The Fun Side of Classical Music

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We Listen to Music – July 29, 2014

Most of our study units last about 2 weeks, and this is what I thought would happen with our classical music unit. But this subject has proved so interesting that we have been on it for over 3 years.

Background story – I had purchased a booklet that included posters of 16 classical composers.  By day two, it occurred to me that it was ridiculous to read about composers without listening to their music, so I learned how to research music, purchase it, download it into an iTunes file, and then transfer it to my iPod.  We have now listened to over 500 compositions.

We listen to three pieces every night, and every night of the week has a music theme: composer spotlight, dance and march music, virtuoso night, etc. We might have a theme night, like “clocks” and then listen to music of different classical periods that have titles that refer to clocks (Haydn’s “The Clock” Symphony, Bizet’s “Carillon” from L’Arlesienne, LeRoy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock”). Here is what we don’t do: listen to music in chronological order. What is the fun in that?

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From:  “Taking Classical Music for a Test Spin” (8-27-14)

My daughter’s friend brought up an interesting question: “what if you sort of want to try out classical music, but you don’t know where to begin?” This is where I was three years ago when I started the classical music unit with my son. These were my guidelines:

Go for short compositions
Look for lively pieces; funny, quick-paced, thematic
Specific Suggestions –

1 minute – The Nutcracker, Russian Dance (Tchaikovsky)
1.5 minutes – Flight of the Bumblebee (Rimsky-Korsakov)
1.5 minutes – The Typewriter (Anderson)
2 minutes – In the Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg)
2 minutes – Orpheus in the Underworld, The Can-Can (Delibes)
2.5 minutes – Feuerfest Polka (Josef Strauss, bro of the Waltz King)
2.5 minutes – Sabre Dance (Khachaturian)
2.5 minutes – March of the Toreadors (Bizet)
3 minutes – William Tell Overture (Rossini) (the entire overture is 12 minutes long, but it is easy to find a recording of the popular 3 minute segment)
3 minutes – Hungarian Dance No. 5 (Brahms)
ONE LAST THING. Double the listening interest level by finding out something quirky about the composer. Luckily, all of the great composers rank really high on the quirk scale.

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From:  Music Mechanics – October 10, 2014


If you are under 40, this post will make you roll your eyes, so it is best that you log off immediately. If you are over 40 (which is a nice way of saying, “if you are over 50”) I am going to gently explain how I find the music that my son and I listen to during STORIES AND STUDIES.

For this tutorial, please enjoy a mock phone conversation between my mother (in California) and me (in Texas). FYI, my mother, “The Peach”, is 92 and is pretty much with it. She 1) has a personal trainer and 2) was explaining just yesterday how to recognize a Tesla car. When it comes to computers, NOT SO MUCH. She has had her own gigantic Apple computer for several years, but it was only recently that she stopped trying to “set the margins” when she was composing an email.

So, the conversation –

The Peach: I want to listen to the music that you listen to during STORIES AND STUDIES. How do I do it?

Me: There are a couple of ways. Do you want the long (permanent) or short (temporary) version?

The Peach: Let’s start with the short version.

Me: OK. Write this down:

Turn on your computer
Log on to YouTube
Once you are on the YouTube website, type in the name of the classical piece you want to listen to into their search box. Most likely, a series of suggestions will pop up. Scan through the suggestions. Find one that looks interesting, click on it, and enjoy!

The Peach: How much is this going to cost?

Me: Nothing!

The Peach: Are all of the classical music videos on YouTube of the same quality?

Me: No. Anybody can submit to YouTube.

The Peach: OK, what is the long version? What if I want to have the music with me, to listen to in the car or whatever. I can’t be logging onto YouTube every time I want to listen to something. What if I want to own the music permanently?

Me: This is very exciting! You are really a woman of the 21st century! Here is what you need:

your computer
an iPod
The Peach: I am ready! (we are skipping the part about having to purchase an iPod)

Me: Write this down:

Turn on your computer
Log onto Amazon
In the Amazon search box, write the name of the composition you are trying to find. A number of suggestions will pop up. You want one from the “digital music” category.

The Peach: OK, I typed in “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony” and about a thousand suggestions popped up. How do I choose?

Me: Good question! Amazon does let you sample 30 seconds of any piece, but with so many to choose from, the first thing I do to narrow down the search is to look for a well-known orchestra or conductor.

The Peach: Well, for heavens sakes, this is something I don’t know anything about. How can I speed up this process?

Me: Ask me! I LOVE researching music! Ask me and I will tell you exactly what recording I have chosen for which composition.

The Peach: So, now that I have selected a recording, what do I do next?

Me: Purchase the piece from Amazon. They make it very easy and it is quite inexpensive (about 99 cents per song). Moments after the purchase, the music is magically transferred to your iTunes music file!

The Peach: So, it is SOMEHOW now on my computer?

Me: Yes!

The Peach: But don’t I have to do something to get it onto my iPod?

Me: Yes. Here comes more magic! Cable your iPod to your computer and the music will automatically transfer.

The Peach: That’s it?

Me: That’s it!

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