I have over 50 Teaching Company courses and this course is one the best. I'd rank it in the top 5 of all the TeachCo courses I have taken. Both educational and entertaining (frequently, downright funny), the course offers a broad survey of Western music starting in the Middle Ages up through the early 20th century.
I had listened to several of Professor Greenberg's other courses prior this one, and all of them are good. As a speaker, he has an engaging and accessible style, yet he is still able to deliver the pedagogic goods via inventive analogies and repetition, as needed, without making it feel dull or like you're in a classroom. (Or, if you are in classroom, it's like your favorite teacher of all-time.)
If you are interested in music and haven't experienced one of Professor Greenberg's courses, this is be a good one to start with because it will give you an idea of where you might like to dive deeper. I did it backwards, listening to some specific courses first (as an aside, the course on Bach is fantastic!) and then trying this survey course, but wish I had started with this one. Even as a survey, it is expansive - (48) 45-minute lectures - and greatly furthered my understanding of music.
Absolutely. Bloody. Marvellous.
Too many to single out. There were several moments that I considered "Aha-Erlebnisse", as experienced through Prof Greenberg's insights, naturally.
Jes' hisself, of course. The more you listen, the more you appreciate his humour and presentation.He has a genius for offering great insights against a background of light-hearted banter. And his enthusiasm is irresistible.
I've been a lover of "classical" music and opera all my life, but have had no formal training in music. Can't even read a damn note. In spite of this shortcoming, and regrettably unable to grasp some of the more subtle technical points, I've been able to follow the lectures in broad flow with pure pleasure. Many of his comments are "stunners", and I'm not joking. Just a single example: He remarks, after a glorious explanation of the passacaglia form as used by Bach, that the passacaglia can be regarded as a “metaphor for the invisible hand of God controlling the rich chaos of the everyday”. This just took my breath away (and not that I'm a believer). Old, and feeling depressed? Get this. Even better if you're young and your mind is still fresh.
Greenberg is passionate, lively, funny, and always crystal-clear.
I thought a lot of early music, including plain chant and the madrigal, were not for me. Boy was I wrong!
Almost every time he plays an excerpt that he's been describing, I'm moved.
I fell in love with great music rather late in the game, at age 22, without any knowledge. I've always steered clear of explanation and analysis, fearing that intellectualizing music would throw a wet blanket over my enjoyment. I was wrong. These lectures have increased my enjoyment enormously.
I have bought and listened about 20 audiobooks so far and without hasitate I can assure this is the best of all.
I consider myself as a complete music ignorant, though I like it. My previous audibooks where none of them about music nor art appreciation. I'm an engineer and without any prior music education.
Though this audibook gave the basis to start understanding great music. Gave me the basis to open my own road in music appreciation.
A phat and big round TEN for Robert Greenberg.
That is exactly what this audibook is: a story!
Robert Greenberg nailed it from the 1st chapter all along the last one. He explained with great humor, knowledge and humble, the human history and where every piece of music and composer fits. He explained the different ages with great detailed but never pretentious. This is the perfect formula for any person without any prior music knowledge to be involved in this wonderful world.
Robert's sense of humor, intelligent and even sarcastic comments
The moment I started understanding some Mozart's movements.
The moment I started to differentiate the inner structure of menuettos, sonatas, passacaglias, fuges, rondos, etc.. I started to realize that this was the perfect audiobook for a guy like me.
The moment my ipod started to be filled with classical, baroque, romantic music, operas and not just to hear them, but to own them.
This audiobook really moved me because I am not a passive listener any more, now I understand, now they are not Beethoven's, Mozart's, Debussy's any more, now I'm active, now they are mine.
I really want to thank Robert Greenberg for this wonderful work. I do not know him personally but I believe he changed me in a deep and aesthetical manner.
Absolutely, lots of insightful information
Guillaume de Machaut
I have listened to classical music all my life, but never really had a deep knowledge of its forms or history. This lecture series has given me a much deeper understanding and greatly broadened my musical pallet.
I especially enjoyed the history of ancient music.
This is my third listen from the Great Courses. All have been very good, but this one was absolutely wonderful. I can't recommend it highly enough. I am one of the least musical people I know. I have no musical training, and one of the worst tin ears I know. Robert Greenberg was both highly entertaining and very clear. He made me understand concepts that could not be more foreign to me.
For me, the course accomplished four things: 1) it explained concepts like polyphony, conjunct vs disjunct, and melisma, giving me a vocabulary to describe what I hear in a way I was never able to before.
2) it explained various musical forms and the rules they follow, allowing me to know what I should be listening for in a particular piece of music, so that I can actually follow along instead of just listening and saying "that's pretty."
3) it provided an overview of the history of western music, with all of its different periods, what each contributed to music theory, and what each was philosophically about.
4) it exposed me to enough actual works of music that I was able to decide which periods (The Romantic), composers and works (too many to name here) appeal to me, and that I want to hear more of.
If there was one negative, it is a small one. The Audible editions of The Great Courses come without written materials. Since this course is a minimum of $350 on the GC website and I got it for my $15 credit, I can't say it was a bad decision. With most courses, I never even notice that the written materials are missing. With this one, while I still found it very easy to follow and enjoy, there were many times that I wished I had the materials. He would discuss notation and refer to the materials, for example. I would wonder how to spell terminology I only heard pronounced. Now that it's over, I definitely wish I could just glance through a list of all the composers and works I had heard throughout, to refresh myself as to which ones I wanted to listen to more. Still, the course was very easy to follow without them, and it was definitely a small price to pay for 95% off.
The professor has a large number of other courses from the company, and I am actually tempted to immediately dive into another one. Since I already have a backlog of other courses I purchased in a sale, I am forcing myself to move on to something else. But I am certain I will be listening to more of his courses soon, and will almost certainly be listening to this one again in the future.
That's great music?
(does that count as three?)
When I was a very young being (yes, before the war ...) I was convinced that, one day, within the span of my lifetime, I would be able to understand why "that guy in the orchestra is threatening the girl with a stick - and if he is not, why the heck she doesn't stop screaming".
This course has fulfilled one of my great wishes: To understand what some people consider "great" with that "old" music. For this I am grateful. Really, deeply, honestly grateful. I found an approach to Mozart (and more important composers) that I would not have considered possible (since I don't find Mozart's music that impressive - although I LOVE orchestral music).
What I still do not get is: Why this music types should be considered "greater" than any (and I mean: ANY) other type of professionally composed, orchestrated, conducted and played music. While I do "understand" now, what some people find interesting in Mozart, Wagner(?!) or Schönberg, the examples provided in the course weren't able to demonstrate the "greatness" of the music (or their composers) to me. Sorry. I like some stuff of it, I dislike others - but I frankly don't care if it is "great" music or just "good" music, if it tells me something and moves me.
Ok: Just take "great" out of the title and this course is a "no-brainer" (how strange that expression seems ...). Get it. Listen to it. I did - I did not skip a singe minute.
I would, can and already have done several times: Recommend this course to ANYONE who feels even the slightest interest in "understanding that kind of music". The course is approachable, understandable, moving, pulls you with it, gives ideas and inspirations for "further listening" and, not the least point, each lecture ends before it gets too hard to keep up with the enthusiasm of Prof. Greenberg!
I really loved the ideas about how Mozart might have reacted to later music compositions, although I somewhat doubt he would have done it the way presented here. Still, the idea of how he might have felt is very believable.
The sheer length of the course doesn't make listening to it in one "tour de force" unlikely. Besides, you need time to think through, iterate over and "try out" what you heard. You have to listen to different (in many cases: better) recordings of the music excerpts presented.
This book is for people interested in the matter - not for people wanting to get "smart" by listening to a course and "be done".
A complex course and shortened overview over such a huge matter as it is presented in this course cries for discussion. There are many, many things that I can not agree on with Prof. Greenberg (having some historical education myself). Examples would be the role the (Christian) Church has played according to Mr. Greenberg in regards to preserving art (his point of view) instead of actively destroying it or concentrating it on a minimalistic "mainstream" (mine).
A point that Prof. Greenberg seems to love is "musical typology is driven by spoken language", which does make sense to some extend. The examples of (German) spoken language he presents don't resemble typical "German" to me, though. One could be mean and counter with "Well, if what Prof. Greenberg says is true, then typical contemporary American music must be ugly, arhythmic, stuttering - because that is the way that I speak American". German does have variations (dialects) and even sub-types. German has not been the "language of art" through all centuries, so basing musical typology on "German" as an American speaks it today is irritating at best.
Sure - nitpicking I am. These are just examples of topics I would like to discuss, which, unfortunately, does not work in a one-way-communication like this course. There are many hickups begging to be pointed out, yet, none of these render the course any less worthy.
Get it. Listen to it. Open up a world you did not think interesting or worth examining ever before!
(Well, if you DID understand classic, romantic and whatsnotic music before, you probably bought the course for the fun of being doped with ecstasy for the topic by the tutor, didn't you?)
Professor Greenberg delivers a well produced and enjoyable set of lectures full of information, wit and enjoyment. His ability to interest the mind and to connect the listener with the construct is amazing. I enjoyed every minute.
He made each piece of music come to life and illustrated the teaching objective very well.
I am better for listening!
Bob Greenberg is very entertaining and charismatic. What I especially liked about this book is the biographies of the composers that you get with the music... and the music! There are great music samples throughout. The only reason I knocked a star off is because it does get a little tedious at times. I actually stopped listening for a while and listened to another book, but I did come back and finish it.
This course is thorough without being overwhelming. It contains interesting antidotes which give the information personality. The benefit of the audiobook format is being able to listen to the selections of the music being discussed.
This is the first "Great Courses" selection that I've made, but this one has piqued my interest in purchasing other Great Courses.
I cannot choose a "favorite" section. There are so many sections that gave me the sense of traveling through time to "witness" the culture and social structure of the period influencing each category of music.
The narrator, Professor Robert Greenberg, is very entertaining. This was important because the course is 33 hours long.
The only improvement I would suggest is a companion quiz or exam to test how well I've retained all of the information.