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How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Great music is a language unto its own, a means of communication of unmatched beauty and genius. And it has an undeniable power to move us in ways that enrich our lives - provided it is understood.
If you have ever longed to appreciate great concert music, to learn its glorious language and share in its sublime pleasures, the way is now open to you, through this series of 4
Audio CD, Great Courses
Published 1998 by The Teaching Company
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Roy Lotz
As I wrote in my review of the standard music history textbook, writers of survey material find themselves in an uneviable position: threading the needle between technical description and subjective response. In other words, a textbook writer must somehow discuss the music objectively, but with an absolute minimum of specialized vocabulary. As a result, even the best writers are bound to fall a little short of perfection.

But Robert Greenberg resolves this dilemma by avoiding writing altogether.
Benjamin Thomas
My friends, this is one amazing series of lectures. This is thanks almost entirely to the professor, Robert Greenberg, whose incredible ability to keep the listener engaged in the subject matter is beyond my ability to describe adequately. He is eloquent, yet down-to-earth; extremely knowledgeable on his subject matter, yet doesn't make the listener feel stupid; humorous without being silly. But most of all, he is super enthusiastic about the material and that certainly rubbed off on me.

Now, I'v
Julie Davis
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I just discovered this was available through Audible for the mere cost of one credit. Just finished the first lesson and have to say that the tidbit about Beethoven at the end was practically worth the price all by itself. I will never listen to that piece of music again without laughing ... brilliant.

Lesson 26: the Symphony, music for everybody.

Miss Allbright: Today's topic will be Hell.
Bart: All right. I sat through Mercy and I sat through Forgiveness. Finally, we get to t
David “Skip” Everling
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
48 lectures, 45 minutes each

Course Lectures:

Sources-The Ancient World and the Early Church
The Middle Ages
Introduction to the Renaissance
The Renaissance Mass
The Madrigal
Introduction to the Baroque
Style Features of Baroque Music and a Brief Tutorial on Pitch, Motive, Melody, and Texture
The Rise of German Nationalism in Music
Baroque Opera, Part 1
Part 2
Baroque Sacred Music, Part 1-The Oratorio
Part 2-The Lutheran Church Cantata
Baroque Instrumen
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This lecture series was amazing. Sure, I did not learn to tell the difference between at Rondeau and a Minuet, or between A and A', or to tell when theme 1 is codaing into theme 2. But I know all those things exist now, which is cool, and throughout the 48 lectures, I listened to a whole lot of great music. And I think, for a little while at least, I will be able to tell the difference between a Mozart and a Beethoven, or a Debussy and a Tchaikovsky...
The professor is funny, passionate and engag
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Greenberg is a masterful teacher. He is very understanding of his novice audience and teaches music appreciation with passion.
I suggest that readers refer to the review written by Benjamin Thomas, which I completely agree with.
Tom Rowe
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This lecture series taught me a lot about concert music. I can now appreciate it on several new levels.
It is so full of information that I could listen to it again and still get a lot out of it. Greenberg is a riot. He is so funny and makes the material so much fun. Towards the end, I even strarted writing down some of his better quotes like "two twists short of a slinky." HA! It would get five stars, but it didn't sell me on opera. I'm still not sure what it is and how exactly it differs from
Oh, fair reader, let me give you some background before I tell you how HOLY SHITBALLS AMAZING this lecture series is.

I almost didn't get this lecture series, because it seems very intro-level and I am *not* intro-level. I studied art and music history for YEARS on a university level. I have played French horn for damn near 25 years now, in more classical symphonies than I could possibly ever count. I have played the piano for 30 years, performance level. I *know* music. But, I was feeling a bit
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m not sure if I should classify this as a book, but who’s counting? This was fantastic. There were some sections that were a bit of a slog, but I’m not a fan of opera so that’s why. This book really kept my attention, and the presenter was great and very funny. Very educational, and I will be looking for more work by this lecturer.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great audio course that I played during morning and evening routine and housework. (Thanks, Alexa!) I have had experience with music theory, but strangely little of the music history and appreciation presented here. I loved the deep dives into various works representative of styles and forms. Normally I would listen to something this long (36 hours, guys!) at an increased speed, but since I didn’t want to distort the music I kept it real. Finishing feels like a significant accomplishm ...more
Mahendra Palsule
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This lecture series was well beyond my expectations. Having both attended and studied music appreciation courses myself and having engaged in sharing that knowledge with others, I know what a challenge it is, to even try. Prof. Greenberg not only excels, but the period and styles of music he covers in this series is as comprehensive as you would ever find anywhere.

The subject matter can become dry and academic a few times in the course of these 48 lectures but these occasions are few and far bet
Jason Friedlander
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've rarely felt compelled to write reviews on this site, but having finished this today I'm moved to express, in all the sincerity that this often-times extravagant claim may purport, that this truly has been life changing for me.

There are few things I find more valuable than being brought into the fold of artistic beauty. To have been given the opportunity to appreciate and invoke hundreds of years of this mystical tradition over the last few months through these lectures has been absolutely
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an audio-class which I listened to in my car (for months upon months!) -- 48 lectures doesn't sound like a lot, but at 45 minutes each, well... it took some time.

Very good class, outstanding professor who made me laugh all the time! What I missed is not his fault -- it was that dedicated note taking, study, and review work that I used to do in college which really cemented the lessons and helped me compare and contrast themes and ideas throughout courses. I would have also liked a few r
Vladimir Mityukov
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-development
Siddhartha Kumar
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, audiobook
I have been a lover of music since my early childhood - runs in the family - and have imitated and performed songs (mostly inside my own head) on numerous occasions. Despite this lifelong love affair with music of all kinds, there was one particular genre of music that always baffled me. Mostly because of my own ignorance, but partially also because nobody else was talking about it. Nobody else in my own vicinity that is. It didn't play on the radio, you won't hear it playing on any of the count ...more
Rafael Rosa
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Professor Greenberg takes us across the centuries to see the evolution and history of music, focusing especially on the works that defined how western music sounds, starting with the greeks and going up to the modernists of the beginning of the 20th century.

It's a long course, 48 lectures of 45 minutes each, but they are really well produced, we hear a lot of music, even if not complete pieces and Greenberg is a good lecturer, I like his style even if I don't like his sense of humour all the muc
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellently put together course - I can't comment on the contents as I'm new to music theory (which is why I picked this course) but the very careful selection of examples, the way they were used to illustrate the individual points through contrast and repetition, and not least of all the incredible enthusiasm of the lecturer made me look forward to each of the lessons as well as feel like I have genuinely learnt a huge deal about music.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books, audiobook
There is no question..I’m significantly snootier now than I was before.
This is A LOT of musical knowledge with not only the breakdown of the most influential pieces of music ever created but also a dive into the lives and backgrounds of the musicians.
Definitely will continue the series with the dedicated lectures for each musician.
Pastor Matt
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'll have to listen to and read this again. I've always wanted to learn about classical music but I have a tin ear and am still feeling my way around learning the ins-and-outs of the greats. Dr. Greenberg is a gifted lecturer. Highly recommended.
Terry Southard
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Completely enjoyable - well, until we get to Arnold Schonberg in the last lecture, and I don't think ANYONE, not even the inimitable Professor Greenberg can make me appreciate HIM.

This is definitely something I will listen to again - even at its 48 lesson length.

Christopher Hellstrom
This was a fun course to listen to. Each of the 48 lectures were engaging and Greenberg's mercurial tangents were very funny.
Nathan Albright
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
Part I:

Forty-eight lectures of 45 minutes apiece may not be enough time to explain the history of Western music and encourage its appreciation, but the genial and passionate Professor Robert Greenberg certainly starts off giving his best effort here.  It is easy to appreciate this selection of songs, even if he returns to the same ones over and over again to look at different aspects of these various songs of the repertoire and how it is that they say something important about the importance of
Roger Feenstra
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Long, sometimes tedious, but my knowledge of the history of music has expanded. Four months to finish!
Daniel Hasegan
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Took me 4 years to finish this but it was well worth it.
Rita Berk
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
Dr. Greenberg lectures on the history of music from plain chant to current music. He explains what the excerpts are and places them in history. He does an excellent job; it is long but worth it.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Over a period of several months, I listened to a little of this audiobook every day, as Mr Greenberg deftly traced the history of Western music from surviving Greek and Roman examples to plain chants, masses, madrigals, fugues, operas, and many other musical forms into the twentieth century in this series of 48 lectures covering musical terminology, structure and composers/history. When I got to the end, I had enjoyed it so much I wanted to start all over again, and I do anticipate doing just th ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've just finished the series, and what a joy driving has become thanks to Dr. Greenberg! To illustrate my ignorance and that I've now actually learned something thanks to him.... I glanced at Chris' shelves and put on Bolero. I'd always labeled it "classical" in my mind, but as I listened to it, it clicked that the music was about timbre (I'd just listened to Greenberg's lecture on Debussy), was experimental, didn't sound classical, and that it had to be "modern"--and then it clicked that Ravel ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
Maybe you're like me. Maybe you have some musical background, but never felt like it was very comprehensive or complete. Maybe, like me, you played an instrument and had an interest in concert music for many years, but could not articulate how you felt about what you liked and didn't like. Maybe you always wanted to be a little more well-rounded as a consumer of culture.
This course, How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, is an incredible gateway to understanding and appreciating Western mu
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Overall, it's been a good (but LONG!) course.

I do wish Greenberg had spent a bit less time on telling jokes or gossiping about composers' personal lives, and more time on concrete musical examples (which were great when he presented them---just not as often as I'd have liked).

The course has given me more appreciation for how novel some old/familiar-sounding works must have been when they were first composed. The first few lectures (pre-Baroque) were particularly good, helping me understand why h
Bill Glover
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
48 lectures, that took a while. I'm glad for the historical context, it was definitely interesting. It's only been a hundred years since the time of recorded music. Before than people lived in mostly music free environment and if they wanted to hear some they had to play it themselves. It's strange to imagine, and interesting to try and figure out the ways in which that's effected every other part of our society across so many ethnic ad cultural boundaries. One of the last books I read was about ...more
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Robert M. Greenberg is an American composer, pianist and musicologist. He has composed more than 50 works for a variety of instruments and voices, and has recorded a number of lecture series on music history and music appreciation for The Teaching Company.

Greenberg earned a B.A. in music, magna cum laude, from Princeton University and received a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Ca

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