Discovering Music: 300 Years of Interaction

What a treasure! Im mourning the fact that I no longer have students in my home. I would love to go through this course with them. If there was anything even remotely like it "back then," I was unaware of it. This course combines music history (learning about composers) with music appreciation (learning about their music) and shows how they interweave with as well as impact the intricate fabric of western culture. The scope of the course is breathtaking a survey of 300 years (right before 1600 to the edge of WWI) of Western Music and Arts. The author, Carol Reynolds, is a well-loved professor of music history who supplies students with an abundance of primary and secondary sources and encourages her students to learn from them. The course shes provided is professionally well-done, comprehensive in its depth and scope, amazing in its use of musicians and cultural backdrops and, in short, magnificent. In her words, "the history of music makes sense only when it is combined with the history of science, politics, conquests, religious movements, and the other arts. . . . . Music has the ability to enlighten, enliven, and enshrine in our memory the interaction of history, science, and art."

Just to whet your appetite, heres whats provided in the unit on Mozart: a lecture that includes pictures from the Big Band era and rock and roll (to illustrate the similarity in terms of musical change between the Baroque and the following period), examples of music played on a piano that merge into orchestral presentations, pictures of political figures, art, architecture, places, clothing, a "sub-lecture" that shows how a grand piano works, vocabulary defined, dozens of musical examples. Through all of this, Mrs. Reynolds sweeping commentary takes us from Mozart throughout Europe and even colonial America showing us relationships and a continual historical perspective. While the workbook provides "notes" (dates, places, definitions, etc.), the student will need to pay attention to the lecture in order to fill in all the blanks. Questions involve extrapolation from the lecture rather than just a regurgitation of it. The lecture introduces many musical compositions; listening to required and recommended works will provide others, but its expected that the student continues to learn by drawing on provided internet sources.

There are 17 units:

  • Using music history to unlock western culture
  • Music entwined with great events in western history
  • Technology, terminology, and cultural perspective
  • Fanfare and power: the court of Louis XIV
  • Sweeping away the Renaissance into the Baroque
  • Liturgical calendar, street parties, and the new church music
  • A lively journey through the life of Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Enlightenment, classicism and the astonishing Mozart
  • In the abyss: the century struggles with unfettered imagination
  • Beethoven as hero and revolutionary
  • Salons, poetry, and the power of the song
  • A tale of four virtuosi and the birth of the tone poem
  • Nationalism and explosion of romantic opera
  • The absolutely new world of Wagner
  • Imperial Russia a cultural odyssey
  • Load up the wagons: the story of American music
  • Turning the page on western tradition with the explosion of war

Course components include a set of DVDs (lively lectures that include "on location" film clips, interviews, and a wealth of information; professionally done) and a student Resource Book that will ultimately become a resource/reference for the student when the course is completed. Recently revised, the audio CDs that were previously included have been replaced by links on the publishers website ( to required and recommended musical works. The spiral-bound student Resource Book provides the students path through the course. The pages for each unit provide a list of Key Figures and Places, Vocabulary, Notable Dates, suggestions for Listening (some of which are included on the CDs), and a listing of Websites for further research. The Putting It All Together section provides study projects for the student and the Viewing Guide provides a place for note-taking through the lecture series. Also included in the Workbook is a set of Quizzes for each unit, texts and translations for the music provided, and an answer key for both the Quizzes and the Viewing Guide pages.

Although it doesnt say so, this course seems like it was developed with homeschoolers in mind all instruction is directed toward the student so a motivated student could work somewhat independently (although in my home, I would have wanted to be learning these things right along with my student). Easily a full high school credit in Music History/Appreciation, it might be more properly called by an old-fashioned name Humanities.

The Teachers Manual on CD-ROM is available separately and includes PDF files for the following: Syllabus, a unit-by-unit Course Plan, four Exams with Answer Keys, and a Listening Plan. Appendices include a Listening Selection Chart and a Listening Progress Form. Although not absolutely necessary, this does provide some nice features and gives the course a little more cohesive "feel." The publisher recommends the addition of the Teachers Manual especially if taking the course for credit. ~ Janice

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