I need to start this review with my background and motivation for my review to make sense in context. I would like to consider myself a fairly well-educated person holding multiple degrees from three different universities. Somehow, though, my education completely omitted anything involving music. Sure, I was required to take fine arts electives in high school and college, but I managed to miss music appreciation entirely. Needless to say, I have never picked-up an instrument, know next to nothing about music fundamentals, and have not one ounce of music talent or ability.
This deficiency in my education never caused a problem until I learned that my daughter is required to learn an instrument and take music during middle school. Thankfully, my wife played an instrument through high school and has at least some ability to help my daughter as she starts this part of her education. I do not, however, like being ignorant and do not want to be in the position of being utterly clueless about what my daughter is learning. Thus, I am motivated for the first time in my life to learn at least something about music.
I have experience with the Great Courses series and thought this would be the place to start my delinquent musical education. I am glad that I did. The professor uses a historical approach, which works well with the way that I think, and takes the student through Ancient Greek music all the way through the early part of the 20th Century. A complete list of the topics can be found on the Great Courses website.
The professor presents the thesis throughout the course that music is a mirror of the people who composed it and the time in which it was created. This is a long course and requires a lot of dedication, but the professor slowly builds a vocabulary for the student helping someone like me with zero background begin to understand the way that music is composed. I will freely admit that much of what the professor explained still went over my head, and I frequently turned to Wikipedia for more background information. I decided as my next class to listen to the professor's course on Understanding the Fundamentals of Music to continue building on my knowledge.
I bought many of the musical works he discussed in the class so I could listen to them in their entirety and see if I could pick-out some of the details learned from the course. I still feel like a near idiot, but I was proud of the progress I made. For instance, I can now listen to a traditional four movement symphony by Haydn or Mozart and understand why the second movement is typically slow and the fourth movement is typically fast. I can now provide a semi-intelligent answer to explain the stylistic differences between Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. If nothing else, I at least now know which came first. I still have a very long way to go, but I at least have a foundation on which to build. I can honestly say that I now have an interest in classical music (excuse me, to use the terminology from the course—"concert music") and appreciate listening to it, even if I am not yet picking up on all of the subtleties. The professor has not yet inspired me to go so far as listening to opera in my spare time, but I am now eager to learn more about music.
If I have any complaint, it is that I would like more guidance on where to go from here. There are more than a dozen courses in the Great Courses collection by this same professor. It would be nice to have a recommendation at tend end on which courses to take in which order to build a good, solid foundation of musical understanding. I assume the music fundamentals course that I just started is a good second stop on this journey, but I wonder what the professor would recommend in terms of taking courses on specific composers, the class on the symphony, the class on great orchestral works, etc….
As a closing note, I read criticisms of the professor in other reviews for his frequent, sometimes corny, jokes. I might be in the minority, but I actually liked most of his jokes because it made the material more relatable and kept the mood lighter, though, yes, the jokes can be corny at times. This is a course that could have very easily turned into a high-brow, hoity-toity snob-fest designed to intimidate the neophyte listener. The professor's casual, yet respectful, attitude kept that from happening. This was an excellent course for a complete beginner, and I imagine that someone with more background would get even more out of it.
Perfect balance of explanation and demonstration. Learned, genial teacher makes difficult ideas accessible. The pieces studied will be "owned" forever by the student.
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.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I've spent the last four weeks immersed in this Great Course. I feel like I am coming away a changed, better person--enlightened, with my interest in classical music rekindled. I took an elective course in college many years ago, music listening, but I haven't experienced this type of music since then, with very few exceptions. This course changed all that.
Professor Greenberg is simply amazing. I feel really privileged to have the chance to listen to his 48 lectures. He is sharp as a tack--brilliant, actually. And he brings to it such enthusiasm and such a love of music! Add to this a sharp sense of humor that is ever-present and which gave me so many little bursts of laughter through out this marathon listen.
To add to the enjoyment of listening to great music excerpts, Professor Greenberg tells anecdotes of the individual composers' lives. This made them come alive for me--they were not just names to associate with music but actual people struggling with life like all of us. Very colorful people, indeed. How can I ever forget the story of Hector Berlioz' lusting romance with his "Henriette?" How can I not want to listen to the music of Liszt after learning his story?
Greenberg has succeeded here. I strongly recommended this audiobook if you want to reignite your interest in great music. It is educational but also pure fun!
With an undergrad in Music, I thought going into this would be a lot of repeat of things already known. I couldn't have been more wrong. Fascinating stuff. Beware though, 48 lectures can be quite a bit to take for the novice.
I feel fortunate to have learned from Prof. Greenberg, for I have a habit of starting new things and losing interest. It is because of him and only him that I have mastered this course. I have even read his notes and done a repeat of listening to his lectures, which is unprecedented for somebody like myself who suffers from ADHD. A personal 'thank you' to Prof. Greenberg for his mastery of the subject, his passion for teaching and his genuine empathy and generosity toward his students, even if faceless in this situation. Thank you, Sir!
This course has really helped me learn and have a greater appreciation of western music throughout history. From music terminology to understanding the historical context, operas, concertos and other works make much more sense! The enthusiasm of Robert Greenberg helps you to understand the significance of the music. I look forward to going further in depth into specific composers and eras after listening to this.
All of the elements of this work contributed to its success. Professor Greenberg is a powerful teacher and profound scholar in that he takes us into the love of his life, and shares with us everything we ever wanted to know about music, how it works and why it is so indispensable and elemental to us.
Professor Greenberg breathed life into each historic character he has presented here, including the character of the music he introduces us to.
My favorite moment is the course so far has been the reviving of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for our listening ear. We are able to see the brilliant intention and architecture of Beethoven, rescued from the oblivion of its own success as an icon of our society.
No. This is an audio book that shifts the Person of your being, because music changes us. If you give yourself to owning this work as Professor Greenberg has given himself to preparing it, you cannot possibly be the same person, and such changes take time. My words seem extravagant to our all too sophisticated "Talking Head" sound-bite sensitivities. However, we have trivialized our lives, and this work helps us back to a gravitas we thought lost forever.
Born in Ohio, lived in California, Alaska, and now Texas
Really great lecturer, but just too much detail for my taste and interest level. I know nothing about music and learned a bunch, but had enough about 1/3 of the way through.
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.