Edifying lectures/talks on classical music?
January 23, 2014 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I found the performance lecture series by Andras Schiff (via theguardian.com) to be a really enjoyable and education listen, in terms of learning more about and appreciating classical music (classical in the broad sense of the category). Are there other similar talks available done by musicians or music teachers?

Schiff's 8-part lecture series:
posted by polymodus to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Hellooo Everyone.
If you can find any copies of Adventures in Good Music with host Karl Haas, you will be delighted. I know kids from 3 different generations who all listened to this with their parents. Over 40 years of weekly classical music discussions. They are fantastic.
posted by CathyG at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Bernstein giving the Norton Lectures.

A lot of the Norton lectures by composers are pretty good, but they aren't all available for listening that I know of. For example, the Stravinsky and Copland lectures I believe are only available in print. The Copland lecture, Music and Imagination, is a great lecture and worth a read. The Stravinsky lecture is a lot of opaque, but still very interesting.

There's also this awesome lectures by Christopher Hogwood.

posted by Lutoslawski at 3:27 PM on January 23, 2014

I also found these lectures from Yale, which I haven't listened to (yet) but I'm sure they are great.

Also a pretty cool list here.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:33 PM on January 23, 2014

Oh, also The Norton Lectures by Leonard Bernstein(!)

(Edit: oops, appears that's been said!)
posted by mermily at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2014

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition
Possibly available at the public library.
posted by Fortnight Bender at 5:51 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Biss is hosting a coursera MOOC on Beethoven in March.
posted by lownote at 7:04 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Robert Greenberg's other Great Courses series are also wonderful, but I'd start with How To Listen To And Understand Great Music.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:24 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've got to second (or third) the Robert Greenberg recommendation. If you start with the How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, you can probably skip anything pre-Baroque. You can even jump in with his course on Beethoven's symphonies and he explains a lot of the fundamentals when he goes over the first couple of symphonies.
posted by alidarbac at 7:56 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This may be more than you have time for, but Coursera has some music courses available:

Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

Introduction to Classical Music
posted by Bokmakierie at 8:45 PM on January 23, 2014

Sorry, lownote. I missed your comment.
posted by Bokmakierie at 9:40 PM on January 23, 2014

I'm a classically-trained professional musician, and I'd like to make a case for NOT delving into this stuff. Non-musicians always assume there's stuff they need to know to really fully appreciate music. But here's the big huge secret: if you listen to a lot of music with an open mind, you are hearing all you need to hear. Learning more will not increase your enjoyment. The underpinnings are stagecraft, and just like you don't need to know how your carrots are sliced in a restaurant to swoon over the deliciousness, or know how pigments are mixed to be moved by a painting, "sonata form" and the intricacies of canons and theme development - and all the rest - is mere scaffolding.

The scaffolding is important to know if you're in the business, but all that work and stagecraft is applied, ideally, to creating a RIDE for you to take. And I'd urge you to take as pure, open, and personal a ride as possible. Don't let others overlay their perspective, and don't feel like you need to delve into the scaffolding. Consider: watching puppet shows, you'd spoil your experience if you fixated on the strings. You want to lose yourself in the magic of the puppets....tha'ts the point!

Same with music. Lose yourself in the magic. It doesn't make you lazy or ignorant or dilettante. It makes you exactly the anointed beneficiary the composers were writing for! Sit back and LISTEN...really LISTEN! That is sufficient, I promise!

That said, if you're someone who has trouble being moved by music, if you find it confusing or dry, and you need someone to act as a sort of personal trainer, pushing your emotional buttons and encouraging you to listen deeply......or if your restless mind needs lots of FACTS about what you're listening to, because the sensual experience alone bores you....then that stuff's fine. Consider it remedial help to get to the point where your ears are open and sensitive and involved.

But if you're a sensitive listener, just go for the ride. Don't let yourself be influenced by a bunch of words about the ride. If what a composer was trying to express could be expressed in words, the composer would have been a novelist rather than a composer!

And if you listen a LOT, then your opinion and impressions will be every bit as appropriate and respectable as those of any academic or expert. Listen like crazy.

posted by Quisp Lover at 10:19 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Shoot, I didn't really get to the gist in that last posting. I phrased it as "You don't really NEED to...." when my intended point was "You're better off NOT doing...."

Here it is tersely: Musicians (and people with musicians' knowledge) don't appreciate more. We appreciate less. We cooly notice the strings while everyone else watches the puppets. That's not a better way, it's incalculably worse....but that's what happens when you start acquainting yourself with scaffolding.

Just watch the puppets! Love the puppets! It doesn't get better than that! For god's sake, don't try to hear music as musicians do!
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:29 PM on January 23, 2014

Thirding the Bernstein Norton Lectures.

Also, Aaron Copland's 'What to Listen for in Music' is an interesting read. YouTube has playlists of the music he writes about.
posted by lowest east side at 2:27 AM on January 24, 2014

Those excellent Cousera courses are really a drop-in set of videos and optional discussion forums/exercises. Coursera's doing a great service making them available for free and so flexibly.

Their Beethoven teacher is a pianist, one of the world's great young Beethoven interpreters and an outstanding explainer for laypeople to boot.

I'm a working classical musician and I think random informal learning is great. Definintely wouldn't agree that "learning more will not increase your enjoyment," but clearly opinions vary!

I do agree that broad listening is a fantastic teacher. Try classicalarchives, the best subscription service for classical music (it's not perfect -- for example its mobile client is limited and clunky -- but it has an incredibly large/deep selection compared to the classical selection of any other streaming service).
posted by kalapierson at 5:50 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've heard Rob Kapilow on the Kojo Nnamdi Show (WAMU) a few times. Worth checking out, his approach is "what makes it great?"
posted by stinkfoot at 1:32 PM on January 24, 2014

Response by poster: Great answers everyone, thanks!
posted by polymodus at 2:41 PM on March 5, 2014

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