Music Literature

Preface | What's This Course About?

Peter Kun Frary


Welcome to Music Literature. This is a college course about listening to music with understanding. You're already good at listening to music? Indeed, humans come fully equipped for this task but there are a few things you can do to improve your skills. And it's all about the understanding part. Don't worry, we'll work on the understanding part one step at a time throughout the semester.

After the Concert | Peter Kun Frary

What's This Course About?

This Music Literature course focuses on Western art music created during the last one thousand years of European and American history. What most people call classical music. So no jazz, pop, folk or non-Western music. There are separate courses for those styles. One thousand years encompasses a lot of music so the material is distilled down to the most representative pieces from each era. There are six main stylistic eras for music:

  • Medieval (450-1450)
  • Renaissance (1450-1600)
  • Baroque (1600-1750)
  • Classical (1750-1820)
  • Romantic (1820-1900)
  • Modern (1900-)

Music of each era will be examined from a stylistic, historical, social and cultural perspective. First, we'll investigate the characteristics that define style, e.g., melody, harmony, texture, form, etc. Next, we'll delve into the function and purpose of the music. Was it created for ceremonies, worship or entertainment? Who were the people listening to this music? Finally, the times and lives of the composers will be examined and linked to their creations. In short, we won't merely listen to pretty pieces but will also learn the how, why and where of what we listen to.

Pizzicato 'n Arco | Peter Kun Frary

Before embarking on our one thousand year journey, we'll build a foundation of musical concepts and terms as a basis for listening and discussion. For example, we'll examine the instrument families and learn terms for describing musical technique and sounds. These concepts and vocabulary are called musical elements and the first few weeks of the semester will be spent studying them. An understanding of the elements of music will increase both your involvement in listening and enjoyment.

On the next page, I'll explain how to get the most from your listening sessions.

Undercover Guitar | Peter Kun Frary

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