ESSENTIALS of Classical Music

Instructor: John Schauer

Mozart written music

A portion of a score written in Mozart's own hand.

Welcome to Essentials of Classical Music! There are many reasons you might be visiting this website. You may have found yourself intrigued with the music used in a particular television commercial or on a movie soundtrack. You may feel left out on all those musical jokes on syndicated reruns of Frasier. You may want to reconnect with those music lessons you abandoned during your childhood. Or you may have received tickets to an upcoming concert at Ravinia Festival® and would like to know what to expect and how best to enjoy it.

The purpose of this course is to give you a few musical basics and some historical background as a starting point for further musical exploration and a framework or context in which to think about music. Links within the text will take you to auxiliary sites dealing with related topics that will enhance your understanding. The information will be presented in a way that will be meaningful even if you know nothing about music. What we will not do is talk down to you or dumb-down the subject.

But please don’t think of it as “homework.” The idea that you need to study in advance in order to enjoy a piece of music is just plain wrong. You don’t need to know a composer’s biography or how a French horn produces a tone to enjoy music, any more than you need to know how the grapes were pressed to enjoy a fine wine, or how Michelangelo mixed his paints in order to appreciate the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel.

Nothing you read here (or anywhere else) will MAKE you love classical music, but it may spur you to explore more of it, and that usually results in loving it. Why? Because classical music has so much to offer and can be enjoyed on so many levels, if we only open ourselves up to it. It’s not a question of it being “good for you,” but rather a matter of how much good you can find in it—and in this sense, classical music is a nearly inexhaustible mine of feelings, emotions and ideas you can return to again and again throughout your life. That’s why so much (but by no means all) of it has lasted for so long.

Listen to Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, 2nd movement


Naxos Logo   Musical examples courtesy of Naxos of America, Inc.