How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition

Course No. 700
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
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Course No. 700
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What Will You Learn?

  • Examine the contributions of nearly every major composer, including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and more.
  • Go deep inside the most magnificent pieces of Western concert music with the aid of digitally recorded musical passages.
  • Gain an outstanding grasp of musical forms, techniques, and terms - and finally become fluent in the language of music.
  • Discover the powerful influence of social context on musical creation from ancient Greece to the 20th century.
  • Learn the characteristics of every major concert music form that developed in Europe over the last 2,000 years.

Course Overview

Learning how to appreciate the unmatched beauty, genius, and power of concert music can permanently enrich your life. Why is this so? As award-winning composer and Professor Robert Greenberg explains, "Music, the most abstract and sublime of all the arts, is capable of transmitting an unbelievable amount of expressive, historical, and even philosophical information to us, provided that our antennas are up and pointed in the right direction. A little education goes a long way to vitalizing and rendering relevant a body of music that many feel is beyond their grasp.

"And why is an understanding of concert music worthwhile? I would suggest a few reasons:

“The skills one brings to listening to music—imagination; abstract, nonconcrete thinking; intuition; and instinctive reaction and trusting those instincts—have gone uncultivated in our educational system and culture for too long.

“Music, as a universal, nonverbal language, allows us to tap into the social, cultural, and aesthetic traditions of different cultures and historical eras. We become more aware of our shared humanity and the wisdom and vision of others.

“Music allows us to transcend our own world and partake in utterly different realities.

“Last, but certainly not least, good music is fun to listen to, relatively inexpensive—we can do it by ourselves or with others—and there are any number of ways to expand our knowledge and appreciation of the art."

The Tools, the Times, the Composers, and Their Music

Grammar: Professor Greenberg gives you an outstanding grasp of musical forms, techniques, and terms—the grammatical elements that make you fluent in the language of music. These are not dull concepts. Professor Greenberg alerts us to the need for them:

"Music, like any pseudoscience, requires an adjectival palette by which we can isolate events that without proper terms we might not even be able to notice. It's an interesting question to what degree language allows us to perceive things that are not language-associated. I'm a strong believer that if you've got the right word to identify something, you can perceive it. I think my favorite pseudoscience when it comes to this kind of thing is wine-tasting, where one has to come up with an adjectival palette that is almost a cartoon unto itself. But silly as these phrases may be—'Oh, this has a hint of young tobacco, and old oak fragrant with raspberries'—silly as these terms are, they allow us to draw distinctions without which we may not be able to draw at all. So we will create a useful vocabulary."

Rich Context: Professor Greenberg teaches the powerful influence of social context on musical creation. Bestselling author James Collins, writing in Inc. magazine, explains: "The Greenberg series combines a history of Western civilization with a history of great music from ancient Greece to the 20th century. Greenberg's 48 lectures come alive with passion and knowledge. The course illustrates the interplay between societal change and innovation and offers a unique perspective on the acceleration of change wrought by the 20th century."

Professor Greenberg's lectures show how musical creativity has provided, throughout the history of our civilization, a vibrant means of expression for grand spiritual, intellectual, political, social, and economic forces.

Whether it's the profound influence of Lutheran spirituality on Bach or the effect of the French Revolution on Beethoven (to give just two examples), you'll see how such forces have swirled through the lives of music's creators and listeners in various historical epochs. You'll also grasp how these forces have stimulated the creation of musical masterpieces that are both transcendent works of art and compositions deeply rooted in their respective eras, telling us something central about the human condition in each one.

The Composers: The course examines the contributions of nearly every major composer. But one of Professor Greenberg's aims is to make their music accessible, and, for this, we must accept that every one of them was human and no more. (He observes at one point that an English translation of the name Giuseppe Verdi would be simply "Joe Green.") You will remember their music, and you will never forget the composers who are brought to life throughout the lectures. Consider Professor Greenberg's introduction to Berlioz:

"Hector Berlioz begins writing the Symphonie fantastique in 1829 and he completes it in 1830, the same year he graduates from the conservatory, so he's only 27 years old and still learning his craft.

"The Symphonie fantastique is an experimental artwork if there ever was one. It is an absolutely avant-garde piece of music. It attempts to unite the four great loves of Berlioz's life, as he felt them then and as they continued to be throughout his life. Those four great loves, in no particular order, are: first, Shakespeare's plays and Shakespeare's sense of drama; second: Beethoven's symphonies, which Berlioz worshipped; third: opera, which Berlioz lived for; and we must not forget the fourth great love of Berlioz's life: himself. It's a very autobiographical work. Again, we have to understand that autobiography is very typical of the self-involvement and expressive self-indulgence of the 19th- and indeed, the 20th-century artist."

The Music: Using digitally recorded musical passages to illustrate his points, Professor Greenberg will take you inside magnificent compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and more. You have listened to many of the illustrative pieces all your life—you will never hear them the same way again after Professor Greenberg has opened them up. Look at the titles of the lectures in this course to see how much you'll learn.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    Music as a Mirror
    This opening lecture introduces themes, concepts, and terminology that will be used throughout the series. The nature of concert music as a living, breathing entity and not a fossil of the past is introduced. Important definitions and distinctions are discussed, including: concert music, classical music, popular music, and Western music. The concept of music as a mirror is introduced. Lastly, using Ludwig van Beethoven as an example, the composer is discussed as a person describing some aspect or aspects of his life and world in his music. x
  • 2
    Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church
    This lecture introduces the ancient world as a 4,000-year period of extraordinary cultural richness and variety. From this long ancient era only 40 or so fragments of music have survived. In this lecture we discuss the cyclical, rather than linear, nature of art and music. Ultimately, this lecture focuses on the role of music in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and concludes with a brief examination of the role of music in the early Christian Church. x
  • 3
    The Middle Ages
    This lecture focuses on the changing role of music in the medieval world. First we examine the liturgical plainchant of the so-called Dark Ages, its role within the Church, and its musical characteristics. The rebirth of Europe during the High Middle Ages and the attendant development of polyphony are examined. Finally, we explore the violent disruptions of the 14th century—the so-called Babylonian Captivity, the Great Schism, the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War—and their affects on the arts and music of the time. x
  • 4
    Introduction to the Renaissance
    This lecture examines the impact of the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture on Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Important Renaissance trends—from Humanism to Classicism—are defined and discussed. The ancient Greek ideal of music as a humanistic art powerfully influenced the music of the Renaissance, an influence that is examined both theoretically and musically (through the works of Josquin des Prez). x
  • 5
    The Renaissance Mass
    This lecture introduces the mass as the most important compositional genre of the Renaissance. The mass itself is defined and the ceremony is discussed in detail, in particular the nature and content of the Proper and Ordinary. We then examine the Renaissance musical setting of the Ordinary of the mass and the three types of Renaissance masses: the Cantus Firmus or Tenor mass, the Paraphrase mass, and the Imitation mass. We then discuss the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent impact of the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent on the nature of Catholic liturgical music in general and the mass specifically. x
  • 6
    The Madrigal
    This lecture focuses on the madrigal, the most important genre of Italian secular music of the late Renaissance. We examine the heightened poetic content of the madrigal and the Petrarchian revival. Then we examine the role played by word-painting in the genre of the madrigal. Three madrigals are examined for the progressive development of the genre from the mid-16th century to the very early 17th. x
  • 7
    An Introduction to the Baroque Era
    This lecture introduces the brilliant and exuberant Baroque era. We differentiate between the measured elegance of Renaissance music and the extravagant emotionalism of Baroque music. Special attention is paid to the scientific and investigative spirit of the Baroque and its impact on the arts of the era. The Baroque artistic duality of emotional extravagance and intellectual control is examined as a manifestation of the scientific and philosophical currents of the time. The lecture concludes with a musical example the genre of French overture. x
  • 8
    Style Features of Baroque-era Music
    In this lecture we build listening skills and a descriptive vocabulary and discuss style and features of Baroque music. A vocabulary for addressing sound aspects of music is presented, defining and discussing discrete sound, frequency, pitch, melody, motive, theme, and tune. The advent of instrumental music during the Baroque era is examined. Essential musical elements as pulse, meter, scales, and harmony are examined in light of the Baroque predilection for scientific investigation, systemic organization and codification. x
  • 9
    National Styles—Italy and Germany
    This lecture describes the rise of German music during the Baroque. The Protestant Reformation put a new emphasis on the German language in worship, and the music with it followed the idiosyncratic cadences of the German language, as opposed to Latin/Italian. We also explore the Lutheran view of music and composition as a spiritual act, a view that altered the history and nature of German music. x
  • 10
    This lecture examines fugue, defined as a typically monothematic, polyphonic work in which a theme is examined, broken down, reassembled, etc., in as many ways as possible. Drawing on fugues by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, this lecture introduces and examines the parts of a fugue: the exposition, subject restatements, and episodes. This lecture also seeks to define and discuss the various tuning systems used up to and during the Baroque era. x
  • 11
    Baroque Opera, Part 1
    We discuss the evolution of opera from the late Renaissance through the early Baroque. Believing that ancient Greek drama was entirely sung, members of the Florentine Camerata sought to create their own music dramas, and, in doing so, they invented opera around the year 1600. These lectures discuss two early operas—Jacopo Peri's Euridice and Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo—and describe and demonstrate the musical content of these early operas. x
  • 12
    Baroque Opera, Part 2
    We continue the evolution of opera from the late Renaissance through the early Baroque. We discuss the transition of Italian opera from courtly to popular entertainment and the development of the aria around 1660. x
  • 13
    The Oratorio
    This lecture and the next focus on the adaptation of Baroque operatic elements to the world of Baroque sacred music. This lecture introduces the oratorio and Lutheran Church cantata, and briefly discusses and defines the Baroque Mass, Magnificat, Passion, and sacred Motet as well. The oratorio is then examined in detail, from its modest beginnings as a musical setting of some Biblical text through its growing popularity as an operalike entertainment, particularly during Lent, becoming ultimately an opera on a religious subject. The lecture concludes with a discussion of the career of George Frederick Handel and a brief examination of his English language oratorio, Messiah of 1742. x
  • 14
    The Lutheran Church Cantata
    This lecture continues the examination of Baroque sacred music, focusing now on the Lutheran church cantata, which evolved as a musical commentary on a particular Bible reading, becoming known as the musical "sermon before the sermon." We also examine the operatic ideals of the Lutheran librettist Erdman Neumeister, and Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata No. 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme. x
  • 15
    We introduce the concept of instrumental musical form—processes that organize musical materials into recognizable structures without the presence of, or need for, words. The advent of instrumental music during the Baroque indicated that parts of musical speech—melody, rhythm, harmony, form—had developed enough to provide a satisfying, although "abstract," musical experience. We then focus on Baroque musical forms based on the process of variation: passacaglia, ground bass, or chaconne (or ciaconna). Such variations are demonstrated in works by Henry Purcell and Johann Sebastian Bach. x
  • 16
    Ritornello Form and the Baroque Concerto
    The discussion of Baroque instrumental form begun in Lecture 15 now focuses on ritornello form and the Baroque concerto. We first differentiate between chamber and orchestral music. Next, we discuss the degree to which the opera house was responsible for the development of the orchestra, as well as genres such as overture, suite, and concerto. The three types of high Baroque concerti are defined and discussed. Finally, the concerto grosso is examined in detail, with special attention paid to the ritornello form, first movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. x
  • 17
    The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era
    This lecture introduces the Age of Enlightenment and its impact on musical style. The dramatic difference between the music of the late Baroque and Classical eras is brought into high relief—differences that are a function of societal change during the 17th century. This lecture discusses Enlightenment-inspired and Classical trends such as cosmopolitanism and the rise of musical amateurism. x
  • 18
    The Viennese Classical Style, Homophony, and the Cadence
    This lecture seeks to further build listening skills and vocabulary regarding cadence, or musical punctuation. The four cadence types are defined, demonstrated, and discussed. We examine the geographical and social importance of the city of Vienna for the origin of the Classical style. x
  • 19
    Classical-era Form—Theme and Variations
    This lecture initiates a discussion of Classical instrumental musical form that will continue through Lecture 25. We examine the theme and variations form, an adaptation of Baroque variations to the expressive and musical needs of the Classical era. The Classical theme and variations form uses a tune as its theme rather than a bass line or harmonic progression. Wolfgang Mozart's Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman" is an example. x
  • 20
    Classical-era Form—Minuet and Trio: Baroque Antecedents
    This lecture continues the examination of Classical instrumental musical form with an investigation of Baroque minuet and trio form, the antecedent of Classical minuet and trio form. The importance of courtly dance in 17th-century France is discussed, as is the development of stylized dances. This lecture lists the most important and popular dance types to come out of 17th-century France, among which the minuet and trio was pre-eminent. The French minuet and trio form is demonstrated with a movement by Jean-Baptiste Lully. x
  • 21
    Classical-era Form—Minuet and Trio Form
    This lecture continues the discussion of minuet and trio form begun in Lecture 20 with an examination of Classical minuet and trio form. Late 18th-century composers extended the formal structure and the expressive content of minuet and trio to create movements appropriate for the multimovement instrumental genres of the Classical era. With minuet and trio movements by Mozart and Haydn as examples, we examine the highly stylized minuet and trios of the Classical era. We discuss the meaning and origin of Köchel numbers as they apply to the music of Mozart, and examine the reputation and personality of Joseph Haydn. x
  • 22
    Classical-era Form—Rondo Form
    This lecture continues the examination of Classical instrumental musical form with a discussion of rondo form. We discuss the antecedents of rondo form—the French rondeau and the Baroque ritornello (or refrain) form. In a Classical rondo form movement, the rondo theme is the central musical element, not the departures from that theme. Movements by Beethoven and Haydn are demonstrated as examples. x
  • 23
    Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 1
    In Lectures 23 and 24 we examine sonata-allegro form, but first, we observe the life and personality of the extraordinary Wolfgang Mozart. We discuss the many meanings and uses of the word "sonata." The fourth movement of Mozart's Symphony in G Minor, K. 550, is analyzed and discussed in depth as an example. x
  • 24
    Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 2
    In Lectures 23 and 24 we examine sonata-allegro form, but first, we observe the life and personality of the extraordinary Wolfgang Mozart. We discuss the many meanings and uses of the word "sonata." The fourth movement of Mozart's Symphony in G Minor, K. 550, is analyzed and discussed in depth as an example. x
  • 25
    Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 3
    This lecture completes the survey of the Classical instrumental musical forms with a continuation of sonata-allegro form. Two additional sonata-allegro form movements are analyzed and discussed: the first movement of Haydn's Symphony No. 88 in G Major, and the overture to Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. Regarding the overture, we examine the long, tragic introduction that precedes the brilliant and comic sonata-allegro form and question its meaning here at the onset of the opera; it is an element to be discussed at length in Lecture 29. x
  • 26
    The Symphony—Music for Every Person
    This lecture explores the Classical symphony as both an orchestral genre and a social phenomena—it had become by the early 19th century the musical property of the rising middle class. The Baroque antecedents of symphony are described and discussed; a Baroque, Italian-style overture by Handel is compared directly to an early Classical symphony by Johann Stamitz. We then examine the tremendous influence of opera on the genre of symphony. x
  • 27
    The Solo Concerto
    This lecture examines the Classical solo concerto. We discuss the perfection of the violin family and the invention of the piano during the Baroque era, primary instruments for the concerto repertoire during the Classical era. We discuss the invention of the piano and compare the sound of an early piano to a harpsichord. Mozart's incredible piano concerti—27 in all—are discussed as a pinnacle of his compositional output. The first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major is examined as an example of both the Classical solo concerto and double exposition form. x
  • 28
    Classical-era Opera—The Rise of Opera Buffa
    Lecture 28 explores the development of Classical opera buffa: the ideal operatic genre for the Classical era's more realistic plots, more "natural" music, and more common characters, over the Baroque era's formulaic nature in opera seria and the domination of these operas by singers and virtuosic singing. We will consider Jean-Jacques Rousseau's objections to Baroque opera seria and his unqualified support of the new opera buffa as the ideal opera for the Enlightenment. Finally, we will sample Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's opera La Serva Padrona, a work embraced by Rousseau as a model for operas of the future. x
  • 29
    Classical-era Opera, Part 2—Mozart and the Operatic Ensemble
    We discuss the operas of Mozart with special attention to Don Giovanni. We then discuss the nature and content of an opera buffa finale. As an example of Mozart's unparalleled ability to sustain a musical-dramatic line, this lecture features a hearing and discussion of Act I, Scene 1, of Don Giovanni. We examine the Act II finale of Don Giovanni, when the tragic music that initiated the overture returns with the entrance of the statue and the Don's subsequent (and fiery) demise. x
  • 30
    The French Revolution and an Introduction to Beethoven
    This lecture discusses the life of Ludwig van Beethoven and the revolutionary times in which he lived. In comparing Haydn's Symphony No. 88 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, we emphasize the fact that Beethoven's symphony does not reflect a period style but is, rather, a self-referential art work. We explore Beethoven's early life and progressive hearing disability to understand the sources of his rage, alienation, and independence. We also explore the elements of heroism, radical change, revolution, and Napoleon that helped to inspire Beethoven's music and allowed its acceptance. x
  • 31
    Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 1
    Lecture 31 describes Beethoven's mature compositional innovations and artistic beliefs through the example of his Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808). Beethoven's four compositional periods are described and discussed, as are his great compositional innovations. These innovations are all a function of Beethoven's essential artistic tenet that music composition is self-expression above all. We rapidly but vigorously examine his Symphony No. 5, paying special attention to his idiosyncratic use of Classical musical form and his remarkable motivic development. x
  • 32
    Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 2
    Lecture 32 continues describing Beethoven's mature compositional innovations and artistic beliefs through the example of his Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808). Beethoven's four compositional periods are described and discussed, as are his great compositional innovations. These innovations are all a function of Beethoven's essential artistic tenet that music composition is self-expression above all. We rapidly but vigorously examine his Symphony No. 5, paying special attention to his idiosyncratic use of Classical musical form and his remarkable motivic development. x
  • 33
    Introduction to Romanticism
    This lecture introduces the Romantic era. The difference between Classicism and Romanticism has to do with expressive content, as Romantic composers sought to express more and more in their music: to paint pictures, describe complex emotions, and tell stories in instrumental terms. This lecture also examines the legacy of Beethoven's vision of music as self-expression. Finally, we introduce and examine four Romantic trends that will be studied in detail over the next few lectures. x
  • 34
    Formal Challenges and Solutions in Early Romantic Music
    This lecture explores a paradox encountered by many early Romantic composers: the spontaneity and creative freedom of the composer being at odds with the preordained musical form. This lecture discusses the formal solutions embraced by composers who chose to abandon Classical form, and focuses on two miniatures: lieder or German language songs, and instrumental miniatures. Works by Franz Schubert and Frédéric Chopin are used as illustrations. x
  • 35
    The Program Symphony—Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 1
    This lecture is the first of two to explore a great Romantic original—Hector Berlioz. In 1830 at age 27 he wrote his Symphony Fantastique, a work that combines his four great loves: the drama of Shakespeare, the musical storytelling of opera, the symphonic genre of Beethoven, and himself. We examine the gestation of the symphony, the fixed melodic idea that is heard in each movement and that represents the "beloved image," and the final two movements. x
  • 36
    The Program Symphony—Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Part 2
    This is the second lecture to explore Hector Berlioz. In 1830 at age 27 he wrote his Symphony Fantastique, a work that combines his four great loves: the drama of Shakespeare, the musical storytelling of opera, the symphonic genre of Beethoven, and himself. We examine the gestation of the symphony, the fixed melodic idea that is heard in each movement and that represents the "beloved image," and the final two movements. x
  • 37
    19th-Century Italian Opera—Bel Canto Opera
    This lecture begins a four-lecture examination of 19th-century opera. In this lecture, early 19th-century Italian opera is examined as a popular art, the product of a highly profitable media industry. The style of this opera is called bel canto; its essential composers were Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gioacchino Rossini. Rossini's opera Il Barbieri de Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), is used as an example of the bel canto style. x
  • 38
    19th-Century Italian Opera—Giuseppe Verdi
    This lecture continues the examination of 19th-century Italian opera with the life and music of Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi was not an innovator or reformer; his operatic style evolved as he sought ever-greater refinement of dramatic line, singing technique, and literary truth. He elevated the role of the orchestra and favored characterization and dramatic truth over the vocal prettiness of the bel canto style. The final scene from Verdi's opera Aida is heard and discussed. x
  • 39
    19th-Century German Opera—Nationalism and Experimentation
    In this lecture we examine early 19th-century German opera, which developed rather late compared to Italian and French opera. Genuine German opera evolved from native German roots, not by imitating and adapting Italian operatic plots and singing style. The lecture discusses the rise of German literature and musical theater in the late 18th century in the works of Goethe and Mozart. It examines 19th-century German opera as an experimental tradition, using as an example Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz. x
  • 40
    19th-Century German Opera—Richard Wagner
    We continue to review 19th-century German opera with an examination of the life, ideas, and music of Richard Wagner. Wagner was a revolutionary who sought to radically reinterpret the function and substance of music drama in the mid-19th century. This lecture explores his early life and his paternity, an issue of great importance to Wagner's emotional development. We observe Wagner's ideas about opera, music drama, and Gesampkunstwerke (synthesis of the arts). We turn to the overture and Act I of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde as an example of Wagner's use of the orchestra, leitmotif, and the impact of the ideas of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer on his own vision of music drama. x
  • 41
    The Concert Overture, Part 1
    We return to the realm of instrumental music, specifically late 19th-century orchestral program music. We will define and discuss major genres of 19th-century orchestral program music and Shakespeare's importance to 19th-century music. We introduce the life and personality of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and conclude with an in-depth examination of his Overture-Fantasy to Romeo and Juliet. x
  • 42
    The Concert Overture, Part 2
    In this lecture we continue to discuss major genres of 19th-century orchestral program music. We discuss Shakespeare's importance to 19th-century music. We introduce the life and personality of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and conclude with an in-depth examination of his Overture-Fantasy to Romeo and Juliet. x
  • 43
    Romantic-era Musical Nationalism
    This lecture examines the trend of folkloric musical nationalism during the second half of the 19th century with a brief history, followed by a discussion of musical exoticism. Ultimately, the lecture turns to Franz Liszt, perhaps the most representative instrumental virtuoso/composer of the 19th century, and his composition Totentanz. x
  • 44
    Russian Nationalism
    We turn to 19th-century Russian musical nationalism with a brief history of St. Petersburg, a city built by Czar Peter I as his window on the West. Russia's entry into the greater European community as a result of the defeat of Napoleon and the Decembrist Revolution of 1825 are discussed, as is the growing conviction that the language and native music of Russia were capable of the highest artistic expression. The music and ideas of the Russian Five—Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Borodin—are discussed and illustrated, with special emphasis on Rimsky-Korsakov and his Russian Easter Overture. x
  • 45
    An Introduction to Early 20th-Century Modernism
    This lecture seeks to explain the historical inevitability of early 20th-century modernism by surveying musical and expressive trends from the Baroque era through the late 19th century. With an expressive language pressed to the breaking point, with a new scientific and technological world at hand, and the thrill of a new century about them, will the best young composers be content to work within the same melodic and harmonic language as their great-great-grandfathers? Clearly, they were not. x
  • 46
    Early 20th-Century Modernism—Claude Debussy
    This lecture explores early 20th-century modernism with an examination of the life and music of Claude Debussy. We discuss the alienation of French artists from Austrian/Germanic models and the increasing French cultivation of the French language in the arts, both visual and musical. We observe and analyze the music of Claude Debussy, a French-language-inspired music that represented an extraordinary break with the past in compositional and expressive content. x
  • 47
    Early 20th-Century Modernism—Igor Stravinsky
    We continue our exploration of early 20th-century modernism with a discussion of Igor Stravinsky. He gained almost instant fame in Paris with The Firebird in 1910, which displays aspects of tradition and innovation, the latter marked by Stravinsky's idiosyncratic use of rhythm. Stravinsky's early experiments with rhythmic asymmetry and layering reach a pinnacle in Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) (1912), an experimental high point discussed and examined during this lecture. x
  • 48
    Early 20th-Century Modernism-Arnold Schonberg
    In this lecture we conclude our exploration of early 20th-century modernism with Arnold Schonberg. He saw himself not as a revolutionary but as the next inevitable step in the history of German/Austrian music. To that end, we discuss the elements of German music from the Protestant Reformation through the 19th century. We explore and discuss Schonberg's "emancipation of dissonance" through which he attempted to free his music from the shackles of traditional tonality while maintaining the traditional elements he considered his birthright. As examples of Schonberg's "freely atonal" music, we discuss three songs from his seminal Pierrot Lunaire (1912). x

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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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How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 335.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to listen to and understand great music I’ve listened to only 3 of the cd sry so far - terrific for someone like me who is not a music buff!
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Making Learning Fun I'm about half way through this course and enjoying every minute. The professor makes the material fun and completely accessible. Adding the historical & biographical asides is invaluable. The vast material is broken down into manageable pieces. It's hard to stop listening.
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great opening of the mind to anybody who loves m We bought this product to understand music better and it ends up that it is replacing cable news in our evenings. We were so please that we purchased another course of this professor
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good course, and well worth the money thus far. We have watched seven lectures.
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and detailed explanations I bought this as a DVD download a few weeks ago and am enjoying it enormously! I am a life long music lover but had never studied music, and I am amazed at learning so much about music and how much it is changing the way I listen to music -- actively, now, instead of passive. The instructor is excellent; he gives detailed and clear explanations and his lectures are well organized, which is saying a lot because the material he covers is complicated and the topics inter-related. Highly recommended!!!!!
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough & Informative This monumental work by Professor Greenberg provides those of us who have not studied music an unforgettable insight into its development as far back as the 14th century. Upon finishing this course, one has a deeper understanding of why we like, or dislike, certain types of music. We see a progression throughout the history of Western music and can better appreciate how complex music was and is. The level of detail presented by Professor Greenberg is almost overwhelming but is actually just a healthy challenge. One can learn a lot from this course but should probably keep the Course Guidebook nearby for reference. Unfortunately the glossary contains only a few of the many terms used throughout the course. We must overlook his propensity to use all too frequently dangling introductory participial phrases and instead concentrate on his message of music. Still, sometimes it can be a bit distracting.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent. I bought this as an audio download to listen to in the car. I often find myself parked at my destination not able to exit the car until the lecture is over. Highly recommended it if you are interested in the history and structural changes of Western music throughout time.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lot of fun This class was very informative. I am a music lover, but my knowledge of "Great Music" is somewhat limited. This course filled in a lot of gaps for me. The professor is entertaining, although sometimes his humor is a little silly, so his lectures are fun to listen to.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg is among the finest Professors. He makes tough to digest topics vivid and captivating, keeping a thorough discussion fresh through witticism.
Date published: 2017-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes Music Fun and Interesting Dr, Greenberg has an encyclopedic command of music history and all its fascinating attributes. Moreover, he is an enthusiastic, energetic, dynamic speaker who holds your attention throughout each lecture. And he's funny too. He has produced many great courses; I have several, and I would not be hesitant buy more. This man is a treasure.
Date published: 2017-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining, informative, and up to date. The professor is very engaging and up to date. He is entertaining at the same time he is extremely informative. This is one of the best if not the best course I have purchased!
Date published: 2017-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A revelation I did not know much about classical music before starting this course, though I loved some specific works of it. Now Professor Greenberg has really opened some new perspectives to me. Really a great teacher. I have already bought some of his other courses here.
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation I have completed over half of this course and I found it very informative and enjoyable. I had completed the "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music" and liked the professor so much I ordered this course. Dr. Greenberg has a unique teaching style that might turn some people off but I found him very interesting (maybe because I am about the same age).
Date published: 2017-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned a ton I've been meaning to thank the instructor for years. Almost feel we are personal friends because I've listened and re-listened (and shared w/family members on long road trips). This course was very challenging (and I have 3 advanced degrees), and it doesn't talk down to students, which I appreciated. My goal was to better understand the mind and work of my adult son, who is a classically-trained composer, and to improve my own listening skills. Except for the cheesy canned applause (a sound I grew fond of over time), I thoroughly enjoyed this course and immediately moved into an even more challenging course by the same instructor. He is lively, witty, and dead serious all at the same time. Bravo.
Date published: 2017-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Teacher of Music I'm posting the same review for the many courses offered by Robert Greenberg I have taken. He is superb at explaining music, how it works and why it feels the way it does when you hear it. His courses greatly enhance my appreciation of the music, not just soon after taking his course but over the years thereafter.
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and entertaining I now make the time to listen to my chapters, looking forward to each one !
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing instructor! Dr. Greenberg's knowledge of music history is phenomenal. The breadth of information he presents is vast indeed, and he does this with skill and humor. Highest rating for his presentation. That said, I wish he had spent far less time on pre-Baroque music. This may just be a matter of personal taste, but I found the great detail he provided on subjects such as music in the middle ages and madrigals to be tedious. I would have much preferred a deeper exploration of composers such as Mozart, Bach & Beethoven, and would have especially liked his critique on contemporary music such as Presley, the Beatles, rap, etc. Since this is such a long (and pricey) course, I would love to see the subject broken down into smaller segments, such as pre-Renaissance music, 18-19th century music, modern (i.e. 1920 and later) music.
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Generous and Edifying I think this is the third R. Greenberg course I have audited. He is one of the best lecturers featured by TGC. I appreciate him because he is (1) enthusiastic, (2) generous, (3) opinionated, (4) analytical and (5) amusing. His enthusiasm is infectious. Nobody wants to listen to somebody who doesn't care about the topic at hand or--in the course of a long career--has grown jaded about it. Greenberg has catholic tastes...which leads to another great quality--his generosity. He is a judicious admirer of the music of these artists and he acts as if he *really* wants you to understand why. He empathizes with their foibles while enumerating their (many) strengths; showing how they changed musical history. Greenberg is opinionated and this is wonderful because it brings some needed drama to a medium in which you are listening without being able to respond. His declarations act as a foil to the passive reception that is an unavoidable characteristic of a pre-recorded lecture. While this could be (very) annoying, it is ameliorated by his analytical approach. He justifies his strongly expressed opinions by reasoning and the experience of listening to the pieces of music about which he opines. So you get a chance to form your own judgments under his tutelage, albeit in a much-accelerated manner. My favorite parts of these lectures are his mini-biographies of the composers but my second favorite parts are where he attempts to demonstrate how the artists are accomplishing their effects. Lastly, the guy has a corny sense of humor that makes you like him (or maybe feel sorry for him) if you weren't otherwise so inclined. The best thing I can say about him is that he *cares* about the music he loves and about teaching you to love and understand it better than you do.
Date published: 2017-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific - will enhance my enjoyment of music. The fact is, I'll do this course again. I'm on lesson 14 of 44 and can already tell there will be benefit to starting again when I'm done. The professor is terrific. Sure, he throws his arms around a bit and other things which might be annoying in personal conversation but THIS is how a terrific Prof gets his love and passion for the subject across. Hey, great music is to what we hear on the radio what cool-aid is to wine. It MUST be understood to truly even notice what's happening. There are many layers which can't be truly appreciated without some background in the reasons, technologies, and understanding of music of the time in which the Composer created the music. One of the other reviewers said this information would diminish his pleasure but I couldn't disagree more strongly. --The professor is terrific --The level of depth here is great (any more and I couldn't handle it) --The choice of material is terrific --The value of the course is very good. I hope to build an appreciation of music which will grow for the rest of my life and this is a great start. The only problem: Don't expect to see me buying any more courses soon - I've got my hands full! =)
Date published: 2017-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course I am about two thirds of the way through the course, and I have been extremely happy that I decided to invest the time and money. Concert music always seemed completely inaccessible...but not anymore. I was hesitant to make the purchase because of a few negative comments I read about Robert Greenberg's style of teaching. I am glad I did not listen to his critics. He is an excellent instructor, and I plan to take more of his courses. He knows his material; he is passionate; and he does not hesitate to add a bit a humor into his presentation. I do find that I need to give him my undivided attention if I want to keep up. I do not have a musical background, but that does not keep me from understanding the lectures.
Date published: 2017-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Listen to and Understand Great Music Such fun to hear someone with knowledge and enthusiasm and love for Music! Brightens my commute immeasurably.
Date published: 2017-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to Western Classical Music I bought this for my niece and nephew to help them better appreciate European Classical Music. It is a very thorough course that is engaging and easy to understand. I have a DMA and can attest that I even learned some new things from it. My only criticism would be that the opera clips show the staging as well. That would make it even better.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Outstanding! I thought I would get an overview of music and why some is considered great, and learn about composers, etc. But this class is so much more and absolutely incredible. Professor Greenberg is a powerhouse of an educator and seems to know absolutely everything there is to know about music and it's history. He's great at giving over the information and I'm truly and completely blown away by this class. Thank you so much! I look forward to many more Great Courses!
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect for this course I am learning a great but am overwhelmed by all the information. Can imagine listening to the material more than once.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course! This is really a great course! I thought I had a good understanding & appreciation for music but this course was both enlightening and enjoyable. I enjoyed the teaching style and humor, the history and the analysis of the great musical pieces, the story of how one period developed into the next. Definitely recommended!
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Listen to and Understand Great Music took me, a music lover who is illiterate in music, and showed me how and why great concert music was composed the way it was. This has increased my appreciation of great music tremendously. Professor Robert Greenberg is a superb musical scholar but, equally, a wonderful teacher. Everything was explained clearly. He patiently repeated major themes of a previous lecture at the beginning of the following lecture. He even threw in New Jersey humour which made me wonder if his real last name isn't Soprano. The name would fit with his passion for music. I recommend this course to any and all who want to better understand great concert music.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The lecturer is outstanding. One can tell that he is very passionate and knowledgeable about the subject. But he is not highbrow, interjecting humor and sarcasm when appropriate. I've gone through the lectures through the Baroque era. Anxiously awaiting the start of the Classical era and beyond!
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just started but has already exceeded expectations. Instructor is one of the most animated in The Great Courses.
Date published: 2017-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots to think about! This lecture series is targeted at college students. I am listening to it with my 3 elementary aged homeschool kids. We listen to it when we are driving around. Much of it goes over their head, but they are really enjoying it and it in many ways compliments the world history they have learned so far from a very different perspective. I gave 5 stars because I am enjoying and learning from it and so are my kids!
Date published: 2017-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg Mastery! Greenberg is a master of the subject! His mastery of history, philosophy, and music is beyond compare. Not only is his lecture informative, but extremely entertaining and witty.
Date published: 2017-02-05
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