Now Hear This

Product Details
Author(s): Donald Bryn
ISBN: 9781644965467
Edition: 1
Copyright: 2021
Available Formats
Format: GRLContent (online access)


Overview of
Now Hear This


For Educators

This text engages student’s excitement about music, overcomes cultural and psychological resistance to unfamiliar music, and places the SOUND of music and its characteristics first, followed by the historical context.



Text Description

Teaching the appreciation of music requires two subsets of education:  facts and skills.  We teach them the facts surrounding music in a historical context as well as listening skills with which to enhance their experience.  Yet often at the end of a music appreciation course, I discover that students can answer factual questions about music history, but still have difficulty recognizing the melody in a piece of instrumental music; they might be able to discuss the lives of performers in the Medieval period but not be able to recognize the sound of monophonic and polyphonic textures. And if I ask them if they appreciate any new music, I am often disappointed with the lack of positive responses.


For the most part, the students in my Music Appreciation classes like music. They often take the course because it is an easier way to meet a requirement and covers a subject they enjoy. So why do we reach the end of a course without having connected their enjoyment of music with a broader range of listening skills and a variety of musical styles?


Two specific reasons for this gap are addressed in this text.


First, students are often limited by their cultural and psychological backgrounds and face the hurdle of their own hidden artistic prejudices. Not only have their artistic experiences been extremely limited, but they often have internalized ideas about classical music being too difficult, beyond their ability to understand, or socially unacceptable. They are also unaware of their own levels of attachment and comfort to the familiar and therefore discomfort with the unfamiliar.


This text directly addresses this issue in chapter one by immediately asking students to become aware of their own prejudices and comfort levels; to transcend their own cultural and temporal experience, as an anthropologist would study a culture. This direct approach gives students control over their own openness to new music and lowers their resistance to foreign ideas.


Second, students need tools with which to listen, understand, and analyze music. In this text, these tools are presented in text, audio, and video. The videos have made a profound difference in the way students understand the musical concepts because in a video format we have the ability to present information in multiple formats at the same time. In addition to a written or verbal explanation, they have aural and visual engagement. Most importantly, students are asked to HEAR musical concepts, and this is the most necessary ingredient if we are to engage their excitement about music.


Only after addressing these hurdles do we begin to introduce music within the context of Western musical history. This text also uses a more direct writing style, encouraging students to remain engaged and to quickly grasp the most important information. It is less important that students remember the exact year Beethoven was born than that his music bridged the Classical and Romantic periods. I want them to recognize the sound of his music as well as understand the many innovations he introduced. The priority remains their ability to hear important musical characteristics, and then place them in historical context.


I have found that by first allowing students to address their own reactions and prejudices, and then instructing them using more exciting presentations, they are more engaged when hearing musical examples and placing them in historical context. By keeping the text portion as succinct as possible, we allow students to stay focused on–and excited by–the SOUND of the music. By making the sound of the music and student engagement the highest priority, the factual information becomes embedded in a more wholistic context. The result is a learning experience with a long-term impact that leaves students with the tools and an open interest to continue to explore music far beyond the scope of this course.



How to Use this Text

This text is meant to be a complete standalone text for online courses. Instructors may utilize text, video, activities, listening examples, and assessments all within the online text.  It may also be used as a text in other course formats, allowing the instructor to choose which components to use in a face-to-face, blended, or online course. Chapter quizzes and the final exam include standard sets of questions but have additional banks of questions so they can be modified to fit the style of any instructor or mode of presentation.


Chapters begin with an initial assessment question (ungraded) designed to initiate engagement* in the student. The material is presented through text, images, and listening activities. Ungraded checkpoints break the chapters into manageable sections, engage critical thinking, and reinforce material from that section. Each chapter ends with a chapter quiz that includes listening questions based on the musical examples covered in the chapter.


Chapter 1 addresses music as human artistic expression and introduces an anthropological approach to the study of music, including asking students to address their own prejudices and be open to new ideas.


Chapters 2 and 3 provide students with tools needed to explore, analyze, and organize music, emphasizing the use of sound through audio examples. These tools include the science of sound, aspects of music, and the classification of instruments and ensembles.


Chapters 4 through 9 present the historical periods from the Medieval to the Romantic. Each chapter begins with an overview of the period including the culture, science, politics, arts, and important historical events. Music is then explored by presenting text and audio in logical subject groupings based on musical styles, instruments, music forms, or composers. Various sidebars, additional resources, and activities allow students to explore subject material further.


Chapters 10 through 13 cover twentieth-century developments in music including film, jazz, and the branches of musical exploration of modernism and postmodernism. These chapters include relevant historical information within each musical development instead of at the beginning of the chapter.


The text concludes with a final exam based on content from the chapter quizzes and includes questions that assess listening skills.



Student Learning Outcomes

- Exhibit active listening, demonstrated by distinguishing musical components such as melody, harmony, texture, meter, instrumentation, and dynamics.

- Recognize and classify musical instruments, both orchestral and non-orchestral.

- Demonstrate the ability to understand and utilize a basic musical vocabulary of common terms.

- Associate the stylistic and aesthetic developments of music history with the concurrent developments of cultural history.

- Identify characteristics and aurally recognize distinguishing features of music from the major style periods of Western music.

- Explain the contributions of major composers and identify their musical styles.​

- Understand the place of the Western musical tradition within the context of global music.



Goals of the Author

-Open minds to unfamiliar music

-Overcome obstacles to experiencing a variety of music

-Provide tools to improve listening experience

-Analytical tools to lead exploration

-Aspects of music

-Vocabulary of music

-Musical instruments and how they function

-Historical context for innovations and style periods in music.  Musical indicators that reveal its origins.

-Create emotional and cultural connections that motivate exploration of music

-Cultural connections to music in history

-Biographical knowledge of major composers

-The evolution of music through history

-Various types of emotional communication through music, from the composer to the listener via the performer

-Provide an integrated experience that encourages the recognition of musical aspects by ear and the ability to place those in historical context

About the Author
Donald Bryn

Don Bryn is a composer, arranger, performer, and teacher based in Florida, USA and San Jose, Costa Rica.


Don Bryn is a composer at heart but after finishing his masters degree in composition, he spent a large part of his career conducting and playing piano. For 14 years he toured the globe, playing and conducting over 300 shows a year, writing arrangements for big bands and show bands, and visiting over 120 countries. He did find time to compose and his composition “Too Much of a Good Thing” for orchestra was recorded in Melbourne, Australia and the Piano Sextet in D was performed on Nashville radio. More recently he completed a sonata for guitar ensemble and orchestrated a series of songs for Czech crossover artist Lenka Graf and a symphonic pops show that has been touring the Americas.


Don is the Director of Music Theory and Keyboard Studies for the State College of Florida, where he hosted the region’s first PianoPalooza!  festival in 2022. He recently completed an online music appreciation textbook, “Now Hear This”, and a series of five “Piano Grand” concerts featuring repertoire for five pianos. He also works as a singing coach for the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training and continues to perform jazz and classical concerts across the Southwest Florida region.


In 2022 Don completed a graduate diploma in Film and Game Scoring from the European Academy of Fine Arts and had a blast composing for video media. Don has also been working as a software engineer and designer for many years.  His ear-training apps and music theory tests have been used extensively in theory courses. He created a music department website with a broad list of functions from managing auditions and scholarships to event promotion and scheduling, concert program management, student signups, a community gigboard, and even conference registrations. Don is currently pursuing certifications for full-stack development.


In 2024, Don was featured in an interview with conductor Dr. Robyn Bell - take a listen:

Table of Contents

1. The Human Species and Music

In this chapter, you will learn:

-What is music and how we define it

-The science of sound.

-The relationship between sound and music.

-That music stimulates physical and mental reactions in humans.

-How music is an integral part of human culture throughout time.

-How historical and cultural events influence music.

-Different ways to listen to music.

-Why this matters to you: How to examine your own physical and mental reactions to music.

-Why this matters to you: How to examine your own time and culture from a more objective viewpoint.

2. Components Of Music

In this chapter, you will learn:

-How to examine and describe music in an academic fashion.

-Recognize and describe the various qualities and aspects of music including









-How to analyze and label musical form.

3. Noisemakers

In this chapter, you will learn:

-How to organize and understand instruments from around the world.

-How to identify by sight and sound instruments used in Western music, classified by their families:







-Common ensembles, their makeup, sound, and common practices.

4. Middle Ages and Rebirth

In this chapter, you will learn:

-An overview of the Medieval period, including the politics, art, architecture, and philosophy

-Early music forms: chant, organum, and Motet

-Important composers from the Medieval period

-The beginnings of modern music notation

-The sections of the mass

-An overview of the Renaissance period, including politics, art, philosophy, and religion

-Important composers from the Renaissance period

-The early development of musical instruments

-Common musical forms from the period: Mass, Motet, and Madrigal

5. It’s Not Broken, It's Baroque

In this chapter, you will learn:

-An overview of the Baroque period, including the politics, art, architecture, and philosophy.

-How to identify and describe style characteristics of Baroque music.

-Important composers from the time period.

-Advancements in instruments and the birth of the orchestra.

-Baroque musical forms including concerto grosso, solo concerto, suite, and sonata.

-The differences between opera, oratorio, and cantata.

-The birth of opera and how it is organized.

-The complexities of polyphony.

-Beginnings of the major/minor tonal system.

6. Hooked on Classical

In this chapter, you will learn:

-The definition of the term “Classic” and how it applies to music

-The difference between “Classical” and “classical”

-An overview of the Classic Period, including the politics, art, architecture, and philosophy

-Characteristics of music from the Classical period

-Important composers from the time period

-Solidification of the classic sound and ensembles, including the orchestra

-The pristine classical forms: Symphony, Sonata, String Quartet, Solo Concertos

-Classical Opera

-The use of homophony and how adding polyphony created the paradigm style of Western classical music

7. Beethoven, The Bridge

In this chapter, you will learn:

-An overview of Beethoven’s place in musical history

-A short biography of his life

-About his personal and musical style

-About many of his musical innovations and how they impacted composers who followed

-How his influence made him the bridge between the Classical and Romantic periods

-Some of his pieces and the characteristics for which to listen

8. How to be Romantic (Part 1)

In this chapter, you will learn:

-The characteristics specific to the Romantic period.

-How these characteristics affected the philosophy, literature, art, and music of the period.

-How musical form was altered during the time period.

-How Nationalism manifested in music.

-What qualities unite Romantic composers.

-How the middle class affected the business of music.

-Identifiable musical traits in Romantic period music.

-Important composers and their contributions to music.

-The new forms: Concert Overture, Symphonic Poem.

9. Isn't that Romantic? (Part II)

In this chapter, you will learn:

-How class structure and the salon affected cultural life in the Romantic period.

-About art songs and song cycles.

-The effects of industrialization on the piano and salon culture.

-About the proliferation of piano music for all performance levels.

-More important composers and their contributions to music history.

-About many new small forms for piano music.

-Important vocal music from the period.

-Opera and its developments throughout the Romantic period.

10. Twentieth-Century “-isms”

In this chapter, you will learn:

-Various branches of music development in the twentieth century

-Some types of musical modernism



-Expressionism, serialism, and atonalism


-A quick overview of early American music history

-Nationalism in the twentieth century, especially American nationalist composers

11. Cooking with Jazz

In this chapter, you will learn:

-An overview of the history of jazz, including predecessors and influences on the genesis of jazz.

-About some specific artists who were instrumental in the development of jazz and its various advancements.

-Musical characteristics of jazz, and how to recognize those characteristics when listening.

-How concurrent events affected the development of jazz.

-The continued evolution of jazz through the twentieth century.

12. The Avant-Garde and Postmodernism

In this chapter, you will learn:

-About the difficulties defining postmodernism

-The important qualities of Minimalism

-The definition of avant-garde in relation to music

-Avant-garde explorations of nonconventional instrumentation and notation

-The development of indeterminacy in music and various ways it was employed

-Early explorations in electronic music and tape music

13. Crossover Artists and Film

In this chapter, you will learn:

-How various twentieth-century musical developments influenced each other

-Composers who merged jazz and classical idioms

-A short introduction to Broadway and classical composers who wrote for the stage

-An overview of film history in the twentieth century

-The evolution of film technologies and how they influenced music for film

The development of classical film scoring from early film to today

An introduction to some film composers and their influence on film music