Online Music Class

A Rice University professor is using the internet to provide a music appreciation class. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports this new platform is allowing for a new way of teaching music appreciation.

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In music, sometimes there's a tendency to listen to one type of music and dismiss music from other time periods.

"My whole drive with this course is to give people the self-reliance, the courage, the curiosity and the confidence to be right up close to the arts."

Rice University Associate Professor Anthony Brandt says the on-line music course, "Sound Reasoning," is for those wanting to strengthen their skills and hopefully build and expand their curiosity. Being on-line makes it convenient to listen to music to illustrate points. Standard text books can be a problem.

"Either the examples are printed in which case if you don't read music you can't know what it sounds like. Or you have to have a CD or a cassette that accompanies it and you know it's very cumbersome to have to go and turn on example 32 and so on and find it."

The on-line course also takes a different approach to teaching music appreciation. Brandt says text books typically begin with the smallest elements of music, such as chords and scales.

"That method works really well in what's called the common practice era which is the classical music running from J. S. Bach to Brahms, because the small elements of the music are basically shared throughout that repertoire. But the problem is that method doesn't work in the 20th century."

Brandt is hoping to bring the classics and modern music together and teach music appreciation for both at the same time. Take for example how the program explains musical form. Music can fall into two categories: A-form or A/B form. "Sound Reasoning" offers an example from Johann Sebastian Bach

(Music - segment from Bach)

That is then followed by 20th Century composer Pierre Boulez.

(Music - segment from Boulez)

"If I played that piece for a lot of people once they heard about the first three or four sounds they would tune out."

But asking questions, such as about the musical form, draws the listener in.

"Now you start to say OK, I'm getting deeper into the piece and so question by question, all by ear, without any background, without any knowledge of who Boulez is, you can start to actually hear what makes up this piece."

And by the way, both the Bach and Boulez examples were of A-form music. To test your ear, you can find a link to Sound Reasoning at KUHF-dot org. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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