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Reading, Watching, and Listening

One of the challenges of reading books about music is you can not hear the music. On the other hand, if are listening to music (say on headphones or speakers), you can not see the musicians play or know the context in which it was created. 

I hope to remedy those challenges with this class.

There is an enormous amount of good material already written about classical music. I have taken a number of older books and liner notes (the notes that come with classical music recordings) and edited them together to create a single story of music.

Alongside that, there is an enormous number of live performances available online for watching and listening. I have found the best available performances of the most famous pieces of music 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 is over 400 years of music and includes all 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 Mahler, Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Gershwin (and 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 reading/watching sections that will each take about 40 minutes to complete.
  2. One quiz that covers the three reading/watching sections.
  3. A Listening step that includes playlists based on the lesson content.
  4. A Watch step that includes complete performances
  5. Additional reading/watching sections and performances of longer works that are marked with “{+}”

In the step marked Listening Journal, Research Papers, and Projects—just a couple of clicks away—you’ll find suggestions for deepening your exploration of music through additional tasks or integrations with other courses you may be taking.

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 2 hours
  • Quiz: 30 minutes
  • Listening: 1 hour
  • Watching: 30 min to 1 hour
  • Journals, Research Papers, and Projects: 1+ 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.