We both are very proud and excited about Great Music and Musicians, Book 1, a new addition to Premier Piano Course. This unique book is suitable for many age groups and can be used in different settings: private lessons, group lessons, general music classes, or home-schooling. In a private lesson, the introduction or single units can be studied each month, with a brief discussion of one page each week. Students can also be assigned additional projects related to the specific pieces they are studying. A style period could be featured to better understand its style and relationship to repertoire being learned.
Many students attending their first formal music appreciation or music history class are overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of centuries of music history and styles. Although they had been introduced to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, they often lack a clear understanding of the overall historical picture.
For teachers, it is a balancing act to teach basic music fundamentals, technique, and to prepare for recitals. To also teach historical context and musical style—who, when, where and what—can seem overwhelming or unfeasible. Since most music taught in lessons developed from Western culture, at least an overview of music history is essential for musical insight and understanding of style differences.
A student does not need to know music fundamentals or theory to begin to understand music history. Its development, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the present, can be easily grasped through artwork and by listening to music from each period. Listening while looking at the artwork further enhances the learning process and makes it enjoyable. A written activity about the topics that have been presented helps to reinforce the learning.
With such a vast subject as the history of Western music, it is useful to introduce a framework, or timeline, on which to hang details. By focusing on one style period within this timeline, students will develop a deeper understanding of the music they are learning. After studying all of the units and listening to the music on the CD, the development of Western music can be seen and understood.
An Overview of the Book:
The introduction focuses on musical style, a timeline, and how to listen to music. The subsequent units are overviews of major musical style periods. Each unit highlights cultural trends, important composers, musical forms, and how music relates to other arts. The enclosed CD includes excerpts from important musical compositions to illustrate and reinforce what was presented.
In Unit 7, The Turn of the 20th Century, different art movements and styles are vividly illustrated. This emphasis illustrates how much art influenced many of the composers during this time. The music is perceived differently when looking at the art.
Each unit of the book begins with a one-page overview of the time period. Notice the discussion on page 43 of the many different styles in the 20th century and how composers often changed styles during their careers. A focus is on Impressionism in art and music as an important style at this time.
Pages 44 and 45 follow with highlights of important musical developments from the time. First, Expressionism in art and music is shown and discussed. Next, George Gershwin’s jazz-influenced style is presented, followed by neoclassicism, with its look back to the 18th century.
A two-page art spread provides unique insight into life at the time. There are many details in the art works to be discovered. These spreads are meant to captivate the student’s imagination and bring the time period to life. This provides opportunity for discussion of the student’s observations and reactions. We suggest listening to a related musical example from the CD while viewing the spread.
The final page of each unit has a summary of the most important concepts, listening examples, and a written review. Listening examples from the chapter are repeated here but with added suggestions to guide the students’ listening in each example.
In order to maximize lesson time, an Answer Key for all the activities is provided on the last page of the book. It can be used to quickly check the answers, or it can be cut and removed.
This book is a wonderful teaching tool that can be used in many ways. But most of all, it should be enjoyed by looking at the beautiful artwork and listening to the great music that is a part of our cultural heritage.
Great Music & Musicians will take you and your students on a musical journey throughout history. Enjoy your travels!
Nancy Bachus & Tom Gerou