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Reading, Watching, and Listening

One of the challenges of reading books about music is you can’t actually hear any music. But one of the challenges of listening to music on headphones or speakers is that you can’t actually see the musicians playing or learn anything about the background of the music. 

I hope to remedy those with this class. There are many great books written about classical music, so I’ve taken a number of them and pulled out sections to create a single, illustrated story of music. Along with that, there are many live performances available online. I have found the best available and woven them together with the text.

This means that as you read about Mozart’s piano concertos, you can see one performed. When you read about the string quartet, you can watch a performance of two violins, a viola, and a cello. This is the way music was intended to be enjoyed: as a performance.

Following the Story

Classical music performances go back many hundreds of years. We will therefore follow the story of music starting in the middle ages and continuing up to the early 20th century. That’s over 400 years of music and includes most of the essential composers and works of classical music.

We will start with the Medieval Age and the Renaissance. We will then look at the Baroque period including Handel and Bach. From there, we will explore the Classical period with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Once we reach the 19th century, the story continues into the Romantic era with Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Wagner, Brahms, and more. Finally, we will enter the 20th century with Debussy, Ravel, Sibelius, and Gershwin (plus a few others).

These names may not mean much to you now. My hope is that by the time you are finished, you will consider them new friends.

Putting the Pieces Together

The course comprises 16 lessons. If taken weekly, the course fits into a semester. Each lesson has the following sections:

  1. Three to four reading/watching sections.
  2. Watching sections that provide complete performances.
  3. One quiz that covers the three reading/watching sections.
  4. A Listening step that includes playlists based on the lesson content.
  5. Optional reading/watching sections and performances of longer works that are marked with “{+}”

According to HSLDA, half-credit courses should log approximately 80 hours of work—5 hours per week. Here’s one weekly schedule for the course, following the basic structure above:

  • Reading/Watching sections: 1.5 to 3 hours (they get progressively longer in later lessons)
  • Quiz: 30 minutes
  • Listening: 1-2 hours
  • Watching: 30 minutes to 1.5 hours

The course pieces are flexible and allow you to tailor the amount and difficulty of work to your student.

Listening Library & Equipment

This class will also provide ways of listening to music providing links to albums and playlists on various subscription platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. This will also act as recommendations for the best performances, if you want to purchase them yourself digitally or on CD.

I will also give advice on choosing listening equipment for various setups, whether you want to listen on headphones or build your own stereo system.