June 13, 2014

Gain Classical Music Appreciation from these Free Talks and Courses

For all you music lovers out there, we’ve collected this list of classical music and opera appreciation audio & video titles. We’ve included a course from Yale on how to understand Western music, introductions to many opera with San Diego’s show Opera Talk, and a debate that pits Verdi vs. Wagner hosted by Stephen Fry. This selection also includes Robert Greenberg on his definition of music, Oliver Sacks on music’s relationship to the brain, and more titles with musical examples to help you listen as you learn. Get a rounded introduction to classical music, key composers, and different musical styles by clicking any of the links below:

1. Listening to Music

Probably the best free course online for learning how to gain appreciation classical music is this free course from Yale entitled simply “Listening to Music”. Professor Craig Wright, who is the author of the textbook Listening to Music, teaches the class starting with the basics of appreciating music from the understanding of pitch, rhythm, instruments, melody and harmony. He then dives into the various classical forms such as sonata, rondo, fugue, and so forth, expanding into works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and much more. It’s an amazing free course available on audio and video.

2. San Diego Opera Talk

Watch great introductions to operas with San Diego Opera Talk from UCTV. Host Nick Reveles covers over 30 of the greatest operas of all time in these 30 minute programs. The format of the show examines the composer and how the opera came to be, and then goes into the plot of the opera. Reveles then interviews an expert on each opera to provide further insight. He also sits down and the piano and breaks down musically some of the opera’s highlights, along with pointing out some of the greatest recordings of each opera. It’s an excellent free introduction to specific operas.

3. Music: Heart, Soul and Dollar – Robert Greenberg

Listen to this thrilling lecture delivered by charismatic professor Robert Greenberg and offered by the Chautauqua Institution. Dr. Greenberg has recorded more than 500 lectures on a range of composers and classical music genres for The Great Courses. In this lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, Dr. Greenberg provides his definition of music and gives examples of what constitutes as music that deserves our attention. He also talks about three performances that were forthcoming at the Chautauqua Institution, covering pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich and Johannes Brahms. This lecture is available through FORA.tv on streaming video. You should also check out the amazing courses that Robert Greenberg has done for The Great Courses: Robert Greenberg Courses from The Great Courses.

4. Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion

Lift your spirits with the power of classical music! Conductor Benjamin Zander shares his passion for classical music in this TED talk. While the statistics say 3% of the population are classical music lovers, Zander attempts to prove that we are all lovers of classical music. He takes listeners on a journey of what he calls one-buttock playing where the pianist is moved with the music and in turn moves the audience. He then plays a Chopin prelude and proves that nobody is tone deaf. This talk is available on streaming video and MP3 download from the TED.com website.

5. Verdi vs Wagner: the 200th birthday debate with Stephen Fry

Watch this debate over the two giants of 19th century opera. Hosted by Stephen Fry and complete with a full orchestra playing some of each composer’s finest works, this debate serves as a nice introduction to the life and music of Verdi and Wagner. Norman Lebrecht argues that Verdi is ultimately the more popular composer and not without good reason. Philip Hensher argues that Wagner is the more complex composer who is able to bring to his stories the emotional characters that a novelist can. Great selections of music from each composer are inserted throughout the debate.

6. And these aren’t directly about classical music but they’re just fascinating:

Music and the Brain Video Series on YouTube

Music and the Brain Audio Podcast

Watch or listen to this great series from the Library of Congress on streaming video or audio podcast. Project chair Kay Redfield Jamison convenes scientists and scholars, composers, performers, theorists, physicians, psychologists, and other experts to talk about cognitive neuroscience and music. Here are some of the lectures in the series:

“The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature”: In this short talk, author Daniel Levitin suggests that in human history music came before language, and that throughout history music has almost always been accompanied by movement.

“Depression and Creativity Symposium”: Kay Redfield Jamison, Dr. Terence Ketter, and Dr. Peter Whybrow take a look at depression and bipolar disorder and their possible connection to creativity. They specifically discuss artists like Vincent van Gogh, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn.

“The Mind of an Artist”: Cognitive psychologist Michael Kubovy and composer Judith Shatin suggest that language and music are very closely related in the brain, and Kubovy shows findings on the brain’s reaction to different types of music in comparison to the cognition of language.

“Music, Criminal Behavior, and Crime Prevention”: Norman Middleton of the Library of Congress Music Division starts the lecture with providing examples of how music has been used in regards to preventing crime and treating criminals. Then Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott talks about ways of discouraging criminal activity and anti-social behavior through the use of music in different environments.

“Wellness and Growth: Acoustic Medicine and Music Therapy”: Jayne Standley, director of the Music Therapy Program at Florida State University, introduces music therapy and the many ways it has been applied in the medical profession while showing video examples of successful music therapy.

Enjoy these and many more lectures on “Music and the Brain” in this series of talks from the Library of Congress.

And a bonus talk by Oliver Sacks on music and the brain:

7. Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia

In this lecture from FORA.tv, neurologist and author Oliver Sacks (who authored the popular book Awakenings) discusses his latest book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. He tells stories about his many patients over the years and their experiences with music both as an affliction and a treatment for the brain. Sacks purports that human responsiveness to music is intrinsic to the human brain. This lecture is offered on streaming video through FORA.tv.