Great Music of the Twentieth Century

Course No. 7006
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
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72% 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

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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 54.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Huh? I am big Greenberg fan - have just about every course of his, but I will not buy this one: To talk about 20th century music and devote only one token lecture to some (not the greatest) jazz and another to some rock (also not the greatest stuff) is a joke. There should be a lecture devoted to Louis Armstrong, several lectures about Duke Ellington, another two or three about Thelonious Monk, at least one about Charles Mingus, another couple about the Beatles, same for Jimi Hendrix, two or three about John Coltrane... the list goes on... THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO DEFINED 20th Century Music, not academics and 'modern classical' people that most people never heard of or cares about. Louis Armstong is in the process of changing the entire musical landscape forever and you're talking Schoenberg and Ives? Ludicrous. BIG FAIL for Prof. Greenberg, who himself mentions often that the music of Beethoven and Mozart, etc were "pop" "commercial" when they were written and first performed.
Date published: 2018-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A classic Greenberg course. This is an excellent overview of 20th century music. The instructor builds a nice foundation for some of the composers (such as Debussy and Stravinsky) whose works set the foundation for much of what was to come. He discusses not only well-known composers, but less well known, more contemporary composers. And he covers a wide range of genres.
Date published: 2018-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Got better with each lecture At first I was disappointed that Dr. Greenberg couldn't play sections of the music he was discussing. I thought this would be like discussing art without seeing the artwork. And, going to the URLs on my computer was a pain. But, as I continued listening to the lectures I realized that Greenberg's speaking style is almost like music itself. He is the most engaging speaker I have ever heard, and he brings the music (and the composer) to life like no other speaker could. I have bought and listened to all of Dr. Greenberg's Teaching Company presentations, and although this one did suffer somewhat by not having actual music played, it was nevertheless a joy to listen to the lectures. I doubt that anybody else could have pulled this off.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Maestro Greenberg is Back It is always worthwhile to listen to what the Maestro has to say, and a pity that the copyright laws severely limited the amount of music included in the course. Still, Prof.Greenberg is a great teacher and I do not regret buying the course.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am extremely glad that I bought this course. I understand some aspects of modern art but not modern music, especially atonal, so I was curious to try this course out. I have gone through only four out of forty-five modules, but this course is beyond my expectations. As a lay person, I really appreciate how Dr. Greenberg starts off with simple beginnings of modern music in Debussy and the French language. I can now understand abstract technical terms like rhythmic asymmetry because he breaks it down so well (1-2-3-4, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4-5-6). The idea of having internet links to music that is prohibitively expensive to include on the DvD is an innovation. I just wished that somehow, perhaps, I could just click on the link instead of having to type in the YouTube links in nonsense characters, which are as ridiculously unfriendly as the make-up of the passwords we have to use at work, and it would open another window that would directly take me to the site with the musical example..
Date published: 2018-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very disappointed that there were no actual music examples on the disks. Some URL links were not not functioning
Date published: 2018-09-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed It is a shame to waste such an excellent teacher without being able to hear the music and his immediate commentary. Going to the internet afterwards is not the same. There must be some way to work with ASCAP as a teaching arrangement!
Date published: 2018-08-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Land of All Talk and No Music Just over 100 years ago, a German critic described England as “The Land Without Music.” If he were alive today, he would have to apologize to England, and instead review Bob Greenberg’s new offering, which can only be described as “The Course Without Music.” If you’re like me, you’ve enjoyed Prof. Greenberg’s many forays into classical repertoire and biography. But there’s a rhythm to the lectures: enthusiastic talking, followed by music. Then more high-energy commentary, then music. A music course needs music. As Steve Martin (or any number of other comics) have been credited with saying: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” What we have in this new course is talk, talk, talk…and no music. There’s a reason for this, and it’s copyright law. Because the course deals mostly with music that is still under copyright, it is expensive to license the rights to a recording for reproduction. Rather than produce an expensive course nobody would want to pay for, Greenberg and TGC decided to circumvent the problem by providing internet links to performances of the copyrighted pieces, letting YouTube take the flak for posting performances. There are all sorts of problems with this approach, as others have pointed out: 1. It only works for people who are sitting at a computer, using the video version of the lecture. URLs are “unfollowable” to those who listen in the car, the gym, or anywhere. The audio version is useless to those who want to hear the Prof AND the music. Maybe the links are also in the PDF handbook, but that still doesn’t solve the problem for those who are used to the portability of TGC material. 2. The lectures are 45 minutes long, as in most of Greenberg’s courses. But usually, that 45 minutes INCLUDES the music samples. In order to get the most from this course, you would have to do “homework” and listen an additional 15, 30, perhaps 60 minutes or more to take in all the music mentioned in the lectures. This defeats the “listen to a lecture a day” formula, as well as the self-contained nature of other courses. 3. You will get tired of hearing the Prof say “A URL has been provided…” And has no one thought about the ephemeral nature of internet links? How do we know that in a year or two these performances will still be available? 4. A lot of the music in the earlier part of the course is NOT under copyright, but it is still not included in the lectures, probably for the sake of consistency. It was not necessary to leave it out. And the Prof couldn’t even give us any of his OWN music, except a few little jazz melodies in his final lecture. There are other problems with the course. For instance: who picked the theme? Who went to a music library to look for a theme and typed in “Downton Abbey Clone”? It doesn’t honor the subject of the course or the professor. Another problem is all the music left out of this course. There’s an early lecture in which Greenberg himself laments all the composers being omitted. But it’s not just peripheral writers: it’s virtually the entire corpus of French and English music except for the avant-garde. I guess the Prof felt it necessary to deal with the “deal-changers” – the people who created new styles, rather than those who stuck to a more traditional approach. I could also nit-pick about the Prof’s opinions, but these are just matters of personal taste. He practically goes to the fainting couch over Arnold Schoenberg, whose music still fails to appeal to the majority of music lovers after over a century of being told we should “take our medicine.” Schoenberg is an important figure in the development of music, but I’ll never believe he’s a composer most folks want to listen to. And I was amazed at his take-down of John Adams, one of the most enjoyable composers of the late 20th century, whose scintillating orchestration and synthesis of many styles make much of his music ultra-listenable. Greenberg considers Adams’s style a “schtick,” yet he holds up Philip Glass as a genius: Glass, whose “doodly-doodly ad infinitum” output is virtually the textbook definition of “schtick.” There was no mention of the excellent American composers Christopher Theofanidis, Eric Ewazen, Michael Torke, etc. But it was refreshing to hear Greenberg’s take on the fate of ultra-serialism. Greenberg and I were one year apart in conservatory (he at Princeton, I at Eastman), and suffered the same fate: being composers submerged in ultra-serialist dogma, which was one of my reasons for leaving the school. In fact, my first composition teacher was Joseph Schwantner, one of the composers mentioned in a later lecture. He was 30; I was 17. I loved Ravel and Poulenc; he loved dipping cymbals in buckets, hitting brake drums, and giving his pieces obscure names with Roman numerals in the titles. I remember him bringing in a recording of the Rochberg string quartet mentioned in one of the lectures…which may have been his turning point toward tonality! Imagine my surprise when I heard a piece he wrote only a decade later containing C-major chords. Greenberg’s explanation that ultra-serialism and randomness are virtually indistinguishable from each other is a drum I’ve been beating since an essay I wrote in my senior English AP exam. So bravo, Professor! And after all the years I’ve been listening to you, it’s great to hear you talk about your own career and compositions. I just wish I could have HEARD them. If you’ve read my review thus far, you probably think I really hated this course. That would be far from the truth. I always enjoy Greenberg, and his intimate knowledge of this music is refreshing. Fortunately for me, my many years as a music student (and professor) mean that I’ve heard much of this music. But I feel sorry for those who DON’T know the music, and who must take extra time to track down performances online. There are some new pieces I learned about in the course which I’d like to hear, but chances are I’ll never take the time to hunt down the book with the URLs and follow links to the internet. If you plan to take this course with your laptop open, you might enjoy it. But if you’re an audio student like myself, the frustrations of the course may outweigh the benefits.
Date published: 2018-08-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from No music I love all of Dr Greenburg's courses but can't listen to any music in the car. This change in format makes the course almost useless. I was very disappointed
Date published: 2018-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous this is an outstanding course. I had earlier done his on-line course on the same topic--also great-but the Teaching Company course is greatly expanded. All of Greenberg's courses are great but this one goes beyond them all. Full of information, as well as personal insights. The links to performances are very helpful--although occasionally in error. To do this course properly takes time--need to listen to the music of course, but well-worth every minute
Date published: 2018-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from opened a lot of doors I'm a mediocre cellist (so easy Popper) and never play anything past Romantic. This course gave me a lot to work with. I'd always liked a lot of Stravinsky and Schoenberg but not understood what I was hearing; after this I could hear patterns and get a big picture. I liked hearing about what it was like to go to school with ultraserialist professors, but I thought he was a bit unkind to Marty Feldman (but who knows what he was like) -- Greenberg did a little more griping than necessary, and I wish he had focused less on the "this is what it was like" and more on the theory. But that's taste -- do you want history or theory? The big gripe on this course is that the recordings aren't integrated. Yes, this is a pain. At least one person has gone off and collected all the recordings in one place on YouTube, and the Great Courses should have done that. This makes life much easier. But I've turned into an Adès fan and can listen to late 20th century music and not be weirded out, and love some of it. Colin Nancarrow rocks! I got this course to get a simple intro and orientation, and it worked really well. Finally, in the spirit of Greenberg's little gripes, the view out the window in the studio is just dumb!! It's Impressionist, so anachronistic at best. But he does have a cello there ;-)
Date published: 2018-08-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The same great Professor Greenberg - but no music Professor Greenberg is a great teacher of any topic and is always in top form. No lecture is a disappointment. This series has no musical examples interspersed and that is a constraint that seriously detracts from the utility of the product. Unless one has the discipline to do the homework, then much is lost.
Date published: 2018-07-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from For theorists only The title of this course is seriously misleading. A course which completely fails to discuss Sibelius, Shostakovitch, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Strauss, Prokofiev, etc etc, is not a course on Great 20th Century Music. A course which instead finds time to spend on Schwantner, Higdon, Rouse, etc, along with the inevitable Cage, and, endlessly, Schoenberg, is a course on the intellectually interesting strands in 20th century music that mostly alienated the concert-going public. For academics only.
Date published: 2018-07-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from lacking I was told I could download this program but it only streams which limits where I can listen to it. I would not have purchased it if I'd known this. The streaming app does not hold your place and it is difficult to rewind to re-hear a segment. I do like the approach the professor takes with the material.
Date published: 2018-07-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Music lectures without music are problematic This is a difficult review for me to write. Professor Greenberg is easily one of my favorite Great Courses Lecturers. His Opera lectures greatly affected my life in that I became a fan of the opera after listening to them; whereas before I really had very little interest in the medium. However, these lectures demonstrate that music lectures without music are just not satisfying. Dr. Greenberg explains why licensing issues forced him and the Teaching Company to resort to URL references during the lectures in lieu of actual demonstrations of the music. The description of what happen with his lecture on Ives "Three Places in New England" in "30 Greatest Orchestral Works" lectures really brings the point home. However, trying to incorporate the recommended URLs with the lecture presentations really doesn't work. In my case, I listen to these lectures while exercising, which includes jogging, and it is impossible to match the lectures with the URLs. This significantly diminishes the learning experience. Be that as it may, Professor Greenberg's lectures are lively, informed, funny, and thoroughly entertaining, as always. His historical anecdotes are especially great. However, the inability to demonstrate the musical ideas during the lectures really detracts from the experience.
Date published: 2018-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great features thank you,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,..
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very disappointed. I am an admirer of Professor Greenberg and consider him one of the most entertaining presenters in the Great Courses repertoire. I have almost all his earlier lectures, mostly on CDs. I had hoped for a similarly entertaining and informative lecture when I bought this course but boy was I disappointed. As several reviewers before me have pointed out, there are no audio examples. URLs have been provided for online audio but what good are they when you are playing the course in a car? If Great Courses had been upfront in mentioning this fact I would never have bought the lectures. Professor Greenberg does a wonderful job in tracing the history of 20th century music but it's like studying the history of art without any work of art to look at. Note to Great Courses - Shell out the extra money to include copyrighted works and increase the price of the lectures but do not indulge in this shenanigan. Or else I will look elsewhere.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An unmanageable course! Shame! I’ve listened and learned from many of Prof. Greenberg’s music courses over the years. All the others have adhered to the format of delightful pedagogy interspersed with Greenberg’s demonstrating what he is talking about, having us “get the music in our ears,” vital to the educational efficacy and delightful to experience. Until this one. No musical interludes interrupt his lectures, no ear candy, just instructions to refer to the 400+ page pdf text where the student finds the “included URL,” often with the minutes and seconds of the video that demonstrate his point. So, now imagine this: stop Greenberg’s lecture, bring up the pdf file, watch it load, search for the chapter, find the URL and click on it, watch the browser open, watch it find YouTube, watch it load the video, find the minutes and seconds, try to remember what I’m listening for... Unbearable and, worse, ineffective teaching! Who dreamed up this format? I’ve enjoyed listening to and learning from Great Courses while stuck in commuting traffic, and on long drives for years, now impossible. Makes me want my money back...
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Discussion This is a marvelous history of the most important twentieth century composers, full of interesting detail. There is no music in the course, only links to on-line performances. But that allows Professor Greenberg more time to talk, which is a very good thing! Very entertaining, very informative, and very highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lecturer Well explained and well ilustraded lectures.Presented in a way we can all undestand and enjoy
Date published: 2018-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg continues not to disappoint us with his excellent knowledge, eloquence, precise analysis and colorful presentation and the sense of humor. His vast knowledge covers not only music in isolation, but in the context of human history of events and cultural progression. The only disappointment is that he has to use the URL connections instead of illustrations right in the lessons. There is a sense of disconnecion as a result.
Date published: 2018-05-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I don't know what you want here!. Am only just into the course but I love it. I'm a newish concert-goer and this will help me so much with "new music"---I love Dr Greenberg's presentations of music and history.
Date published: 2018-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Course Robert Greenberg is a consummate educator and his passion for music is infectious. I appreciated every lecture and learned about not only 20th century music and its composers, but also the history of that period.
Date published: 2018-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Making Modern Classical Music Palatable I have enjoyed every one of Professor Greenberg’s courses and I have purchased many of them. I fully understand why the music was not included in this course and I actually enjoyed the adventure of searching out the recommended URLs. Professor Greenberg has a brilliant style of teaching that can make even the most inaccessible music understandable. That is especially important with 20th Century music. I can’t say I love modern music, but now I can listen with growing appreciation. I would say Professor Greenberg is a miracle maker.
Date published: 2018-05-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Caution: Great course but usefulness limited ... The course is excellent, as are all of Greenberg's. But because of licensing limits that apply to this relatively recent material, he could not include examples of the music within the course. Instead he provides URLs to You Tube examples. This means that you cannot really enjoy the course if you stick it in your car CD while you're commuting - instead you need to play it at home thru a laptop so you can simultaneously access the URLs. Not a big deal if you're willing to do that, but I think they should have advertised this limitation up front.
Date published: 2018-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Music of the Twentieth Century Robert Greenberg is absolutely my favorite lecturer from the Great Courses, and I am a very active subscriber. However this course did not work well for me as I listen in my car and having only url links to the music was not useful.
Date published: 2018-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply superb! I'm six lessons into the course so far and enjoying it immensely. The lack of audio examples is completely understandable. I have a pad of paper beside me and usually go to youtube on my own to sample the music. I can see that my purchase of CD and/or DVD renditions will be on the upswing. I'll finally delve into Schoenberg, for example, after knowing only Transfigured Night. I know The Rite of Spring well, on the other hand, but have just bought both the Bernstein and the Michael Tilson Thomas "Keeping Score" renditions on DVD. Dr. Greenberg, thank you so much for this course and for the many courses I've benefitted from in the past. Onward!
Date published: 2018-05-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I'm conflicted I agree with the other reviewers who found it troublesome to separate the lecture from the musical selections and awkward to use the work-around with internet URLs . I don't fault the Teaching Company for trying to adapt. I watch the course on a DVD with the sound routed through a stereo amplifier, and I have thee problems about listening online to the music: (1) Since I would have stop watching, turn on a computer to find the selection and listen, I usually decide not to interrupt the lecture to listen immediately to the samples. It’s too much of a hassle. Instead, I plan/hope/procrastinate to play the music later. (2) Later my memory has faded as to which aspects of the music Greenberg wanted us to listen to. In all of Greenberg’s other courses, he carefully tells us what to listen for and often provides various cues just as the music passes by so we notice. In the 20th C. Music course, all of that is lost. (3) Finally and sadly, many times Greenberg’s timings to select for musical examples are given only in his lecture, but not in the booklet's appendix. After the lecture is done I cannot remember those timings. So optimistically I look in the booklet’s appendix at the list of URL’s to find the timings, but only some selections give the timings. I know I couldn take a few minutes to replay the lecture and fast forward to find the timings, but I’m unlikely to do so. I wish that they had printed every one of the timings. Now I want to mention technical decisions made for the course that I personally find annoying. Item: The set has an image of a door at the left with a view of buildings, but the image is terribly blurred. The result is ugly. The eye sees a stark contrast between the sharp focus of the rest of the set and the blurry buildings and tells the brain, “Something is wrong!” It distracts from the lecture. Item: When Greenberg stands on the left side of the set with a wall as background (the blurry area is now out of the image), the lighting and/or the particular camera recording him makes the red color gain too strong and it makes his face and hands looked flushed and sick. Item: In the course booklet’s appendix The Teaching Company have printed each URL music link in a grayed rectangle, which puts black letters on a gray background. It is quite hard to read. Moreover, in some of the URL addresses the letter “I” and the digit “1” occur and are in a font that makes them look similar. To make it worse, the proportional spacing jams the narrow “I” and “1” up against nearby letters. It’s so hard to read that I’ve resorted to using a magnifying glass. One very good thing: When subtitles are available in Teaching Company couses, I use them so as not to miss words, and in this course they are excellent and almost always well-spelled. (In other courses the subtitles are often misspelled, words omitted or a wrong word is substituted. This is especially so in the science courses. I wonder who does the proof-reading?) Finally, by coincidence I have been reading The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross. It covers the same period with greater depth and detail. He has written for the New Yorker, so the writing is excellent. I recommend it for others who are interested in the topic. Would I recommend this course to a friend? Yes, only if the friend is willing to put up with the need to hear the music separately from the lecture.
Date published: 2018-04-14
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
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