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Adventures in Classical Music—Music Appreciation for All!

Understand and enjoy classical music at your own pace. A music history course, including a music theory introduction.
William Neely
4,084 students enrolled
English [Auto-generated]
You will learn the component parts of music—rhythm, pitch, melody, harmony, form, etc.
Then you will apply those concepts to an exploration of the history of classical music.
In the end, you will have developed a greater understanding of music in its various stages of development
You will be able to more accurately identify the works and the composer’s style, as well as place it in the timeline of the history of music.

  Music appreciation for the 21st century. Learn about Classical Music in the Western world from the Middle Ages to the present.  

  You’ll begin with an introduction to the various elements of music — for example, melody, rhythm, pitch and harmony – to give you the basics and vocabulary of music theory to understand and appreciate any type of music.  You’ll then explore the History of Classical Music through its various stylistic periods, from medieval chant right up to the current cutting edge. Anyone interested in classical music will benefit from this course. 


      About this course:   

  1. Over 3800 happy students

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  6. See testimonials from former students below


        This course is structured in 32 sections; 

                        • the first section is devoted to the elements of music in order to give you a detailed primer in music theory: melody, rhythm, pitch, harmony, texture, tempo, dynamics and form. Section 1 includes a Short History of Rock and Roll to illustrate the musical elements and musical style. 

                        After that, each section is devoted to one of the broad eras of music history: 

                  • The Middle Ages. Learn about early music beginning with monophony and how polyphony developed during the period of the building of the great cathedrals. 

                  • The Renaissance. What was happening in music during the period in which Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel? A return to some Ancient ideals led to a rediscovery of the science of acoustics, providing a basis for the theory of modern harmony. How the course of music changed as a result of Martin Luther’s break from the Church. 

                  • The Baroque. Here we have the origins of opera, as well as a flowering of instrumental music, culminating in the works of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. 

                  • The Classical. In reaction to the florid complexities of the Baroque, and influenced by the Age of Reason, the Classical period focused on simplicity and elegance, producing such composers as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. 

                  • Romanticism. The Age of Reason was too “reasonable” for the the Romanticists. They valued heightened emotion over elegance. The music of Schumann, Chopin, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Puccini were some of its greatest accomplishments. 

                  • The Modern Period. Formerly referred to as the 20th century period, it now needs to reflect its expansion into the 21st century. Some of the greatest composers of this period have been Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg, Britten, Shostakovich, Ives, Copland and Barber. 

                        • We conclude with a retrospective and some final remarks to wrap it all up. 


  Testimonials from former students. I concurrently teach this course at Santa Rosa Junior College (for core Humanities credit). Please take a moment to read a few testimonials by Santa Rosa students about this course, as they testify to my passion and command of the subject matter. 

                        “I wanted to thank you, Bill Neely, for sharing your knowledge with us. This has been a super-duper class, and I find myself a little sad to find it drawing to a close. I’ve always enjoyed classical music rather passively; I now feel that I can be an active participant, with a deeper understanding of the musical concepts, the composers themselves, and their historical context. Very cool!” 

                        —Sandra L 

                        “My love for classical music has grown as I understand more now the times and styles and detours of styles these great composers took. I have found these lectures easy to understand and digest into my appreciation and education of classical music.” 

                        —Kathy J 

                        “I wanted to thank you for this wonderful class. I have a doctorate degree, and this has been one of the most thorough and informative classed I have ever taken. It has deepened my understanding and enjoyment of the music I have been listening to for the past 35 years…I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the depth and clarity of presentation of this class. Do you offer any other online classes? I have recommended it to many of my friends…” 

                        —Loretta Z 

                        “I really like your lectures, very informative, interesting and filled with a lot of information… This is what I hoped for in an online course. Great lectures, this is the first online class I’ve taken that I felt the instructor was as dedicated to his online students as his in-person ones. 

                        Thank you!” 

                        —Stephanie M 

                        “…lectures were terrific, especially the use of the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll to begin a very clear and concise exploration of the basics of music …Thanks very much for teaching such an excellent course. Sincerely,” 

                        —Daniel N 

                        Many more testimonials available on my musicappreciationonline dot com website. 

The Elements of Music: Introduction to Music Appreciation

1.1 Introductory Overview
A preview of what the course will cover, featuring a timeline of musical history.
1.2 A History of Rock and Roll, Part 1
This is the first of 2 parts of a brief history of Rock and Roll, presented to illustrate how key elements of music contribute to style.
1.3 A History of Rock and Roll, Part 2
This is the second of 2 parts of a brief history of Rock and Roll, presented to illustrate how key elements of music contribute to style.
1.4 Elements and Rhythm
The first of the musical elements to be discussed is rhythm. What is rhythm?

The Elements of Music: Rhythm, Meter and Melody

2.1 Rhythm, Part 2
What is meter and how is it related to rhythm? Simple meter is discussed first.
2.2 Compound Meter
Continuing our discussion of meter: compound meter
2.3 Additive Meter and miscellaneous
Additive meter and miscellaneous rhythmic devices.
2.4 Characteristics of Melody
What makes up a melody?
2.5 Melody and Notation
How music is notated.

The Elements of Music: Melodic structure; Harmony and Texture

3.1 Melodic Structure and Harmony
There is a structure to every melody. Here we look at melodic structure in greater depth.
3.2 Harmony and phrase structure
Here we look at how harmony and melodic phrases work together.
3.3 Harmonic progressions
What is functional harmony and how does it relate to phrase structure?
3.4a Texture —supplemental (non-musical)

A collection of definitions of texture, all non-musical.

3.4b Musical texture
What is musical texture? 
Please view the short supplementary video on general texture.

The Elements of Music: Timbre

4.1 Timbre and the human voice

In music, instruments perform the function of the colors employed in painting.

—Honoré de Balzac

4.2 Instruments of the orchestra
The colors of the orchestral instruments
4.3 The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Composer Benjamin Britten wrote a set of orchestral variations on a theme written by Henry Purcell, in which he highlights the instruments of the orchestra.

The Elements of Music: A Summary

5.1 What is musical form?
How musical structure works.
5.2 a discussion of the building blocks of form
Musical devices used in constructing a musical form. 
5.3 Bringing all the elements together
5.4 Ravel’s Bolero
The various elements of music come together in Ravel’s Bolero.

Antiquity and the Middle Ages

6.1 Beginnings
Music from its early and sketchy past
6.2 Early church music
6.3 Plainchant
Early Christian chant, often referred to as Gregorian Chant
6.4 Dies irae
Dies Irae is one particular plainchant that was frequently used.

The Late Middle-Ages and the transition to the Renaissance

7.1 Notation and modes; Hildegard von Bingen
Early musical notation and the church scales
7.2 The Notre Dame School
Notre Dame, Paris; world events and innovation in the 12th and 13th centuries
7.3 The Late Middle Ages
New developments in the late Middle Ages
7.4 A Sleeping Europe wakes
The 14th Century leading into the Renaissance.

The Renaissance

8.1 The Overtone Series
The acoustic foundation of modern harmony.
8.2 The Early Renaissance
Polyphony based on a new consonance
8.3 Imitative Polyphony
Imitative polyphony was the predominant texture in the Renaissance. 
8.4 The Renaissance Mass

The mass was the cornerstone of Renaissance music—the most common form and, for much of the Renaissance, an essential crucible for experimentation.

8.5 The Reformation and Counter-Reformation
The church on trial and eventually, the reformers on trial.

Secular trends and introduction to the Baroque

9.1 Secular trends in the Renaissance
The madrigal and a new interest in secular music.
9.2 A New style for the madrigal
The madrigal in a new context; Beginnings of the Baroque.
9.3 Introduction to the Baroque
A comparison between the older and newer styles.
9.4 Baroque opera and a new musical language
New style features in the early Baroque; Monteverdi’s Orfeo.

The Early Baroque and the Beginnings of Opera

10.1 Baroque opera, part 2
Features of this new form called opera.
10.2 Monteverdi’s Orfeo
Monteverdi’s Orfeo, concluding lecture.
10.3 New trends of the Baroque
A summary at the style features of the Baroque.
10.4 The Nature of opera
My own musings on what this opera thing is about.

17th century developments and the Rise of Instrumental Music

11.1 17th century developments
World events and musical stylistic changes in the 17th century
11.2 Musical developments in the middle Baroque
Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
11.3 The rise of instrumental music
Instrumental music begins to free itself from vocal music and creates some new genres of its own.
11.4 The Baroque concerto
Characteristics of the Baroque concerto
11.5 Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
An in depth look at Bach’s famous concerto

Instrumental Genres; the fugue and the church cantata

12.1 Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, part 2
in which I walk you through the first movement progressively
12.2 Bach and the fugue
a progressive look at Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor
12.3 The dance suite
A look at Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 as an example of the Baroque dance suite
12.4a The church cantata in Germany, part 1
A look at one of Bach’s most famous cantatas, “Wachet Auf” (Cantata No. 140)
12.4b The church cantata in Germany, part 2

In which we conclude our look at one of Bach’s most famous cantatas, “Wachet Auf” (Cantata No. 140) —part 2 of 2.

Opera and Oratorio of the High Baroque; transition to the Classical Period

13.1 Handel opera
A cursory look at opera of the high Baroque with a few excerpts from Julius Caesar.
13.2 Handel oratorio
A few excerpts from Handel’s Messiah
13.3 Transition to the Classical style
some comparisons between the Baroque and Classical styles
13.4 the Age of Enlightenment
An introduction to the Classical Era

Unity and Form in the Classical Era

14.1a Unity and Variety in Poetry

Before looking at form (structure) in music, we look at form in poetry first, then at painting (in next lecture segment).

14.1b Unity and Variety in Painting

Before looking at form (structure) in music, we've just looked at form in poetry; now we look at form in painting (in next lecture segment).

14.2 Unity and Variety in The Music Man
The Music Man (the musical comedy) is used here to illustrate form in music.
14.3 Forms in the Classical period
a look at some of the forms used in the Classical era
14.4 Forms in the Classical period, part 2
We continue to explore the forms of the Classical era.

Forms of the Classical Period; Introduction to Sonata Form

15.1 Ternary Form in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto
How the choice of omission affects a work
15.2 Rondo Form
To get into this common form, we look at the rock band, The Police’s Every breath you take

then a Mozart’s horn concerto.

15.3 Sonata Form in Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
To look at this most complex form, we’re going to listen to one of the Mozart’s most popular works.
15.4 Sonata Form in Mozart’s Symphony No. 40
Sonata Form is looked at in depth in the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

Instrumental Genres

16.1 The Classical concerto
In this lecture, we listen to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23
16.2 Lebrun; the glass harmonica
A female composer, Francesca LeBrun, and Benjamin Franklin figure in this lecture.

Opera according to Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

16.3 Mozart and opera
Introduction to Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro
16.4 Marriage of Figaro Act 1 Se vuol ballare

There appears to be a problem here. YouTube has allowed this video to be embedded here for several years, but now, they have revoked access. Here is the YouTube link that will allow you to access the video while this gets sorted out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQmL6ki6yE8?start=2330&;end=4600

16.5 Marriage of Figaro preparation for Scene ii
16.6 Marriage of Figaro Act I, scene 2

Susanna hides Cherubino as she hears the Count approaching and mayhem ensues.

17.1 Marriage of Figaro, preparation for Act II

Here, I fill in the plot before you begin Act 2 of Marriage of Figaro.

17.2a Marriage of Figaro, Act II, part 1
17.2b Marriage of Figaro, Act II, part 2

When the Countess finds out that the Count is trying to seduce Susanna, Figaro, Susanna and the Countess hatch a plot that doesn't quite work out according to plan. (Part 2)

17.2c Marriage of Figaro, Act II, part 3
17.3 Marriage of Figaro, epilogue
First watch Act 2. Then, I invite you to watch the rest of the opera, but it is not required.

Transition Beethoven

18.1 Transition Beethoven
Beethoven is considered the pivotal character that bridges the Classical period to the Romantic.
18.2 Introduction to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
With this lecture, we begin our in-depth examination of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
18.3 Beethoven’s Fifth, Movement I
In this lecture, we look at Beethoven’s Fifth, movement 1.
18.4 Beethoven’s Fifth, Movement II
In this lecture, we look at Beethoven’s Fifth, movement 2.

Beethoven, Part 2

19.1 Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Movement III
In this lecture, we look at Beethoven’s Fifth, movement 3.
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