An Introduction to Classical Music with Sandy Burnett

Sandy Burnett

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This six part course with Sandy Burnett takes you on a trip through the world of classical music from the medieval era to the present day.

If you are an intelligent adult looking for a way in to the greatness of classical music, this series is for you.

The course covers a thousand years of classical music, taking us from the Medieval and Renaissance periods through Baroque, Classical, Romantic and twentieth-century right up to what’s happening in classical music today. Sandy will explain the nuts and bolts of classical music – notation, form, and tonality – and discuss how composers went about the process of shaping their works. And armed with his trusty iPad and docking station, he’ll play recorded examples, and produce scores and instruments by way of illustration.

This course will give you a clear understanding of the essential elements of music in each era, and will enable you to listen to classical music with fresh ears and greater understanding. A glossary of key terms will be provided ion the notes, along a Spotify playlist so you can listen to Sandy’s chosen recordings at any time.

You may watch Sandy’s films as many times as you like.

Lesson one: Medieval and Renaissance. Two important events kickstart our journey: music started to be written down rather than passed on by ear; and single-line melodies gave way to music for many voices at once, or polyphony. Today’s playlist includes the medieval sounds of Hildegarde of Bingen and Guillaume de Machaut, the glassy perfection of Palestrina, the earthy delights of the madrigal, and the sonorous blend of the viol consort.

Lesson two: The Baroque Period. The period starts with the flamboyant opening of Monteverdi’s 1607 opera Orfeo, and ends in 1759 with the death of that great adopted Englishman George Friderick Handel. The Baroque era produces music of great brilliance and emotional depth, both characteristics exemplified in the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, the greatest composer of that, and possibly any, age.

Lesson three: The Classical Period. Next comes an emphasis on order, balance, clarity and beauty – four key Enlightenment values which underpin the Classical era. It reaches its high point in the music of two Viennese masters: Haydn, the father of the string quartet, and Mozart, whose music managed to be both graceful and profound.

Lesson four: The Romantic Period. This is the class in which the expressive floodgates burst open, and we brace ourselves for the iconoclasm of Beethoven, the bare-all symphonic autobiographies of Berlioz and Mahler, and the massive music dramas of Wagner – not just composers, but true artists in the Romantic sense, for whom music was meant to embrace everything about the human condition.

Lesson five: The Early Twentieth Century. This session examines how four composers respond to both the opportunities and challenges of the times: Bartok’s reworking of Middle-European folk song; Shostakovitch’s perilous relationship with the Soviet authorities; Copland who single-handedly creates the sound of New-Deal America, and the iconoclastic Igor Stravinsky, one of those rare composers whose music succeeded in starting a riot.

Lesson six: Late Twentieth Century up to the Present Day. This concluding session takes in the serialism of Schoenberg and the breathtaking imagination of Stockhausen; the captivating scores of American minimalists such as Reich, Adams and others; celebrates the great Benjamin Britten, born a century ago; and asks: Where next for classical music?


About the Tutor

Sandy Burnett is one of the most authoritative broadcasters in the field of classical music. He was a presenter on Radio 3 from 1994 till 2006, and is a busy practising musician himself. Aled Jones said to Sandy: “You are a god.” He has been teaching classical music appreciation at the Idler Academy since 2011. You can see his website here: http://www.sandyburnett.com/presenter


Details

What you get

Six half hour video lessons; student’s notes featuring dates, timeline and key concepts; access to community noticeboard; access to tutor’s noticeboard

Testimonial

‘We were so impressed by Sandy’s knowledge on his subject.’ ‘His passion and enthusiasm were infectious’, ‘Absolutely outstanding’; ‘A very serious and learned lecturer’; ‘absolutely the best lecturer of the many fine lecturers I’ve experienced.’

Reviews

Write a review

dawson54@comcast.net
15/11/2014

Music Like You've Never Heard It
Tom Waits said something to the effect that the most exciting classical music he'd ever heard was the sound of a symphony orchestra tuning up. There is, of course, lots more to it than that. No matter how much you know (or enjoy) about the Western musical canon, Sandy Burnett clearly knows what goes on when the tuning stops and the conductor raises the baton.

I can't think of a better teacher to lead this outstanding six-part ramble through the development and evolution of serious music. Sandy is a master at communicating this evolution as a part of the culture of each period from which different styles and flavors emerged, making this a kind of musical history of the past thousand or so years. The simple harmonies of medieval plainsong. The almost eerie transcendence of the often bellicose Beethoven. The thunderous chaos of Stravinsky's knock-out ode to springtime. And back again to the deep peace of contemporary composer Arvo Part's gentle liquid chords.

Just tuning up? I think not. And letting Sandy Burnett help "the ears of your ears awake" is time well invested in finding a fresh appreciation for the majesty of our musical world.

idler
4/11/2014

Dave in Memphis
Hello Sandy — Wonderful class. Although I’m not a complete neophyte, I am learning a great deal and enjoying it a great deal.

Reviews

dawson54@comcast.net
15/11/2014

Music Like You've Never Heard It
Tom Waits said something to the effect that the most exciting classical music he'd ever heard was the sound of a symphony orchestra tuning up. There is, of course, lots more to it than that. No matter how much you know (or enjoy) about the Western musical canon, Sandy Burnett clearly knows what goes on when the tuning stops and the conductor raises the baton.

I can't think of a better teacher to lead this outstanding six-part ramble through the development and evolution of serious music. Sandy is a master at communicating this evolution as a part of the culture of each period from which different styles and flavors emerged, making this a kind of musical history of the past thousand or so years. The simple harmonies of medieval plainsong. The almost eerie transcendence of the often bellicose Beethoven. The thunderous chaos of Stravinsky's knock-out ode to springtime. And back again to the deep peace of contemporary composer Arvo Part's gentle liquid chords.

Just tuning up? I think not. And letting Sandy Burnett help "the ears of your ears awake" is time well invested in finding a fresh appreciation for the majesty of our musical world.

idler
4/11/2014

Dave in Memphis
Hello Sandy — Wonderful class. Although I’m not a complete neophyte, I am learning a great deal and enjoying it a great deal.