Today my son and I broke out some new curriculum I bought recently for this academic year. It is a 13-hour DVD course entitled Discovering Music: 300 Years of Interaction in Western Music, Arts, History, and Culture. It is a middle school/high school level course that relates music history to the political, religious, scientific, artistic, technological, and other cultural developments that shaped the composers and musicians of each succeeding era.
This is exactly how I like to study subjects. I don't believe in examining each discipline in isolation; rather, I think you can understand them best when you cover them in relation to the other developments going on at the same time that effected them. However, music history is one of my personal weaker points--I can do a much better job explaining literature and art, for example, in terms of what was going on in other realms at that historical period than I can do with music. So I am glad to have this opportunity to fill in some of my ignorance as I take this course along with my son.
We did the first unit, which I think is a lot more "talky" and theoretical than the bulk of the course, because it is laying the foundations and explaining why we should study history via music and study music via history, etc. But my son enjoyed it enough that he wanted to move onto the second unit right away. This one also was setting up the big picture, rather than getting into the music itself too much, but we both learned quite a bit and are looking forward to the next session.
The course was developed by, and features, Dr. Carol Reynolds, an enthusiastic and experienced music history educator from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She does a good job as a lively but easy to follow narrator of the course material, as well as playing a grand organ herself to demonstrate a piece of music written by Martin Luther (I never knew he wrote music along with all the other stuff he was up to in revolutionizing European Christianity).
This class is also perfect for us because it begins in the 15th century, but really focuses on Western history from the early 1600s to World War 1. We have already studied World history up to that date, so I'm hoping we will have at least touched on all the major political, scientific, and large artistic movements covered in the DVDs. That will allow him to concentrate on the new information about the music and hang that onto what we have already covered, as well as helping him get a better understanding of that history.
The curriculum isn't cheap, but you get a lot for it. In addition to eight DVDs that contain over 13 hours of instruction, you receive a 236 page workbook and three professional quality CDs that contain the works discussed in the course to listen to on their own.
We've only gotten started, but I'm impressed with the quality of the materials we've looked at so far. My son is enjoying it, and I'm already learning stuff I never knew....so what else could you ask for from a curriculum? But I'll give a more informed review of the curriculum in a future blog post once we have completed more of it.