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What did you love best about Music as a Mirror of History?
Greenberg's obvious command of both history and music, and the extensive research that informs his expertise. The interdisciplinary nature of the course is unique.
What other book might you compare Music as a Mirror of History to and why?
I'd suggest that Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" (which I've listened through three times over the years) is somewhat similar, with that title emphasizing music and bringing in history, and "Music as a Mirror" emphasizing history and bringing in music.
What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
This question may be better suited for actual audiobooks rather than Great Courses. That said, a helpful pdf booklet does accompany this course, and while Greenberg seems to follow it closely (I looked at the booklet only after finishing the course), he adds plenty of vintage Greenberg comments and metaphors, and additional musical and historical material which isn't in the notes.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No, but this is not a criticism. This is not a book, per se, but a series of twenty-four lectures. Each lecture is entirely self-contained.
Any additional comments?
This course was interesting, and accomplished its purpose: "we’ll explore the ways in whichhistory inspired the creation of certain musical works—and how thoseworks interpreted and memorialized the history that inspired them" (p. 2 in the notes). Greenberg is clearly in his element(s) as he combines history and music in a most interesting interdisciplinary fashion.
I had purchased this course thinking that Greenberg would major a bit more on music as a mirror of philosophy -- that is, how music reflects the way of thinking that a composer embraces in the context of his larger culture, and how philosophical underpinnings contribute toward the music of a particular time and place differing from the music of another time and place. In actuality, Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" seemed to give more attention to that particular point than this course, which instead emphasizes the way that particular historical events influence particular composers and musical compositions. This is by no means a failing of the course; I was incorrect in my expectations, in that the course is "Music as a Mirror OF HISTORY", not "of Philosophy". Greenberg definitively demonstrates that many musical compositions are historically rooted, and often (as Greenberg emphasizes in the course) motivated by war (see p. 9 in the notes).
I learned a good deal of history in this course. Greenberg is working with historical vignettes, of course, but often "goes deep" in giving a quite extensive historical context -- not just the historical context of the time a piece was written, but the historical backdrop that brought things to where they were when a piece was written. Among the bits and pieces I picked up that were interesting to me: I didn't know that "Columbia" (from Christopher Columbus) was used as the poetic name for the United States; I was unaware of Beethoven's love-hate attitude (if I could put it that way) toward Napoleon, the history of La Marseillaise, the financial severity of the Great Depression, and the difficulty non-Russians have in understanding the Russian mind. Musically, I heard Chopin's Revolutionary Etude with new ears (long familiarity had dulled its impact) and now understand a bit better just what an "etude" is; I was thrilled to discover Copland's Third Symphony; I gained a more accurate understanding of the circumstances behind Handel's Water Music; I finally can put some content to Wagner's The Ring. I'm motivated to do some research on the following, among other things: the antisemitism of Richard Wagner, and just how late in United States history that antisemitic laws were still on the books; the connections between Wagner's The Ring and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings; the history of Paris and of New Orleans; the African influence upon American music; Eleanor Roosevelt's role in encouraging musical progress during the Depression; Haydn as a Roman Catholic; the devastation of Poland by the Nazi regime; Dvorak as a "ringer" brought to the United States by Jeannette Meyer Thurber to found a distinctive American school of music. I was intrigued by Greenberg's discussion of the musical technique known as "pastiche," and would love to explore its intersection with the notion of intertextuality in literary works. I'm also motivated to listen to a number of the works which were excerpted or referred to in the course, such as Copland's Symphony No. 3 and Gorecki's Symphony No. 3. I list all of the above items to gesture at the broad reach of this course.
Greenberg is always an engaging lecturer. That said, the sometimes-lengthy sections of historical context did at times become a bit tedious and hard to follow. But Greenberg does an outstanding job in making a potentially dull subject much less dull.
The course notes accompanying the audio are excellent. The bibliography in the course notes is quite impressive, and even more remarkable is the extent to which Greenberg engages his sources. The bibliography is not just there for show.
I am a parent who is interested in providing musical education for my children. For others like me, who might consider supplementing their children's education with this course, I will note that this course does have a few instances of vulgarity (generally in quoted material) and sexual innuendo. The intended audience appears to be college and above.
48 of 49 people found this review helpful
Professor Robert Greenberg can be an acquired taste but once acquired he is humorous and enthusiastic with subject matter that needs that approach or it might be depressing. Will definitely listen to more of his work!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This is a beautifully constructed course that takes pride of place on my Audible bookshelf.
The lectures are delivered with passion and gusto and set the scene for key historic events, context and respective pieces from around the world.
Highly recommended indeed!
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
brilliant narration, adds great context for 24 pieces of music, (almost) all new to me. strongly recommend.