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From February 10 to February 17 (ending at 5 pm that day), we’ll hold an online class discussion on an assigned video: an episode Leonard Bernstein’s Omnibus from 1957. Read this post, watch the video, and join the conversation!
Some background information:
Omnibus was a TV program that aired on Sunday afternoons in the US during the 1950s and 1960s. It was funded by the Ford Foundation as an effort to educate Americans culturally.
The main speaker throughout this episode is Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), an American composer, conductor, and educator. He hosted several episodes of Omnibus, each about a different musical topic, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, conducting, jazz, and opera.
In this episode, Bernstein discusses the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), explains what’s going on in this music, and what he interprets the music to mean. The information about Bach’s music itself is very interesting, but you can also think of Bernstein’s style as a method that we could use to talk about any kind of music: musical details, interpretation, and linking them together.
A special feature of the video is that it begins with Bernstein rehearsing a piece with the orchestra. This is a behind-the-scenes peek at the work that performers and conductors do every day. You’ll get to hear each of the different instruments’ parts, how they can be played differently, and how they work together in the piece as a whole.
Bernstein will also use, discuss, and define many of the musical elements and terms from your textbook: melody, harmony, texture, counterpoint, voice types, canon, imitation, fugue.
For the class discussion:
- Watch the required video at least once (the link is below). I recommend taking notes as you watch: write down any ideas that you find to be surprising, provocative, or interesting. You may find it helpful to follow along with the transcript of the broadcast (link is also below).
- Comment on this post–at least twice, but preferably more! Comment at least once on the content of the video. Comment at least once in reply to another classmate’s comment.
- In your comments, respond to any ideas that you found interesting in the video. You might agree with something that is said, disagree with something, or realize a connection with something else that you’ve seen. Mention it in the comments! If you’re referencing a specific moment in the video, include the timing at which the moment happened (e.g., 43’40 is 43 minutes and 40 seconds into the video).
- Respond to your classmates’ comments by clicking “Reply” to their comment. If someone else said something interesting, say why you found it interesting! If someone else said something that you found to be unclear, ask them for clarification. If someone else said something that you disagree with, explain why you disagree.
- As always, be kind. Don’t type anything that you would feel uncomfortable saying in real life or having said to you. Respond to each others’ ideas, and keep in mind that a critique of your idea is not a critique of you.
The required video is available here: http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/leonard_bernstein_omnibus_episode_6 The entire video is just over an hour long; there will be advertisements periodically throughout.
If you want a little more information on Leonard Bernstein, I’ve added a short bio here: www.drjonesmusic.me/bernstein-the-joy-of-music
Here is a transcript of the video so that you can follow along by reading if you wish. The text version also includes music notation if you want to see what the music they’re playing looks like on the page: Bernstein – The Joy of Music – Bach
I’m looking forward to reading your comments, thoughts, and insights about this video! You’ll receive graded rubrics of your comments in class on 2/19. For reference, the rubric I will be using to grade your comments is available here: Online class discussion 1 (also handed out in class).