Classical music study recommendations

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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby gsbod » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:13 pm

lavengro wrote:
Medieval era - fall of western Roman empire to about 1400

Renaissance (music era, not the Renaissance per se) - 1400 to 1600

Baroque - 1600 to 1750

Classical - 1750s to approx 1820

Romantic era - roughly 1820 to early 20th century

Does that sound about right?


For someone who is justing starting out exploring classical music, this is about right as an initial guide. The dates are pretty arbitrary for all eras (1750 might coincide with the death of J.S. Bach but it's not the exact point at which everyone put away their harpsichords for good and started writing everything in sonata form).

Still, to start with it can be quite useful to think about common features for the different "eras" - and then break this down further to think about the development of different genres within these eras, or how things developed in different geographic locations. And then who broke the conventions of the time, and who got away with it...

Some basic things to consider when listening:

-What is the purpose of the music? Is it religious music? Popular song? Something for the concert hall? Or for the home? Dance music? Part of a show?
-What instrumentation is used?
-If it is vocal music, what language is it being sung in? (see, this is relevant to the board!)
-What about the melody? Is it based on a modal scale, tonal major or minor scales, or something a bit more whacky? How many different melody lines can you hear at once?
-And the harmony? How consonant or dissonant is it? Does it generally go in a predictable direction, or does it suprise you?
-What is the form of the piece? Which bits get repeated, and when? Are things changed somehow when they are repeated (e.g. faster/slower, higher/lower, different instrumentation, different rhythm)

aokoye wrote:I think that there is something to someone who is explicitly trying to learn about classical music listening to to the original versions of pieces if at all possible, perhaps paired with a different commonly performed arrangement. So the original version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and then the symphonic version, which is despite the fact that I prefer the symphonic version.


Is that the Ravel orchestration? Back in the day I learned so much about the skill of orchestration from comparing the original Pictures at an Exhibition to Ravel's orchestration - and it helped sharpen my appreciation for Ravel as a composer too (anyone who stopped at the Bolero is missing out, big time).

aokoye wrote:While Prokofiev did write a flute sonata, it was only the one.


He only needed to write the one - when it comes to the solo flute repertoire, I don't think anyone has bettered it :)
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby aokoye » Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:21 am

gsbod wrote:
lavengro wrote:
Medieval era - fall of western Roman empire to about 1400

Renaissance (music era, not the Renaissance per se) - 1400 to 1600

Baroque - 1600 to 1750

Classical - 1750s to approx 1820

Romantic era - roughly 1820 to early 20th century

Does that sound about right?


For someone who is justing starting out exploring classical music, this is about right as an initial guide. The dates are pretty arbitrary for all eras (1750 might coincide with the death of J.S. Bach but it's not the exact point at which everyone put away their harpsichords for good and started writing everything in sonata form).

Still, to start with it can be quite useful to think about common features for the different "eras" - and then break this down further to think about the development of different genres within these eras, or how things developed in different geographic locations. And then who broke the conventions of the time, and who got away with it...

Some basic things to consider when listening:

-What is the purpose of the music? Is it religious music? Popular song? Something for the concert hall? Or for the home? Dance music? Part of a show?
-What instrumentation is used?
-If it is vocal music, what language is it being sung in? (see, this is relevant to the board!)
-What about the melody? Is it based on a modal scale, tonal major or minor scales, or something a bit more whacky? How many different melody lines can you hear at once?
-And the harmony? How consonant or dissonant is it? Does it generally go in a predictable direction, or does it suprise you?
-What is the form of the piece? Which bits get repeated, and when? Are things changed somehow when they are repeated (e.g. faster/slower, higher/lower, different instrumentation, different rhythm)

aokoye wrote:I think that there is something to someone who is explicitly trying to learn about classical music listening to to the original versions of pieces if at all possible, perhaps paired with a different commonly performed arrangement. So the original version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and then the symphonic version, which is despite the fact that I prefer the symphonic version.


Is that the Ravel orchestration? Back in the day I learned so much about the skill of orchestration from comparing the original Pictures at an Exhibition to Ravel's orchestration - and it helped sharpen my appreciation for Ravel as a composer too (anyone who stopped at the Bolero is missing out, big time).

aokoye wrote:While Prokofiev did write a flute sonata, it was only the one.


He only needed to write the one - when it comes to the solo flute repertoire, I don't think anyone has bettered it :)

Yep I'm thinking of Ravel's orchestration. It's so great. Another pair is Martynov's Beatitudes (the Kronos Quartet has an amazing recording) and the choral arrangement (if you google Beatitudes Sitibine Ensemble you'll find it). As someone who is all about very intense music on multiple areas of the emotional scale, it's a completely different experience than say, comparing the choral version(s) of Finlandia to the orchestral version.

The Prokofiev is really fun (and really hard - the flute part in his 1st Symphony though, dear flipping god. I think I played both of them when I was 18, it was quite a year). That said, I prefer playing the Widor Suite for Flute and Piano. I love that piece. Most of it isn't as stupid hard as the Prokofiev, but it's a beautiful piece and I really enjoyed playing it. It's easier to be expressive. Basically I love playing/singing (I'm a tenor) pieces that I can pour my entire heart into and/or are really emotionally intense in one way or another (as well as almost anything by Ešenvalds). Also singing pieces with a lot of dissonance is magical. Listening to them is as well, but not nearly as powerful for me. I suspect that most of theory would have been far more enjoyable for me had I been a. singing choral music (I hadn't even thought to join a choir at that point) and b. analyzing newer choral pieces, or John Adams, or Steve Reich's mallet percussion pieces or...

I may have also just fallen down a rabbit hole that started on Youtube and is going to have to end, for now, on Henrik Dahlgren's website. Lavengro was talking earlier about wanting to have an understanding about how pieces fit in with each other within a given period. A few of Dahlgren's pieces that I've listened to this evening are a very good example of me thinking, "oh he is clearly influenced by, among other people, Ešenvalds".

Sorry not sorry for going on a "I love all of these things" tangent. At least it's still very relevant :lol:
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby garyb » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:07 pm

I'm also interested in this so am following. I did the Coursera course Chung mentioned last year and it was very good, but as the name says just an introduction. I've also listened to a bunch of episodes of "Lezioni di musica", an Italian podcast about classical music that explains pieces from all eras; maybe look up something similar in a target language to kill two birds with one stone? Still I find that my knowledge is quite bitty and superficial, and I forget quite a lot (for example I'll recognise a melody but not know what it's from, or who composed a certain piece etc.), so perhaps the next step is diving deeper into certain pieces or composers. Doesn't help that like with most of my interests it's something I pick up and drop again quite a lot.
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby Deinonysus » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:36 pm

I'm a bit late to the party, but here are my 0.02 USD. Saying you want to learn about classical music is kind of like saying you want to learn about books. It's so general that it's hard to find a place to start, and you can go through some of the highlights but one book may not have much to do with another.

I think that the best way to start is to find your absolute favorite instrument, performer, or composer and do a deep dive. That will give you a home base and then from there you can start looking at other music that is associated with your home base.

I got a degree in music (with a focus on classical music) but by the end of my studies, I wasn't that into it. But after I graduated, I stumbled on the opera blog http://greatoperasingers.blogspot.com/ and discovered a lot of opera singers that I really loved to listen to. I studied art songs in college, but it was only after college that I really got into listening to them and discovering new singers that I loved. So I would listen to a bunch of stuff by one singer, and then a bunch of stuff by another singer, and soon enough I had a lot of general knowledge about the specific genres of Opera and art song. I still don't know non-vocal music better than a typical casual fan, though.

A lot of classical composers (particularly Beethoven and Mozart) are very good at writing hooks, so a lot of their music is fun to listen to without much knowledge of music theory. However, there is a lot that is going on beneath the surface that is hard to appreciate if you don't play an instrument. If you really want to get to know what's happening under the hood, you will need to learn an instrument if you don't already play one. Piano is probably the best because there is a ton of solo music written for it at all levels and since you can play many notes at once you will get a sense for chord progressions. And you can find piano teachers everywhere. But if you already play another instrument that has solo classical music written for it, then you may want to stick with that instead.
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:35 am

A little over 30 years ago, at a time when I was practicing the Classical Guitar as intensely as I later did foreign languages (that is, obsessively), I felt the need to learn more about Western classical music. The owner of a small sheet music store located in downtown Montréal, whose comfortable retirement was assured by my compulsive purchasing of absolutely everything he had for my instrument, suggested The Enjoyment of Music to me. The book appeared in 1955, accredited to Joseph Machlis, who passed away in 1998. A large collection of audio recordings which were prepared to accompany the book was available for separate purchase. The current 13th edition is now accredited to Kristine Forney, Andrew Dell'Antonio, et al. Since its publication, the book has become a standard reference for specialists and non-specialists alike. It begins with a brief overview of the elements and instruments of Western classical music, then takes the reader/listener on a journey through the different periods of this genre, providing extracts and commentary along the way. Although working through this book and the accompanying audio recordings (at my own pace) did not improve either my technique or my interpretative abilities on the Classical Guitar, it did provide me with a much greater appreciation for Western classical music and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Expansion of the text: I highly recommend that anyone purchasing the “Enjoyment of Music” textbook also purchase the accompanying audio recordings and listen to them before and after reading the sections in which they appear. Doing so affords the reader/listener a much better appreciation of the descriptions of the music in each of the periods than reading the text alone could ever provide. The book is not just a historical description of Western Classical Music, it serves also as a guide of what to listen for and how to appreciate what you’re hearing.

EDITED
Expansion of the text.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Wed Jan 08, 2020 3:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby aokoye » Wed Jan 08, 2020 2:56 am

Speakeasy wrote:A little over 30 years ago, at a time when I was practicing the Classical Guitar as intensely as I later did foreign languages (that is, obsessively), I felt the need to learn more about Western classical music. The owner of a small sheet music store located in downtown Montréal, whose comfortable retirement was assured by my compulsive purchasing of absolutely everything he had for my instrument, suggested The Enjoyment of Music to me. The book appeared in 1955, accredited to Joseph Machlis, who passed away in 1998. A large collection of audio recordings which were prepared to accompany the book was available for separate purchase. The current 13th edition is now accredited to Kristine Forney, Andrew Dell'Antonio, et al. Since its publication, the book has become a standard reference for specialists and non-specialists alike. It begins with a brief overview of the elements and instruments of Western classical music, then takes the reader/listener on a journey through the different periods of this genre, providing extracts and commentary along the way. Although working through this book and the accompanying audio recordings (at my own pace) did not improve either my technique or my interpretative abilities on the Classical Guitar, it did provide me with a much greater appreciation for Western classic music and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I love classical guitar. I mean ok, I love a lot of things, and there are arguably things (musically) that I love more than classical guitar. However of the things that I really want to get better at musically and haven't put enough time into, classical guitar probably tops the list in part because it's logistically easier for me to get better than choral singing. Not easier in terms of actual skill (I'm not willing to make that judgment call), but easier to fit into my life.
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 3:40 am

aokoye wrote: I love classical guitar. I mean ok, I love a lot of things, and there are arguably things (musically) that I love more than classical guitar...
Sadly, the Classical Guitar, despite the efforts and performance abilities of now several generations of outstanding musicians, still “lacks a pedigree” in the world of what is often called serious music. From what I understand, the guitar’s lower status is due to its absence from the symphony orchestra, from smaller classical musical ensembles, its predominance in popular music styles (sniff, sniff) and, broadly speaking, the instrument’s historic inability to attract the world’s ranking classical composers, a problem which the violin and the piano have never suffered from. Yes, some really good pieces of music for the classical guitar do exist, but the greater part of the repertoire is mediocre; definitely technically demanding, but musically uninspiring nonetheless.

When I was much younger, I had the great privilege of attending two of Andrés Segovia’s concerts, I was absolutely mesmerised by his performances. He just sat there like a huge chunk of marble, his right hand balled up into a seemingly immovable fist, while his left hand danced along the fingerboard like a dragonfly over a pond. Since his passing, it has become rather commonplace for music critics to question the maestro's artistic interpretation of certain pieces (irrespective of the music he was interpreting, he seemed to be anchored artistically in the Romantic style) but what a command of the instrument he had (and what an imbalanced influence he exercised over the careers of so many promising guitarists).
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby Oliver » Wed Jan 08, 2020 5:14 am

garyb wrote:I'm also interested in this so am following. I did the Coursera course Chung mentioned last year and it was very good, but as the name says just an introduction. I've also listened to a bunch of episodes of "Lezioni di musica", an Italian podcast about classical music that explains pieces from all eras; maybe look up something similar in a target language to kill two birds with one stone? Still I find that my knowledge is quite bitty and superficial, and I forget quite a lot (for example I'll recognise a melody but not know what it's from, or who composed a certain piece etc.), so perhaps the next step is diving deeper into certain pieces or composers. Doesn't help that like with most of my interests it's something I pick up and drop again quite a lot.

Do you know what type of pieces or composers you'd like to explore? My favorites are Beethoven and Chopin. Particularly Beethoven's Sonatas and Symphonies. Beethoven's 9th and 3rd symphonies are generally regarded as the greatest symphonies in history, and his 5th is obviously insanely well known. Chopin is fantastic for some lighter piano music. I particularly like the Nocturnes and Polonaises, however all his repertoire is excellent.
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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby Iversen » Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:28 am

Speakeasy wrote:Sadly, the Classical Guitar, despite the efforts and performance abilities of now several generations of outstanding musicians, still “lacks a pedigree” in the world of what is often called serious music.


I have solemnly promised to write about guitar music in my ongoing musical history in my own multiconfused thread, and I have already written about the oldest part of it. Even though it has to be said that people like Mudarra and co. actually wrote for a related instrument called vihuela, their music is however often performed on the 'normal' guitar. But then there is a hole in the musical history up to around 1800. where Sor started a new wawe of Spanish guitar music - and this time it is probably more what the aficionados expect.

The problem is that I first have to write at least two sections more about baroque music and some sections about the preclassic and classic period (spanning the second half of the 18. century into the early 19. century). When I'm through that I'll write about guitar music in Spain and elsewhere from Sor and onwards. I'll add the link to this message when the expected rant is ready. I have however as a consequence of this discussion decided already now to add a passage about Boccherini to my discussion of Spanish music from the 18. century. He is later than Soler and D.Scarlatti and earlier than Sor so it will be a fitting end to that message.

It would be nice if the guitar was more common in classical music - and also music in without Spanish roots. You can understand that it is rare in orchestras due to its low sound level, but there is no sensible reason as to why it hasn't been used more in chamber music - except that amateur musicians outside Spain didn't buy a guitar because there wasn't much music available to play on it - and then the snake bites its own tail.


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Re: Classical music study recommendations

Postby lavengro » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:36 pm

I have been away entirely from this project over the last ten days or so due to suffering mightily from the cold or flu or plague or likely a combination of all three, which became severe enough that I only had the strength for self-pitying and pizza eating. And then I needed a couple of days of listening to Rush after hearing of Neil Peart's passing (I was a big fan).

But back to it now with enthusiasm, returning energy and only intermittently still coughing something wicked.

Deinonysus wrote:I'm a bit late to the party, but here are my 0.02 USD. Saying you want to learn about classical music is kind of like saying you want to learn about books. It's so general that it's hard to find a place to start, and you can go through some of the highlights but one book may not have much to do with another.

I think that the best way to start is to find your absolute favorite instrument, performer, or composer and do a deep dive. That will give you a home base and then from there you can start looking at other music that is associated with your home base.

What you say makes sense to me (and at current exchange rates, worth well more than 0.026 CAD), but given my lack of familiarity with classical music, I think I would benefit initially from the relatively shallow but broader dive involved in more of a survey before subsequently diving more deeply once I figure out firstly what is out there and secondly what I actually really enjoy.

Deinonysus wrote:However, there is a lot that is going on beneath the surface that is hard to appreciate if you don't play an instrument. If you really want to get to know what's happening under the hood, you will need to learn an instrument if you don't already play one. Piano is probably the best because there is a ton of solo music written for it at all levels and since you can play many notes at once you will get a sense for chord progressions. And you can find piano teachers everywhere. But if you already play another instrument that has solo classical music written for it, then you may want to stick with that instead.

I have the tiniest toe in the door in this regard, sort of: I play the ukulele. To state it that baldly understates the awful reality a bit. More comprehensive would be to say that a few years ago some friends talked me into learning the ukulele, and I learned to play it energetically and really badly. Though the more beer I drink while playing, the better I sound (at least to me). I appreciate this falls a little short of what you were suggesting!

Speakeasy wrote:
aokoye wrote: I love classical guitar. I mean ok, I love a lot of things, and there are arguably things (musically) that I love more than classical guitar...
Sadly, the Classical Guitar, despite the efforts and performance abilities of now several generations of outstanding musicians, still “lacks a pedigree” in the world of what is often called serious music.

Somehow I suspect this might be the case for Classical Ukulele as well!
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