminated page. Even with this problem, I would still recommend the course. It is a perfect sequel to the How to Listen to and Understand Great Music course.
Date published: 2018-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Fresh Look at 20th Century Music To those who find 20th Century music generally unpleasant & lacking in melodic beauty, Robert Greenberg does a commendable job in describing why we should pay attention to this listening experience. He provides social context which may not necessarily make these compositions more enjoyable but will definitely provide a rich level of understanding.
Date published: 2018-03-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review of 20th Century Music Music is not performed in this course: it is necessary to go to the provided URLs to hear the music. This is an inconvenience while listening in the car or at the gym. However, after a bit of technical adjustment, I found it quite worthwhile to listen at home and swap over to the mostly YouTube links, which are surprisingly well-recorded (or so they sound on my system). I would recommend this course only to someone willing to take the extra trouble.
Date published: 2018-03-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from great music of the twentieth century Yes, Professor Bobbie G is truly a great and entertaining lecturer but this series has nary a note of music. Yes, I know, I know, I know; there was a copyright infringement/licensing fee disclaimer at the beginning of the lectures but earlier courses played extensive pieces from, for example: "Le Sacre" and "Pierrot Lunaire". I use the lectures to keep me interested during drives to and from work, about eight hours per week. I am not able to listen to the referenced URLs while driving and I have other things to do when I get home in the evening. There would be more entertainment if the discussions were interspersed with snippets of music to emphasize the points of the lecture, even if just played on a piano in the studio. I would recommend this to a friend but with the information that this is a purely didactic lecture.
Date published: 2018-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some Twentieth Century music is lovely some stinks I was curious about Claude Debussy. Debussy's music is nontonal but still beautiful. Stavinsky manages to be original but still accessible. The 12 tone composers to me are just use a mathmatical formula to put something down on paper. It has no heart or soul. It does not communicate anything to me. I have been familiar with the 12 tone composers for over 50 years. I have a bachelor's degree in music education, so have been schooled in their work since 1965. Again the music of the 12 tone composers COMPLETELY LACKS HEART OR SOUL OR BEAUTY.
Date published: 2018-03-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Can't access URLs while driving my car. Robert Greenburg is by far the best of the great course instructors at The Great Courses. I have everyone of his courses. I am only on lecture 2 of the 20th century, but already I can tell that he is up to form. In the past Dr. Greenburg has complained about the music he is able to share with us during the lectures. This time he is presented with an insurmountable problem in that most of the 20th century music is still under copyright. His solution is to provide URLs to YouTube presentations. This allows him to reference extremely good performances. Unfortunately I listen to the Great Courses in my car. If I come up with a nifty way to store the URLs ahead of time and punch them in at the appropriate time, maybe I can get this to work. But right now, this is not good. I think it would be easy for the app to have the list and even call the url's up at the right time. I didn't see mention of this problem when I ordered the course and I think it should be mentioned. I downloaded the course onto my Iphone. The URLs at the back of the course pdf are not real links so I can't just touch them and listen to them.
Date published: 2018-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More Excellence From Greenberg These represent some initial thoughts, as I haven't yet made it more than halfway through the lectures. I've watched/listened to, and enjoyed, all of Dr. Greenberg's previous courses. This one holds up well in comparison to the others. For one thing, unlike a number of other Teaching Company lecturers, he reads well and expressively from a teleprompter. The hair may be graying, but his enthusiasm appears to be undimmed. One of his major themes is, to borrow a title from another course, "music as a mirror of history". I'm a historian of modern Europe by training, although my grad school days are a distant memory, and while Dr. Greenberg of necessity paints with a broad brush in describing the development of 20th century music in connection with social and political changes, his analyses have struck me as being very much within the scholarly mainstream. The absence of integrated musical examples, which made me hesitate before purchasing the course, no longer strikes me as an issue. The external links are clearly identified and very readily accessible. In effect, there are additional minutes of Dr. Greenberg's wisdom and wit, as listening to the musical examples becomes "homework". This is obviously less convenient for those wishing to listen to the lectures while driving, for example, but listening to the indicated passages before and/or after absorbing the lectures seems likely to work well. My objective in purchasing these lectures was to enhance my understanding and appreciation of music that is often less accessible than is generally the case for earlier periods. "Enjoyment" might be a bridge too far in some instances, but that, too, may come with additional exposure and insight. I've been looking forward to a course of precisely this sort for some time, and it certainly appears at roughly the midpoint that Dr. Greenberg will succeed admirably in helping me to attain these goals.
Date published: 2018-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A brilliant course with a huge flaw I totally agree with Chasvw, the fact that the music is not an integral part of the course makes it much less fluid and listenable. As Professor Greenberg described Schoenberg’s music and modern non-tonal music in general – it demands a much more devoted audience than tonal music. I think this is true of this course as well. Personally, I found it to be a very unpleasant and inconvenient method of listening to the course. BUT – the course content and the music are still wonderful even considering this substantial flaw. I have listened for years to composers of the late 19th and early 20th century, and although I was patient (devoted) enough to access the beauty, I did not feel that I understood it well. This is difficult music and I think at least for most people, some mediation, interpretation, and historical context is required in order to understand what stream of thought the composers came from, how It evolved, and why. THis is really important in order to understand how tolisten to the music. I was not aware, that the three most influential composers of the 20th century were Debussy, Schoenberg and Stravisnky. I knew they were important, but didn’t realize just how much. Indeed, these three, but particularly the latter two take up the most substantial threads of the course. The lectures about Shoenberg were absolutely brilliant and allowed getting a very different perspective about the man and his music than I had before. The historical context of the pivotal events of the 20th century and how they affected music were invaluable. I had also thought, like other reviewers, that some of the other Russian composers had a larger role in 20th century music evolution and was somewhat surprised when in the first lecture he announced that they would not be discussed in this course because they created under a Soviet regime that did not allow almost any individual expression. Still, no discussion at all….? What can be said of Professor Greenberg that has not already been said? This is my first course given by him and I can say that all of the superlatives from other reviewers are definitely in place. He is a brilliant, inspiring teacher and I found many parts of his delivery highly evocative. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that since finishing it I binge heard three other of his musical biographical courses on Brahms, Haydn and Mozart. Overall, a brilliant and worthwhile course on a rather opaque topic (at least to most listeners). Too bad about the music excerpts, but I can’t argue with the reasoning about copyrights - this is economics…
Date published: 2018-03-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Great Disappointment "Great Music Of The 20h Century" is a course without music. Wait, what!? Yep, very little music is played in this course, which seems rediculous to me. I purchased this course based on my previous excellent experiences with Prof. Greenberg's courses. I really appreciate his encyclopedic knowledge of music and delightful balance between reverence and irreverence. Unfortunately, this course fell far short of my expectations. Apparently I missed the fine print on the website that spins the lack of music as a feature. It's not. It's a failure. During the first lecture it is claimed that clearance/copyright issues prevent including pertinent musical excerpts. This claim seems odd: Many other Great Courses series include excerpts, and there's the fair use doctrine, and lots of orchestra behind-the-music podcasts which include excerpts, but whatever. Instead, the listener is directed to pause the lecture, find the music cited, and then play the music with the lecture. Huh? One of the wonderful things about the vast majority of the Great Courses is that they are basically self contained. This makes them perfect for listening on walks, runs, long drives, etc. Now am I supposed to pull over to the side of the road, look through my CD library, fire up Stravinski, then go back to the lecture? In this instance, TGC has misunderstood how many of their customers consume their courses. Just to add a cherry on top: Soviet music has been excluded. I guess the Soviet Union wasn't a thing in the 20th Century. There is, however, a helpful plug to buy other courses (which ironically enough include actual musical selections.) Cherry #2: The audio quality of the actual lectures sound below par, like they've been dictated over a VOIP connection. Cherry #3: The short bumper music between topics is really cheesy. Am I being unusually (maybe unfairly) harsh in this review? Yes! But that's only because I have so much respect for Prof. Greenberg and such high expectations for TGC. I've purchase well over 200 courses--this is one of the very few for which I will request a refund.
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course I was so pleased to see Prof Greenberg do this course. I have listened to only 2 lectures so far but I know the rest will b great
Date published: 2018-03-03
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