Course Notes from Music Appreciation Courses

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Book cover, A Beginner's Guide to Classical Music

A Beginner’s Guide to Classical Music

Interested in classical music but don’t know how to start? Been listening for a while but need some guidance? This course provides a framework for understanding classical music, examining the major periods of music history, the music of the great composers, and the main classical genres. Each week we will listen to music and examine its historical, social and musical context. Explore your own taste in music and learn how to find more of what you like. No musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, Eight Great Composers

Eight Great Composers

What makes a composer ‘great’? Why does the work of some composers still resonate, delighting contemporary audiences? In this course we examine the lives and music of eight of the greatest composers of classical music. Each week we will examine biographical details, historical and social background, musical style and the great works of a composer. The eight studied will be Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Ravel. No musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, Another Eight Great Composers

Another Eight Great Composers

Why does history remember some composers more than others? What is it about the music of some composers that continues to appeal to us? In this course we look at Handel, Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Puccini, Vaughan Williams and George Gershwin – eight more of the greatest composers of classical music. Each week we’ll examine the historical and social background and musical style of one composer in detail, and consider some of their greatest works.
Book cover, A History of Classical Music

A History of Classical Music

How do the great composers fit into history? How are they influenced by their times, and how do they influence those who come afterwards? This course explores the history of Western music, from medieval times to the 21st century, by linking musical examples to the art and society of their times. Whether you are a long-term listener or a classical beginner, this course will provide a framework for understanding the music you love.
Book cover, Classical Genres

Classical Genres

Ever wondered what a symphony actually is? Can’t tell a suite from a sonata? This course is designed for classical music beginners who want to better appreciate the music they listen to. We will explore the symphony, concerto, sonata, suite, opera, oratorio and others. Each week will begin with a simple explanation, move into a deeper exploration of examples by great composers, and finish with guided listening through a full example. No musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, How Music Works

How Music Works: A Beginner’s Guide

Why are some piano keys white and some black? What does ‘A major’ actually mean? What is harmony, and how does it work? How do you read music? The answers to these questions hold the key to a deeper and more rewarding understanding of music. Designed for absolute beginners, and taught in a practical and down-to-earth way, this course explores and demystifies the inner workings of music. No musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, What is it about Mahler

What is it about Mahler?

What is it about Mahler’s music that attracts such deep devotion amongst his fans? Mahler’s rich and inspiring music has moved the emotions of millions of admirers, and doesn’t have to be difficult to explore. This music course opens up the life and music of Mahler: a composer who formed a bridge between the lush Romanticism of the 19th century and the innovation of the twentieth.
Book cover, The Genius of J. S. Bach

The Genius of J. S. Bach

The composer of some of the most famous works of the classical repertoire, Johann Sebastian Bach has influenced perhaps more composers than any other figure in classical music. But he lived a quiet life, surrounded by the family he loved, and little-known in greater musical circles. This one-day course examines Bach’s life and music, illustrated by portraits, readings from his letters, and examples of his music. No musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, The Magnificent Handel

The Magnificent Handel

“Handel is the greatest, ablest composer that ever lived.” Thus said Beethoven of the composer best-known for his choral music, particularly Messiah. But in his own time Handel was known as a German who wrote Italian operas for English audiences. This study day examines the whole range of Handel’s music, as well as the highs and lows of his life and career.
Book cover, The Miracle of Mozart

The Miracle of Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote over six hundred works, including some of the most-loved pieces in the classical repertoire. These include the Clarinet Concerto, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, The Marriage of Figaro, the Requiem, and many others. Mozart’s life is a fascinating tale, from his beginnings as a true child prodigy, through to career challenges and triumphs, and fame and (sometimes) fortune. In this music appreciation course, we will examine the life and music of Mozart, richly illustrated with many musical examples, portraits, and readings from Mozart’s letters. No prior musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, The Legend of Beethoven

The Legend of Beethoven

For over two hundred years, Beethoven’s music has spoken to us and moved us in ways no previous composer had ever achieved. Born at a pivotal point in European social and musical history, he took the conventions of the classical period and moulded them into the beginnings of Romanticism in music. This one-day course will tell the tragic and inspiring story of Beethoven’s life, richly illustrated with pictures, readings, and the music of this great composer.
Book cover, The Unknown Liszt

The Unknown Liszt

A flamboyant virtuoso, a lady’s man, a champion of innovation, a pop star, a generous patron, and a catholic acolyte: Franz Liszt was all of these and more during his long and varied career. His music ranges from astonishing technical brilliance to deep emotional yearning, and his influence on other composers and performers has been extensive. This study day examines the life and works of Liszt, illustrated with music, paintings, and photographs.
Book cover, Romantic Brahms

Romantic Brahms

From his beginnings as a tavern piano player to his final appearance receiving ovations after every piece, Brahms was a man of contrasts. Never marrying but loving Clara Schumann all his life, writing in the late Romantic period but influenced by Classical composers, the unique beauty of his music can be grand and stirring, intimate and expressive, or bold and vibrant. This course examines the life and works of Brahms, in historical and social context, richly illustrated with music, paintings and photographs. No musical knowledge is necessary.
Book cover, The Piano

The Piano

Some of the most famous classical music of all time has been written for the piano. In this course we explore the development of the piano, considering its forerunners in the organ and the harpsichord, through to the instrument we know and love today. We will listen to some of the most beautiful and thrilling compositions for the piano, and discover the composers who helped to find the instrument’s voice. No musical knowledge (or piano skills) are necessary.
Book cover, Chamber Music

Understanding Chamber Music

Chamber music is one of the most intimate forms of classical music. It combines the wealth and richness of classical music structures with the intimacy of being able to see what each performer is playing. This course explores the structures and development of chamber music, and the great composers who contributed to it, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. We will listen to some of the great pieces of chamber music, and explore what makes them wonderful.


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“An excellent lecturer interesting and informative with the provision of copious, detailed notes, to assist at home later. A very enjoyable experience”

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About Susan Deas

Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching music appreciation courses for more than twenty years, through Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. Her training includes a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance (Piano) and Musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and an A.Mus.A in Musicianship. Susan teaches piano and music theory to adults and children, and plays piano and organ at various venues around Sydney. Susan is an accredited piano teacher and musicianship teacher, and is on the Council of the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW.

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