Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

The Great Courses

Looking back on the first edition of “How To Listen to and Understand Great Music”

I have managed to dig up and digitize a television advertisement for the first edition of my Teaching Company/The Great Courses survey “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” from 1993. It’s a bit painful for me to watch: I weighed 30 pounds less than I do now; I had all my hair (including a very large moustache); and I wore contacts. I looked good, but most painful of all, I looked young. When I recorded that first course in May of 1993, The Teaching Company had four full-time employees, including its founder, Tom Rollins. At the time, the company had just moved to its first “dedicated studio” in Springfield, Virginia, just south of Washington D.C.’s outer loop. Yes, it was a “dedicated studio”, but the company was still in its infancy, and the production values were crude (to put it mildly). I worked in front of a blue screen and a blackboard, read from a sheaf of notes in my hand, and used a small upright piano located on stage. The method by which we mastered the musical examples was particularly primitive. For that first course, our licensing agent sent me music on cassettes. I then dubbed the… 

Continue Reading…

Robert Greenberg’s The Great Courses Available for Direct Download!

Dr. Robert Greenberg, best selling creator of audio and video courses for The Teaching Company/The Great Courses since 1993, is now offering those courses for direct download, right here on RobertGreenbergMusic.com! These courses are crafted and produced for lifelong learners and offer a learning experience that goes far beyond anything that can be achieved merely by placing a camera in a classroom. The 27 courses currently available constitute a full-blown musical curriculum, a curriculum that divides the courses into “basics” and those that “dive deeper”. Explore these categories below: The Basics How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, third edition. This is The Great Courses’ “Music 101”, 48-lecture survey spans nearly 2500 years of Western music, from the music of ancient Greece to the year 1913. (FYI: this course was named by Inc. Magazine as being “one of the ten great leadership classics you’ve never read”, or watched as the case may be.) How to Listen to and Understand Great Opera.  This series offers a broad survey of the single most important genre of Western music to have emerged over the last 400-plus years, opera. Understanding the Fundamentals of Music. This course expands on the vocabulary and listening skills… 

Continue Reading…

Out Now: Music as a Mirror of History

My thirtieth course for The Great Courses/The Teaching Company, “Music as a Mirror of History”, was released on Friday, July 22. (My friend Ed Leon – the Chief Brand Officer for The Great Courses – and I have a running dispute regarding how many courses I’ve made for TGC. Ed insists the number is twenty-eight, as the first and second editions of “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” are out-of-print, having been supplanted by the third edition. Yes, it is true that “only” twenty-eight of my courses are currently in print and available. But. I have indeed made and recorded thirty courses, and the fact that two of them are out-of-print doesn’t unmake and un-record them. So Eddie, baby, I’m sticking with my number thirty! I trust I will be forgiven this sin of numerical pride.) “Music as a Mirror of History” was a challenging course to write and, with its often emotionally charged subject matter, an even tougher course to record. We’ve put together a ten-minute excerpt from the first lecture that effectively outlines (if I don’t mind saying so myself) the goals and overall content of the course. Check out the video and then, hopefully inspired… 

Continue Reading…

On The Torch Live with Ed Leon

As I mentioned in my post of July 1, my next The Great Courses/Teaching company course – “Music as a Mirror of History” – is scheduled for release on Friday, July 22nd. It was recorded in January and February of this year and has been in post-production since. Since it’s my gob that’s on display throughout the finished course, it is all-too-easy to overlook the role played by the incredible crew of professionals who were tasked with producing the course. Well, overlook them we cannot; it’s an absolute truism in the media and the performing arts that we are only as good as the good people whose job it is to make us look good. My thanks to everyone who was involved with the production and a special call-out to my producer, Jaimee Aigret; my editor, Cat Lyon; and my directors, Jonathan Levin and Jim Allen. Thank you, my friends, for making The Great Courses GREAT. For anyone with 17 minutes to burn, I did a Google Hangout/Facebook Live interview with my bud Ed Leon of The Great Courses on Friday, July 1, in which we discuss the new course in some detail:

Announcing New Courses!

A drum roll (okay; perhaps just an onion roll): announcing the upcoming releases of my latest Great Courses survey and my first webcast courses, what I will now refer to as “webcourses”. It’s been a year since I announced my intention to begin self-publishing such webcourses; I have now completed writing two of them. The first is “Mozart in Vienna”, a 16-part course that deals with the last 10 years of Mozart’s tragically short life, from 1781 to 1791. Featuring Mozart’s chamber music for strings, the webcourse focuses on Mozart’s day-to-day life and his amazing compositional development during his years as a resident of Vienna. While there is some overlap with the repertoire covered in my The Great Courses/Teaching Company course “The Chamber Music of Mozart” (recorded back in 2004), “Mozart in Vienna” is considerably less technical than the aforementioned Great Courses survey and explores many works I’ve never before examined, including Mozart’s last four string quartets: the so-called “Hoffmeister” Quartet and the three “Prussian” Quartets. The second webcourse is one I’ve wanted to create for many, many years: an 18-part survey entitled “The Music of the Twentieth Century”. The “music” to which the title refers is primarily concert music,… 

Continue Reading…

Recording Music as a Mirror of History

Photos from the recording session from my upcoming course for The Great Courses — Music as a Mirror of History:

Two Top Audible Best Sellers!

My apologies up front for this entirely gratuitous, self-serving, pat-myself-and-The-Great-Courses-on-the-back entry, but this sort of thing does not happen very often (at least not to me), so I’m making hay while I can. Audible.com has just released its current “best seller” non-fiction audio books list, and two of my pieces – “The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works” and “A Brief History of Holiday Music” are on it, at numbers 5 and 9 respectively. Here’s the Nonfiction list – click to see the full listing: Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy, narrated by the author (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) Fry’s English Delight: The Complete Series by Stephen Fry, narrated by Stephen Fry (Audible Studios) The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer, narrated by John Lee (Audible Studios) Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen, narrated by Eric Michael Summerer (Tantor Audio) The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works by The Great Courses, narrated by Professor Robert Greenberg (The Great Courses) Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, narrated by the author with Greg Daniels and… 

Continue Reading…

Vote for Your Favorite Title

Many thanks to everyone who proposed a title for my upcoming Great Courses survey that features musical works inspired by historical events. With the greatest of difficulty, I have managed to reduce the number of potential titles to eleven; fewer than the number of Republicans currently seeking the presidential nomination, but still a big number. But that, my friends, is a function of the quality of the titles you came up with. Our next job, then, is to vote (and I meant that by saying “our next job”, as I am going to submit my vote along with yours). With a little luck (and perhaps some pushing and shoving), the good folks at The Great Courses will accept our vote as binding and the course will so be named!

New Course Coming Soon

It has been a long time since I last blogged. I have an excuse (sort of) which I’d share, and in doing so request your help. I have been writing a new, 24-lecture course for The Teaching Company/The Great Courses, and have only today – this morning, in fact – finished the first draft. I began work in December, so the draft (which runs about 140,000 words, about the length of a 450 page book) took seven months to write. I’ll need another three months to rewrite, by which time the course will run about 120,000 words. It has been, by far, the toughest survey I’ve ever written. The working title is “Big History and Great Music.” The premise is as follows. Each lecture features a different piece of music. Each piece of music was written as a direct response to a historical event. The bulk of each lecture, then, will explore that event and the manner in which the music under study reflects that event. For example. Lecture 17 focuses on a piano sonata by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček (pictured below as a young dude with his wife Zdenka), a piece entitled Piano Sonata I. X. 1905 (meaning… 

Continue Reading…

How To Listen And Understand Great Music at 37,000 Feet!

I’ve done a good bit of travel by air over the course of the last 35 years, long enough to observe (and experience) an incredible degradation in air travel. To my mind, airports themselves have always been bad. I long ago decided that once I entered an airport – any airport – it was best to assume I had entered a maximum-security “rehabilitation facility”. With this in mind I could accept that the airport, as a manifestation of fate, controlled my destiny. My time no longer belonged to me; nor did my body, and if the “airport” chose to delay (or cancel) a flight, or hold me at passport control, or pull me out of a security line and subject me to a cavity search, my best recourse was – and remains – to keep my mouth shut and do my best to go with the flow. In sum: I don’t particularly like airports. (Especially now that the prices in duty-free are, like, twice what you’d pay in Costco. What’s that all about?) Once boarded and underway, the actual flights were, for me, infinitely less onerous. There was food to eat, empty seats to stretch out on, unlimited bags to… 

Continue Reading…