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Music as a Mirror of History

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Listening Length: 18 hours and 22 minutes In the worlds of painting and literature, it's easy to see where history and art intersect. In Picasso's Guernica or Tolstoy's War and Peace, it's evident how works of art mirror and participate in the life of their times, sometimes even playing roles in historical events. But what about music? In Music as a Mirror of History, Great Listening Length: 18 hours and 22 minutes In the worlds of painting and literature, it's easy to see where history and art intersect. In Picasso's Guernica or Tolstoy's War and Peace, it's evident how works of art mirror and participate in the life of their times, sometimes even playing roles in historical events. But what about music? In Music as a Mirror of History, Great Courses favorite Professor Greenberg of San Francisco Performances returns with a fascinating and provocative premise: Despite the abstractness and the universality of music - and our habit of listening to it divorced from any historical context - music is a mirror of the historical setting in which it was created. Music carries a rich spectrum of social, cultural, historical, and philosophical information, all grounded in the life and experience of the composer - if you're aware of what you're listening to. In these 24 lectures, you'll explore how composers convey such explicit information, evoking specific states of mind and giving voice to communal emotions, all colored by their own personal experiences. Music lovers and history enthusiasts alike will be enthralled by this exploration of how momentous compositions have responded to - and inspired - pivotal events. Ranging widely across the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, you witness historical moments such as the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Austrian-Ottoman conflict, the Hungarian nationalist movement, the movement for Italian unification, the economic ascent of the US, the Stalinist regime in the USSR, and World Wars I and II. Across the arc of the course, you'll see how these events were felt and expressed in the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Verdi, Wagner, and many others, including modern masters such as Janáček, Górecki, and Crumb, and you'll hear superlative musical excerpts in each lecture. Join us for an unparalleled look into the power and scope of musical art.


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Listening Length: 18 hours and 22 minutes In the worlds of painting and literature, it's easy to see where history and art intersect. In Picasso's Guernica or Tolstoy's War and Peace, it's evident how works of art mirror and participate in the life of their times, sometimes even playing roles in historical events. But what about music? In Music as a Mirror of History, Great Listening Length: 18 hours and 22 minutes In the worlds of painting and literature, it's easy to see where history and art intersect. In Picasso's Guernica or Tolstoy's War and Peace, it's evident how works of art mirror and participate in the life of their times, sometimes even playing roles in historical events. But what about music? In Music as a Mirror of History, Great Courses favorite Professor Greenberg of San Francisco Performances returns with a fascinating and provocative premise: Despite the abstractness and the universality of music - and our habit of listening to it divorced from any historical context - music is a mirror of the historical setting in which it was created. Music carries a rich spectrum of social, cultural, historical, and philosophical information, all grounded in the life and experience of the composer - if you're aware of what you're listening to. In these 24 lectures, you'll explore how composers convey such explicit information, evoking specific states of mind and giving voice to communal emotions, all colored by their own personal experiences. Music lovers and history enthusiasts alike will be enthralled by this exploration of how momentous compositions have responded to - and inspired - pivotal events. Ranging widely across the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, you witness historical moments such as the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Austrian-Ottoman conflict, the Hungarian nationalist movement, the movement for Italian unification, the economic ascent of the US, the Stalinist regime in the USSR, and World Wars I and II. Across the arc of the course, you'll see how these events were felt and expressed in the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Verdi, Wagner, and many others, including modern masters such as Janáček, Górecki, and Crumb, and you'll hear superlative musical excerpts in each lecture. Join us for an unparalleled look into the power and scope of musical art.

30 review for Music as a Mirror of History

  1. 5 out of 5

    11811 (Eleven)

    95% history, 5% music. It still helps to have a healthy interest in both to appreciate their interaction. An outstanding series of 24 lectures. College is so overpriced. Sign me up for more of The Great Courses.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Malloy

    This is the best thing I have "read" in a long time. 24 lectures from Robert Greenberg: each one dealing with the broad historical context surrounding a piece of music. The survey moves mostly sequentially starting roughly around 1700 with Handel moving to London and closing with the Vietnam War and George Crumb's Black Angels. A possible complaint might be that the entire series is focused solely on western music - it is a collection of Eurocentric composers (if you broadly include Russians and This is the best thing I have "read" in a long time. 24 lectures from Robert Greenberg: each one dealing with the broad historical context surrounding a piece of music. The survey moves mostly sequentially starting roughly around 1700 with Handel moving to London and closing with the Vietnam War and George Crumb's Black Angels. A possible complaint might be that the entire series is focused solely on western music - it is a collection of Eurocentric composers (if you broadly include Russians and Americans). I also sometimes find the sound engineering to be poor, especially when Greenberg plays the piano. But for me - when it comes to history - context is everything. These lectures are concise, informative, well-framed articulations of context for each piece. As others have reviewed, the lectures are 90% history and 10% music. But you can always listen to the pieces before and afterward. The thrust of the lectures is not to break down the music technically but rather to understand the pieces as they were understood by the listeners of the time. Greenberg is always excellent - funny, smart, witty, and insightful. This is the best one from him that I have experience so far.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    I've loved studying history since I was a teenager, but it's only been in the last year or two that I have become interested in classical music. Robert Greenberg has combined the two subjects beautifully in this course. Music isn't created in a vacuum and Greenberg shows how the great artists have been influenced by historical events. (Julian Barns's novel about Dimitri Shostakovich, The Noise of Time, is also a great exploration of this subject). Greenberg is articulate, knowledgeable, and has I've loved studying history since I was a teenager, but it's only been in the last year or two that I have become interested in classical music. Robert Greenberg has combined the two subjects beautifully in this course. Music isn't created in a vacuum and Greenberg shows how the great artists have been influenced by historical events. (Julian Barns's novel about Dimitri Shostakovich, The Noise of Time, is also a great exploration of this subject). Greenberg is articulate, knowledgeable, and has an infectious enthusiasm for his subject, making this course a very enjoyable and informative listen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rosa

    Etukäteen odotin kurssin käsittelevän sitä, miten eri musiikkityylit peilaavat historian aikakausia. Kävi ilmi, että kurssi keskittyykin suurien linjojen sijasta siihen, miten tietyt historian tapahtumat ovat vaikuttaneet tiettyihin säveltäjiin ja inspiroineet heitä säveltämään tiettyjä teoksia. Kurssin painopiste on historiassa eikä niinkään musiikissa. En sano, että tämä tekee kurssista huonon, mutta se ei vain ole sellainen kuin odotin. Luennoitsija Robert Greenberg kertoo asiat mielenkiintois Etukäteen odotin kurssin käsittelevän sitä, miten eri musiikkityylit peilaavat historian aikakausia. Kävi ilmi, että kurssi keskittyykin suurien linjojen sijasta siihen, miten tietyt historian tapahtumat ovat vaikuttaneet tiettyihin säveltäjiin ja inspiroineet heitä säveltämään tiettyjä teoksia. Kurssin painopiste on historiassa eikä niinkään musiikissa. En sano, että tämä tekee kurssista huonon, mutta se ei vain ole sellainen kuin odotin. Luennoitsija Robert Greenberg kertoo asiat mielenkiintoisesti, selkeästi ja viihdyttävästi. Jokaiseen luentoon kuuluu luonnollisesti myös otteita teoksista, joita niillä käsitellään, mikä tauottaa Greenbergin puhetta mukavasti. Luennot ovat 45 minuutin mittaisia eikä asiapitoista juttua mielestäni jaksaisikaan yhtäjaksoisesti kuunnella keskittyneesti yhtään pidempään.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emmy Gregory

    Shouty Music Dude always delivers. I love this guy's lectures.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela Chiribau

    Scholarly, witty and irreverent.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aurel Lazar

    This might have been one of the most incredible Great Courses classes I've taken so far. Rarely has something I've consumed given me such an incredible insight into the world around me, and given me a new passion for an entire genre of art. While this series is mostly history, with periodic snippets of music, the presentation and organization was incredible, and truly opened my eyes to why music is the way it is. Greenberg tries to establish a historical frame of reference for major compositions This might have been one of the most incredible Great Courses classes I've taken so far. Rarely has something I've consumed given me such an incredible insight into the world around me, and given me a new passion for an entire genre of art. While this series is mostly history, with periodic snippets of music, the presentation and organization was incredible, and truly opened my eyes to why music is the way it is. Greenberg tries to establish a historical frame of reference for major compositions in Western Music, and goes above and beyond to make that frame detailed and well fleshed out. He dives deeper than dates and places into situations and cultural reasoning that could have driven the actions of European and American History. I feel like I'll have to relisten to this one again, simply because of how incredible the journey from the madrigals of the 1500s to the avant garde of the late 1900s has been .

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alissa McCarthy

    The premise of this series is that despite the abstractness and the universality of music - and our habit of listening to it divorced from any historical context - music is a mirror of the historical setting in which it was created. Music carries a rich spectrum of social, cultural, historical, and philosophical information, all grounded in the life and experience of the composer - if you're aware of what you're listening to. Starting with well-known composers like Handel and Beethoven, it moved The premise of this series is that despite the abstractness and the universality of music - and our habit of listening to it divorced from any historical context - music is a mirror of the historical setting in which it was created. Music carries a rich spectrum of social, cultural, historical, and philosophical information, all grounded in the life and experience of the composer - if you're aware of what you're listening to. Starting with well-known composers like Handel and Beethoven, it moved forward in time to composers I'd never heard of including the Russian Balakirev, Czech Janáček, and American Crumb, all of whom had something to say and did so in sometimes beautiful, sometimes prickly ways.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Deanna Gold

    I have loved every one of Robert Greenberg's Great Courses until this one. It should be entitled Music as a Mirror of War, as it focused almost exclusively on battles and wars, with a little music thrown in. Some of the later segments such as the Arron Copeland segment were interesting, but most were incredibly boring focusing on details of the battles that made my mind wander. I was hoping that this "History" would include intellectual, social and cultural histories, but no, it was all about wa I have loved every one of Robert Greenberg's Great Courses until this one. It should be entitled Music as a Mirror of War, as it focused almost exclusively on battles and wars, with a little music thrown in. Some of the later segments such as the Arron Copeland segment were interesting, but most were incredibly boring focusing on details of the battles that made my mind wander. I was hoping that this "History" would include intellectual, social and cultural histories, but no, it was all about war. I will continue to buy his other survey courses and biographies as they are always incredibly good. In my estimation he missed the mark with this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin Waterhouse

    This was a superb listen. The lecturer was enthusiastic, inspiring, challenging and interesting - a pleasure to listen to. The course was packed full of wonderful new information (well, new to me, as I am only peripherally acquainted with the classical music world) about concert music and how the composers reflected their times through their music, and the history part of the lectures (which was the majority, to be fair) was very well composed as well. I would thoroughly recommend this course to This was a superb listen. The lecturer was enthusiastic, inspiring, challenging and interesting - a pleasure to listen to. The course was packed full of wonderful new information (well, new to me, as I am only peripherally acquainted with the classical music world) about concert music and how the composers reflected their times through their music, and the history part of the lectures (which was the majority, to be fair) was very well composed as well. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who would like an insight into the last 500 years or so as seen from the classical composers viewpoint.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Bronn

    Robert Greenberg has an interesting teaching style. It took a bit to get used to (this is the second lecture series I've listened to by him), but in the end, I really appreciated his perspectives! I loved learning the context of so many artists and famous pieces of music, as well as learning about pieces and artists that I had never been exposed to. He does seem to love the Russian artists more than any others, and I feel like I learned more about Russian history in this series than I ever did i Robert Greenberg has an interesting teaching style. It took a bit to get used to (this is the second lecture series I've listened to by him), but in the end, I really appreciated his perspectives! I loved learning the context of so many artists and famous pieces of music, as well as learning about pieces and artists that I had never been exposed to. He does seem to love the Russian artists more than any others, and I feel like I learned more about Russian history in this series than I ever did in school. Anyway, highly recommended for music lovers and history buffs alike.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. Most lectures played less of the featured pieces than I would expect, and I had thought there would be more of a technical analysis of how the music somehow reflected the the times in which it was composed. It was more of a series of history lectures which happened to be composed around pieces of music, but the history was interesting and filled in a period otherwise unfamiliar to me (roughly European history from the 1700's to the 20th century, with This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. Most lectures played less of the featured pieces than I would expect, and I had thought there would be more of a technical analysis of how the music somehow reflected the the times in which it was composed. It was more of a series of history lectures which happened to be composed around pieces of music, but the history was interesting and filled in a period otherwise unfamiliar to me (roughly European history from the 1700's to the 20th century, with a few extensions beyond), and the lecturer was phenomenally entertaining to listen to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sher

    Once again, Greenberg hits it out of the park. I have so enjoyed every course I have taken from him, which is every one he has taught except the one on Wagner. One day I shall get up the courage to listen to it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Frannie

    I much preferred the earlier episodes as I'm not a fan of classical music written in the 20th century. Loved hearing Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven's stories. Will listen to more of Greenberg. He is entertaining and passionate and informative.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Torrance

    I’ve long been a fan of Robert Greenberg’s work for The Great Courses. After listening to his Shostakovich course, I suspected he’d be great talking more about history and politics. I was right. I give this course 4.5 stars. I’ve long been a fan of Robert Greenberg’s work for ⁦‪The Great Courses. After listening to his Shostakovich course, I suspected he’d be great talking more about history and politics. I was right. I give this course 4.5 stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Brilliant educator with fascinating insights. What a privilege to be able to learn from him without even having to attend an Ivy League school.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Movchan

    ...In all Mary had 283 protestants killed. Most of them burned at the stack. For ever after the queen will be known as Bloody Mary. Though given the methods involved Crispy Mary what is the more appropriate. That is the kind of jokes to develop "refined taste of beauty through music". As if world history is not cruel enough.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I love Greenberg's lectures. This one was more history than music and I was looking for more of a sense of how the music connected to the period.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The lecturer, while sometimes verging on cheesy, did a great job of holding my attention. A great lens to view history through- I wish there was more.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Took music history as part of my degree, but this is a different take on it. Such wonderful pieces here. Mostly, I've got a new appreciation for Poland, its people and its composers.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Magen

    RTC

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    Music as a Mirror of History (The Great Courses) is a book and the author is Robert Greenberg.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

    Not enough music

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Another excellent course from my favorite musicologist, Robert Greenberg. If you're interested in European and American history as well as music, this is the course for you.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Breck Mcgough

    I really enjoyed the information in this course, but Robert Greenberg's "cool guy" writing becomes very old very fast.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  27. 5 out of 5

    Will Wittels

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jim Mitchell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Johnny Mauvetill

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew M

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