You are SPOILT!
Running, walking, sitting on the beach, flying in a plane, driving in a car, or at sitting at home.
You name the place, and Technology has enabled us to have the music there with us. Wherever and whenever we want.
Even when we don’t want it. Blasting a pop song at you whilst selling you a sugary drink. Piping classical music at you whilst you wait on the phone to talk about your overdraft. It’s everywhere, all of the time! Music!
And it’s technology that’s enabling this constant potential cacophany.
How times have changed.
Back then – let’s say 1600-1900 – you had to actually plan and go out to find music. And then travel. Let’s imagine us a big Beethoven fan sometime in the middle of the 19th century, now he’s going to need to travel miles, possibly hundreds of miles, just to get the opportunity to hear one of Beethoven’s symphonies played by an actual orchestra. Unless he happens to own one, an orchestra that it. People did, Kings, Emperors…basically not that many people.
But our Beethoven fan doesn’t own an orchestra. So he travels, then he’ll sit down, and they’ll play.
And he’d better listen hard. It may be the last chance he’ll actually get to hear that symphony again in his lifetime.
And you’re going to explain to this guy how with a few mouse clicks you can have dozens of versions whichever symphony he choose? Maybe the shuffle button?
We are spoilt, so spoilt. Now, it’s music wherever, whenever, spoon-fed to us like drooling idiots.
We’ve become so used to hearing the sounds of music, that background gurgle of noise we just assume we know, that we so rarely actually LISTEN!
Listen. In that one word you can sum up the entire ethos of this website.
Listen to the music hear properly. Listen to it like it’s the first time you’ve heard it. Listen to it for the pure sound it makes. I gurantee, if you like music, and you listen to the music on this website with fresh open and innocent ears, then you will enjoy and appreciate classical music!
Yes technology might also make us stupid, but it can also make us smart. Learnclassical is something I could only have imagined 20 years ago. An interactive guide to six of the very greatest bits of music from nearly 300 years of our music heritage.
So get your speakers or headphones ready, and let me you you show how it works…
How it works
Basically you press play on a clip. Then I say discuss it.
Okay, so this is not exactly Beethoven, but this is not simply noise.
This is structured sound.
Music operates through three separate but related dimensions, and this is the first. For the more mathmatically inclined of you, we could plot this on a graph as the Time axis, say?
In musical terms, this is Rhythm. Two short beats, followed by a longer beat. Beats, but no notes. One-dimensional sound. But sound nonetheless, not merely noise.
Rhythm is first dimension of musical space.
Add notes and we discover our 2nd musical dimension:
Play Clip 2
We still have have first dimension – Rhythm. And it’s operating in the same way. Two quick notes followed by a longer one.
But now we’ve added movement up and down through musical space. What we call pitch. Nerds will be glad to know we’ve added a second axis to our musical graph, and we should all be thankful we’ve now added a 2nd dimension to our musical universe.
We’ve produced Melody! It’s not much, but and our musical universe has noticbly increased in definition and interest.
Now lets add a second phrase:
Play Clip 3
Our melody is now replied by a similar melody, played at a lower pitch.
The second phrase seems to answer the third, but it’s a rather open answer. That final note leaves us hanging…now the music is starting to tell a story.
We’ve now added a 3rd dimension to musical space. The two phrases share a harmonic relationship.
Our music is now in glorious 3-D, and Harmony is the final axis of musical space.
Play Clip 4
So that’s how it all works. Music. the website. Everything. Go home, job done.
If you take one thing out of this website, I hope it is to do with the act of listening.
You really will need to listen to the music on this website to really get something out of it. I know that might sound obvious, but it’s really important you maintain an active listening attitude to the music itself.
Oh, unless I’m using it as background music….
Quality Background music
How is the course structured?
This site concentrates on six pieces of music, taking you chronologically from Bach (born 1685) to Shostakovich (died 1975). It uses thses six piece to explore and expand upon classical music more generally. In lot’s of ways, musically, historically, philosophically, psychologically, theoritically, scientifically…broad goals from six rather short pieces of music.
That’s the idea at least.
The piece now playing, for example, is our second piece, composed by Mozart in around 1753. It’s the last movement of his final symphony.
The course itself is structured into three main parts, each accessible from the ‘Courses’ menu at the top of every screen.
Absolute Beginners start here.
It’s really an intro to the three dimensions of music: Rhythm, Melody and Harmony.
Basics, but needs-know for the rest of the course.
Beginners start here, but plenty of interesting material for all
We take each of our six pieces and examine them through four different lenses:
Follow the course however you want, but I’d advise going through the four topics (Instruments – Rhythm – Melody – Harmony) in order for each piece.
But you do not have to start with Bach. You should be able to start at the beginning of any of the six bits of music. Pick whichever piques your curiosity most.
The first chapter of the advanced chapter – the ‘History’ chapter – is certainly accessible to all.
Beyond this history chapter, knowledge of the main course chapters will be assumed. Those final two chapters one each piece cast their webs deeper and wider for more unusual and discerning fare!
There’s plenty of different stuff here. Musical Theory, Philosophy, Science, Biography etc. Stuff I’ve spent many many years researching. It’s always amazed me what a treasure trove of art, culture, and knowledge a single piece of music can contain.
Feel free to jump around. Plenty to explore.
What’s the music?
The six pieces of music take us chronologically from Bach (born 1685) to Shostakovich (died 1975).
We are using single movements, not entire pieces. Lengths of these movements vary from under 3 minutes (for the Shostakovich) to nearly 17 minutes (for the Beethoven).
Here are excerpts from the six pieces, with timecodes below for telling where in the clip the come.
Enjoy this two minute journey through 250 years of musical achievement:
Six excerpts from six pieces
- 00.00 Bach Brandenburg Concerto No.2, First Movement. Roughly 1720
- 00.29 Mozart Symphony No.41 (‘Jupiter’), Fourth Movement. c 1788
- 00.48 Beethoven Symphony No 9 (‘Choral’), Choral Finale. c 1824
- 01.06 Wagner Isolde’s Liebestod from his opera Tristan & Isolde c 1859
- 01.39 Gershwin Piano Concerto, Second Movement. c 1925
- 02.01 Shostakovich String Quartet No.8, Second Movement. c 1960
Those are the main pieces, but there’s lots more material on this site.
And I’m adding to it and reworking it constantly!
How difficult is Learnclassical?
Quality Background music
Here are two quotes about Mozart, both plucked off the internet:
“Mozart embellishes this architecture by changing the implied harmony on a one bar rhythm… ”
“Mozart was a badass at the keyboard…”
If you want to know where this website is placed, it’s in the gap between the two.
This is not a dumber’s stupid guide to music with picture explanations with cartoons in it (too expensive for me).
But it’s hopefully not a pretentious, or up it’s own excuse-me-what. It’s not snobby, that’s what I mean. because, to my great surprise, you do find a certain amount of snobbery in classical music.
(and btw if that’s putting you off enjoying classical music, you’re really being equally lame yourself, and probably more lazy).
This is a medium level course, accessible to anyone with a bit of mental stamina and a commitement to listen.
I’m a big believer that anything worth knowing can be broken down into a series of simple axioms.
Explaining music in everyday language is a core tenet of this Learnclassical.
Does it work?
I don’t know, you tell me!
I’ve been working on this for a few years now, but the actual execution is recent, and it is still in major development. So feedback is essential. As I write this (Feb 2018) I am re-editing the entire site, so your input would really help me.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact button at the top of each page.
I will of course keep all your correspondence and details private and safe.
Is it free?
Yes, the site is totally free. I want to keep it free, but will need your donations to keep it running.
At present, I am not repeat NOT getting enough. Even to keep this site working, let alone make all the improvements and additions.
Unless I get more, I will have to close it down.
Donate if you get something worthwhile out of the site. Small donations ($1) are welcome.
Donate button, top right, you know the drill…