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Music as a Mirror of History

Written by: Robert Greenberg,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Robert Greenberg
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Publisher's Summary

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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2016 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Music as a Mirror of History

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  • 2018-09-13

Informative and entertaining

A great listen - totally exceeds my expectations!
Professor Greenberg provided the historical background and context for the featured pieces, and this - together with his humor when narrating - makes all the difference. Truly enjoyable, entertaining and insightful. This is one of the audio books that, as I listen, I keep hoping that I won't reach the end of the chapter so soon!
#Audible1

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7 people found this helpful

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Lack of structure

Rambling. The narrator’s tone of voice was, I felt, quite patronizing to the listener and rather breathless in its disclosure of “incredible facts” which seemed not particular incredible to a person with a very basic understanding of the key events in European history.
Other professors doing these courses use tones of voice that suggest they give their readers more credit. They also seem to understand that we are looking for new knowledge from learned sources. We are not looking for an entertainer. The problem may have been the description of the course. I understood that the course would be an app overview of significant moments in European and possibly American music as those moments were informed by and themselves impacted or documented historical events. I feel that I got more a collection of the authors’ musings on wide range of topics loosely connected to the themes of music and history, bouncing from one to another with no discernible structure. It was pitched to about a middle grade student. Maybe the course would be wonderful for some who expected a loose collection of ramblings and didn’t mind a tone of voice reminiscent of Jack Palance doing his trademark breathy “believe it or not!” It was not advertised clearly and I was disappointed.

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3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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It's Great!

This was pretty relaxing to listen to. I liked Robert Greenberg. He was engaging and made me laugh, my favourite joke was when he called Putin Voldermort's lookalike. As well as during these lectures I got lost in his telling of history only to wonder why is he talking about a composer or why is concert music playing all of a sudden, only to remember that's why I am listening to these lectures. It's a compliment because I like it when I can get lost in one of the Great Courses and just learn something new.
The point of these lectures is to learn about the historical contexts of someone music's great pieces (as well as one of music's no so great pieces) and it did it's job extremely well. It made me feel a greater appreciation for the composers and their work, enough that I went on youtube to listen to the pieces.
I would have liked some older music included, but as it stands it is great.

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    4 out of 5 stars

lecture not a book

going into this you need to know it's a series of lectures that are awesome though both disconnected and repetitive. it's long but so fun if you know about music or know absolutely nothing about technicalities.

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Brilliant

Robert Greenberg did it again. He delivers another audio equivalent to a ‘page turner.’ But this course is rather different from his others, insofar as he spends much more time on history - not simply music history but history history. In fact, Greenberg proves to be a careful and thoughtful historian who provides insight into our human condition through his original approach to history through music. (The lectures on the 20th cent. are sobering….) Highly recommended.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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So so good

I just couldn't say enough lovely words about this course. Outstanding value! An investment in education & pure pleasure at once.

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Best history course so far!

The course itself is great. Information is well presented and the narrator keeps you engaged the entire time.

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Brilliant

Robert Greenberg is by far most entertaining and informative host of the great corses series so far. This corse will keep you learned and laughing through out

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