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Music Appreciation Online

Music Appreciation Online teaches the basic elements of music appreciation and music history. Its integrated approach allows students with no previous musical experience to explore the history of music through reading, listening, writing assignments, concert attendance, and research. Topics covered in the 14-lesson course include the appreciation process, musical styles and taste, music history, sound, musical instruments, listening techniques, elements of music, and roles of composers, performers, and listeners. Stylistic periods in music span from the early beginnings of music into the twenty-first century.

Students navigate the course using a printed guide that serves as a textbook and workbook. Included with the guide are three music CDs compiled and produced by Sony Music. These contain a rich selection of excerpts and pieces that are referenced in the lectures, reading assignments and quizzes. Timed listening notes guide students in the art of listening and can be accessed online, where they interact with the CD and follow the progress of the piece, even showing some of the musical themes as they occur. The listening notes are also offered in the guide in the same order as they appear on the CD, making the course a continuing source of enrichment for years to come.

Each of the 14 lessons includes a number of interactive games and practice activities that engage students, reinforce learning, and the lesson ends with a quiz.

This course is also well-suited for a Flipped Classroom or hybrid class.

The textbook/workbook to accompany this course is Music Appreciation Online, written by Donald D. Megill and David W. Megill. Additional information is provided under the “How to Adopt Course & Print Materials” tab below. To request access to an electronic review copy of the textbook/workbook, please contact Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

For access to Coast Learning Systems’ online course preview site, please complete a Preview Request Form.

Lesson Titles and Descriptions

1. Music & Culture: An Introduction

What is music appreciation? Where do critical thinking and personal taste fit in? This lesson will investigate the steps required for developing an appreciation of something in general, and, more specifically, an appreciation of music. Students will explore the features that make up a musical style, a fine art, and art period. The role of music history in understanding today’s music is also discussed.

2. Sounds & Its Sources: Musical Instruments & the Orchestra

This and the next lesson are reference sections. To some degree, all musical styles involve most of the terms and concepts described in these two lessons. The lesson starts by exploring the physical laws of sound and how they are related to the sounds made by musical instruments. Students will also learn about overtones and the overtone series—extra, softer tones that are naturally produced when any single pitch sounds. The common musical instruments of our culture are explored, including the development of the modern orchestra and the “families” of instruments. More recent (and future)
instruments are also discussed.

3. The Language of Music: Basic Elements & Forms

This lesson will provide more reference material to help students become familiar with the basic building blocks of nearly all musical composition and performance—motion, pitch, tone, harmony, and texture. Students will also see the ways these elements are commonly notated or communicated, and learn several terms we will continue to use later. How does a piece of music give a feeling of unity along with variety and surprise? The second half of this lesson explores the form of music and ways the basic elements are put to use.

4. Monophony to Polyphony: Medieval, Gothic & Renaissance

This lesson begins our journey through musical history, starting with oral traditions and tribal music and moving quickly to the earliest written music in the Western European tradition. In the Medieval/Gothic period, chant grows from highly developed single-line melodies to octaves, simple intervals, and independent parts. In the Renaissance, music spreads through the culture more widely and is found in sacred and secular settings, at court and at home.

5. Review: Medieval, Gothic & Renaissance

This lesson allows students to understand the material more deeply, and offers a big return for their efforts. The lesson focuses on the expansive growth of choral polyphonic music. Students will discover the stylistic development of polyphonic music in the Renaissance and look more deeply at the very similar sacred motet and the secular madrigal.

6. Detail, Contrast & Emotions: The Baroque Period

Emphasis on detail, an increased concern for expression of emotion, and a love of contrast are the hallmarks of the Baroque period. Such composing giants as Bach and Handel make their appearance in this period, and instrumental music is as popular as vocal music. The smoothness of Renaissance polyphony gives way to varied textures, and the elaborate treatment of polyphonic text gives way in some vocal music to a focus on making the words more speech-like and clear, which is the birth of opera. Dramatic arias contrasting with the recitatives allowed for large dramatic compositions.

Both opera and another vocal form, the oratorio, are explored in depth with a special listening assignment. The listening examples will take you into later periods so you can hear how this initial idea developed. As students will see, there are similarities between opera and oratorio, the greatest differences being that one is secular and acted out and the other is sacred and less staged.

7. Genius, Poise & Passion: The Viennese & the Romantic Periods

Listening skills are more complex than one might at first realize. Rather than merely reacting to music,
music students must learn to listen critically. This listening exercise will help focus our listening on stylistic elements of three musical periods.

8. Braving the Musical Elements: The Twentieth Century & New Music

This lesson covers both the Viennese and the Romantic periods, and delves into the sonata-allegro form that spawned so many great works. This is a period that saw the rise of democracy, the steam engine, electricity, and the Industrial Revolution. The Viennese period was really the period of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. (Beethoven also shares some qualities of the Romantic period.) Sometimes called the Viennese Classical period, it was another era that glorified the classical architecture of the past—both ancient Greece and Rome—and this classical influence showed up in music as clean lines and form, with shorter melodic phrases. Homophony replaced polyphony and the basso continuo as the predominant texture, the symphony became a major force, and the sonata-allegro form was used one way or another in nearly all of the instrumental forms in the Viennese period, from solo and chamber works to concertos and symphonies. By the end of the Viennese period the patronage system was less common, public concerts became more popular, and sacred music was no longer the central force. The Romantic period valued individuality, poetry, ideas, chromaticism, a great dynamic range, the distant past and faraway places, as well as nationalism and local folk melodies. Emotional expression became important and intense, in both intimate pieces and pieces for an increasingly large orchestra.

9. Review: The Viennese & Romantic Periods

This is the second listening identification test, so by now students are familiar with being tested on brief excerpts from the listening examples they have been studying. Listening with the listening notes will help students be aware of the composer, period, and title of each example.

10. Braving the Musical Elements: The Twentieth Century & New Music

There was an unprecedented diversity of styles and approaches to music in the last century, and the lasting influences of the 20th century will ultimately be known in the future. The sheer volume of compositions dwarfs any period before it. New structures and unifying techniques were developed, and the basic elements were stretched and explored to their seeming limit. There are several schools of composition that developed in response to the large tonality-based Romantic forms. This lesson will show how many of the composers dealt with trends away from traditional tonality and structure. Technology gave new instruments to composers and new access to listeners. The increase in global communication expanded the influence of other cultures, and in the last quarter of the century, more composers attempted to reestablish contact with the listener and tonality was the new avant-garde.

11. Musical Themes & Development Topics 1-5: includes a Special Focus: The Concerto

This is the first of the lessons on musical ideas and developments. These lessons follow no chronological order, but students will see how the understanding they have gained in the previous lessons will allow them to go more deeply into these interesting areas of music. Students will want to refer to the previous lessons as they go through these topics. The special focus section is on the concerto, a term that has been used to describe instrumental music over several stylistic periods. Students will see how this term is redefined from period to period. Concertos are associated with soloists and the excitement of technical display and improvisation.

12. Musical Themes & Development Topics 6-7: includes a Special Focus: Chamber Music

Students look at four U.S. composers who looked to their own culture for inspiration, tapping into folk music or music that was contemporary when their pieces were written. The special focus for this lesson is a good complement to Topic 7. Besides the stream of music and forms for large ensembles, there has been an equally serious focus on the small ensemble. Endless instrument combinations have made up these chamber groups. However, the most significant over time has been the string quartet. It paralleled the symphony in musical architecture, and shared most of the compositional techniques.

13. Musical Themes & Development Topics 8-9: includes a Special Focus: World Music

The traditional musics of the world have long traditional and cultural associations that give the music rich meaning to those of that culture. It is interesting to study these cultural streams and see how they compare to the music we actively listen to in our culture today. This lesson also looks into musical theater and its traditions and the way the recording studio has changed how music is created and played. And we take a deeper look at two genres that are all around us and their roots: jazz and rock.

14. Review: The Twentieth Century & New Music

This is the final listening identification test, so by now students should be familiar with being tested on brief excerpts from the listening examples they have been studying. Listening with the listening notes will help them prepare for this test.


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Instructors can customize the course by making learning assets open or closed to student view, add learning assets such as new assignments, discussion forums, web research activities, and extra credit work. Instructors also have the option to request a “copy” of their prior course each term. Finally, there is the option of turning on automatic student tracking that simplifies the evaluation process.

How to Adopt Course & Print Materials

There is no fee paid by an institution or instructor when the online course/content is adopted. Each student is required to purchase the course materials which includes a one-time use Access Code. To adopt and offer this course online, instructors complete an Online Course Request Form prior to the start of each term, and a course shell will be provided by the date requested. Instructors also have the option to request a “copy” of their prior course each term.

This online course is hosted and provided in a Moodle® (LMS) shell, and instructors can link from their institution’s LMS or send their students directly to the class URL. Coast Learning Systems provides instructor and student technical support via an electronic help desk, which is monitored 7 days a week. Our goal is to make sure you enjoy teaching with our content and that your students have an engaging and positive learning experience.

The Online Course Request Form should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the start of your class.

Music Appreciation Online
Kendall Hunt Publishing Company
ISBN: 978-0-7575-8023-9
This course is also well-suited for a Flipped Classroom or hybrid class.