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How to listen to and understand great music

My favorite radio station moved to online only broadcasting. Which means the minutes and hours I spend behind the wheel are now more difficult to entertain. But I remembered about How to listen to and understand great music, which I mentioned in a previous post. So here it is, the review I wrote a couple of years ago, about the Robert Greenberg’s music appreciation course. Enjoy (again).

killed by the sound

Killed by the sound, collage by Wood Be Nice // Photo by Alexandra Pandrea

What do you think about when I say classical music? Does it make you think of a too profound, difficult, intimidating sort of music to grasp? Does it seem like an impossible pass time for a quiet afternoon at home or to include in a night out schedule? Does it make you feel oh so small, insignificant and artless?

Well, no reason for that whatsoever. And Robert Greenberg‘s How to listen to and understand great music (by The Teaching Company) is just what you need to light your way in the world of great music: an unconventional music appreciation course. Death to the idea that concert music is a sterile and irrelevant thing best suited to a prissy class of unhip and dusty cognoscenti. This is how Robert Greenberg starts his introductory lecture and, along with his warm and friendly voice and well-timed jokes now and then, he does a really good job at leaving preconceptions behind.

Concert music (and not classical music, which is the music from ancient Greece and the music composed between 1750 and 1827 – this is a distinction that Greenberg brings out clearly from the beginning) is not to be listened to only in music museums, symphony halls or opera houses. The 48-CD collection, each a 45 minutes lecture presenting music creations from the Middle Ages to Early 20th Century, is a Eurocentric history of music, meant to bring concert music in our daily lives, as a living expression of its time and place. You might say that you don’t have the 2160 minutes to listen to ramblings about music you don’t really feel you understand. I urge you to listen to the first lecture, at least, and that might go a long way. Or might make you ask for some more.

Why should we even consider taking time to learn to appreciate concert music? Music, the most abstract and sublime of all of the arts, is capable of transmitting an unbelievable amount of expressive, historical, allegorical, metaphorical, metaphysical and even philosophical information, provided that our antennas are up and pointed in the right direction. Music is a pleasant way to cultivate imagination, abstract thinking, problem solving skills. Music, as an universal language, is a means to understand the social, cultural and aesthetic traditions of different times and places. It is a way to understand and share humanity in ourselves and to open our imagination and to give way to wisdom that, otherwise, would not be accessible to us.

The lecturer, professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University and received his Masters Degree and PhD with distinction in Music Composition from the University of California at Berkley. He is currently chair of the Department of Music History and Literature at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is also an award winning composer and received commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation of the Library of Congress.

If you feel like making yourself or some close, music afficionado, friend of yours a great gift, you might consider investing in this absolutely great and easy to understand, better yet, feel music appreciation course.

* Information about Robert Greenberg and italic quotations taken from the introductory lecture of How to listen to and understand great music. Please note that this is not an advertising post. This collection makes for a lovely audition, so it’s a recommendation coming from the heart.

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