The Joy of Listening to Music

Product Details
Author(s): James Sepulvado
ISBN: 9781644963388
Edition: 1
Copyright: 2020
Available Formats
Format: GRLContent (online access)



Overview of
The Joy of Listening to Music


Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Overtone Series

You are reading this in English and you probably understand that there are families of languages that have evolved over time. For instance, there are a group of Latin languages that include Italian, French, and Spanish, which came from Latin and evolved separately after the fall of the Roman Empire. Similarly, there are other families such as Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, and Sino-Tibetan. All of these families of languages have evolved over time and continue to change today just as we continue to add new words or new meanings to existing words.


Chapter 2

Elements of Music Part I: The Three Dimensions of Sound

The majority of this book is intended to act like a travel guide for you as you journey through the history of music. The first few chapters are designed to help prepare you for that journey and for what you will encounter. In this Chapter 3, we will explore the elements of music. This can be thought of analogously to learning to identify the ingredients when you taste food. You take a bite and there are a number of dimensions to the experience such as the texture, sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and savoriness that combine to make a satisfying (or unsatisfying) dining experience. In music, we can break music down into dimensions of melody, harmony, rhythm, form, texture, and timbre. In this chapter, we will consider the first three of these elements.


Chapter 3

Beyond a Three-Dimensional Musical World: Timbre, Form, and Texture

In this chapter, we will explore three lesser known musical elements known as timbre, form, and texture. While melody, harmony, and rhythm are traditionally thought of as the essential components of music, you will learn in this chapter that timbre, form, and texture are also vital elements that play a key role in how we experience music.


Chapter 4

How to Listen To Music

You may find the title of this chapter strange in the sense that you almost certainly have quite a bit of experience listening to music. In fact, when you stop to think about it, one can almost not go anywhere without being bombarded by music. Whether you are at the grocery store, a coffee shop, a waiting room, the car, on hold on the phone, watching a movie, or almost anywhere, there is music. Now, to be sure music serves different purposes in those various places and the way we listen to music changes accordingly. In this book, we are again focusing on Western Art Music from the last several hundred years; so it is worth taking a moment to explore the different ways we listen to music and how we can maximize that experience.


Chapter 5

A Brief History of Musical Time: From Bone Flutes to Auto Tune

We are nearly ready to embark on your journey through musical time but before you go, I hope to give you an overview of the journey and ask some big questions along the way. In fact, you may have already started to ask yourself some of these questions as a result of some of the big ideas we have already encountered in Chapter 1. For example, we have discussed several times so far, the profound idea that every society that currently exists or that we have record of having existed in the past, has made music. In our discussion of the overtone series, we learned that many of the same patterns that govern the way we experience music extend beyond humans into the animal kingdom. The largeness of these ideas lends itself to some large questions that we will explore below.


Chapter 6

Ancient and Medieval Music

In Chapter 5, we discussed the origins of music making and its potential purposes. Inadvertently, we also covered the vast majority of music history, though we did not have much in the way of specifics as to how the music sounded. We certainly did not have any recordings or pieces of music with sheet music that can be recreated. This is because for those many, many of the earliest years of human music making, we simply have very little evidence as to what music sounded like. This makes it all but impossible to discuss in a class setting.


Chapter 7

Music of the Renaissance

We have arrived at a point in our musical journey through time where historical records are much better preserved. The Renaissance period, which spanned 1400 to 1600 A.D., is rich with examples of sheet music using a modern notation system giving us a much more clear sense of exactly how it sounded. Moreover, the music that survives today is not exclusively from the Catholic Church and thus gives a broader perspective of culture from the time.


Chapter 8

Music of the Baroque

Welcome to the Baroque Era! It is a time of passion, drama, emotion and impulsivity. In contrast to both the Renaissance before and the Classical Era after there is a deliberate emphasis on the subjective aspects of human experience. What do I mean by this? Let’s use a metaphor to try to explain.


Chapter 9

The Devout Master: Johann Sebastian Bach

We reach a milestone point in our journey through musical time today as we get to know one of the true geniuses in the history of music. I have mentioned before that this book is meant to be a brief introduction to music history in the West and that we don’t have the luxury of spending a good deal of time on any given subject. Despite that need to move quickly, there are a few composers we will encounter along our journey who are so important and contributed so much that they get their own chapter. Bach is the first of those composers.


Chapter 10

The First Viennese School Part I: Haydn and Mozart

This is a very exciting and busy time in history. It is a time of revolution both politically and philosophically as Europe finds itself in much transition. Politically we see the birth of democracy and the spread of political uprisings and revolutions across the Western world. This political revolution is driven by a philosophical and scientific revolution known as the Enlightenment. During this time period, we see the birth of America, the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and two of the most famous names in the history of music in Mozart and Beethoven. Welcome to the Classical Era.


Chapter 11

The First Viennese School Part II: Beethoven

We meet the great genius Beethoven in the context of the previously discussed Classical Era of music, paralleling the Era of the Enlightenment in Philosophy and Politics as well as the Neo-Classical Era in Visual Art. The same Historical and Cultural context surrounds Beethoven though it is worth mentioning how much more directly and explicitly Beethoven reacted to his time. Whereas Mozart poked at the aristocracy and engaged in a sort of cloaked, nuanced satire regarding the inequities of class in European society, Beethoven attacked it directly and bluntly. As you will soon read Beethoven lived a life of difficulty and pain, yet the hopeful theme of human liberty and beauty flows from his music in a way unparalleled by any composer before or since. Let us get to know the man and then, more importantly, his music.


Chapter 12

Early Romanticism

While the enlightenment and Classical Era were defined by Apollonian values of logic and form, here in the Romantic we see the pendulum swing back toward the dramatic, emotional, and all things Dionysian. The Romantic Era in music parallels the Romantic Eras of visual art and literature, though the exact dates do not line up exactly across the arts and literature. In many ways the Romantic Era can be seen as the “Golden Age” of Western Art Music, or what we commonly refer to as Classical Music. We see an explosion of master composers across Europe and arguably the high point of Opera in terms of its popularity. This chapter focuses on the first several decades of the Romantic Era with Chapter 13 dealing with the latter half of the era. In many ways the specter of Beethoven continues to linger over Western music and art broadly.


Chapter 13

Late Romanticism

In Chapter 12, we witnessed the reaction of Berlioz, Chopin and Wagner to the legacy of Beethoven in the early years of the Romantic Era. As the 19th century progressed we see an intensification of Dionysian values and a reaction against Wagner. Everything discussed in Chapter 12 in terms of musical stylistic trends continues including the prevalence of program music though we begin to see the increasing influence of nationalism. In Finland, we see Sibelius write his great masterpiece Finlandia, a semi-programmatic celebration of his home country. In Russia, we see the rise of “The Mighty Hand,” a group of five Russian composers all writing nationalistic music celebrating the folk music of their country. France later responds with “Les Six,” a group of French composers writing in a similar style. Throughout Europe we begin to sense the inexorable specter of the great coming war and even music becomes enthralled in that movement.


Chapter 14

Tonal Music Is Dead: The Second Viennese School and the Avant-Garde

The death of Mahler marked not just the passing of a single composer but the end of a unified approach to Western Art Music. The story of Western Art Music of the 20th century is a story of fracturing and division. On the one hand, there are a group of composers who continue to write music that basically sounds like what we are used to hearing and we will get to know those composers in the next chapter. On the other hand, in the first decade of the 20th century we see a group of composers emerge determined to write a very new kind of music. The first generation of these composers challenge one fundamental aspect of music, which being the concept of tonality. The generation of composers that follows them, broadens that challenge to many fundamental aspects of music, eventually creating a whole new musical landscape of extraordinarily diverse styles. In fact, the differences in musical style become so pronounced as to challenge the idea of what music is in the first place. We call this music generally the Avant-Garde and it remains active to the present day. In this chapter, we will explore these rebels and innovators and the music they created.


Chapter 15

Tonality in the 20th Century

As previously discussed in Chapter 14, the 20th century is a fractious time in music history. We explored the Avant-Garde movement and its challenging of fundamental aspects of music, but they were not the only composers during the 20th century. Standing opposed to the Avant-Garde was a very important group of composers who kept tonality intact but strove to find new ways to invigorate and innovate music.


Chapter 16

American Art Music

You may have heard America referred to as the Great Experiment. This refers to the choice the founders of this country made to pursue democracy, at that time the least successful form of government in history. The story of America is not defined solely by our form of government but also by the ideas that our country was founded on, most notably the idea that All Men (people) are Created Equal. As our nation of immigrants has grown, we have had to endure many challenges with mixed results.


Chapter 17


There is little debate that America’s single most important cultural achievement is Jazz. Since its birth just over a century ago, Jazz has spread around the world in a way that has been revolutionary to music. In many ways, the story of Jazz is linked with the story of America and represents what is best about America. In this chapter, we will explore the origin of Jazz and quickly learn about some of its great practitioners.


Chapter 18

Popular Music

We have reached the final destination in our journey together through musical time. It has not been a complete journey by any means as we have focused on art music from the West but it has been an eventful journey I hope. I think it is worth pointing out the elephant in the room here in that we have been studying the 20th and 21st centuries from different perspectives the last several chapters and yet it is probably not until this chapter that we have come across much music you knew before you started this class.