Mongkol is a 61-year-old former logging elephant. His captive-held life was spent hauling trees in the Thai forest. His body shape is deformed through hard labor, he lost his right eye and tusk in this brutal logging practice. Mongkol was rescued and brought to Elephants World to spend the rest of his days relaxing peacefully in freedom by the River Kwai. I discovered Mongkol is an extremely gentle, sensitive elephant who enjoys music, especially this slow movement by Beethoven which I play to him occasionally in the day and night.
You half expect the elephant to do something, but really the entire point is the quiet peacefulness.
For quite a while, primarily because of lengthy commute times in Los Angeles, I’ve been regularly listening to audio lectures from The Learning Company in their Great Courses series. Last fall I came across a four volume collection entitled How to Listen to and Understand Great Music taught by the dynamic and engaging professor Robert Greenberg. I was immediately entranced and have vowed to work my way through his entire opus of lectures. At the time I wasn’t quite sure how many there actually were, though I was aware of at least four others I’d come across on library shelves, and I prayed that there would be one or two more to carry me through a couple of years. If I needed to, I was fully prepared to listen to everything two or three times to really soak it all in the way I’ve done with repeated viewings of television shows like The West Wing.
When I was partway through the series, I made an update to my Goodreads.com reading list with a short snippet about my progress. This progress update fed through to Twitter whereupon I was pleasantly surprised to receive an encouraging comment by Professor Greenberg, who apparently takes the time to search social media for mentions of his work and to respond to students. A brief correspondence with him revealed that he’s recorded far more lectures than I could have dreamed – an astounding 26!
Robert Greenberg’s Curriculum Recommendation
Of course with such a fantastic and tremendously large list of what is sure to be brilliant material, the real question becomes: “How do I create a curriculum to wend my way through it all in the most logical manner!”
Via a most helpful Twitter conversation, Professor Greenberg recommended a curriculum for plowing through his material. For posterity, I’ll repeat it below for those who are interested in charting his recommended course of courses:
How to Listen to & Understand Great Music
The Fundamentals of Music
How to Listen to Opera
Bach & the High Baroque
Great Masters: Haydn
Great Masters: Mozart
Operas of Mozart
Chamber Music of Mozart
Great Masters: Beethoven
Symphonies of Beethoven
Piano Sonatas of Beethoven
Piano Sonatas of Beethoven
Great Masters: Schumanns
Great Masters: Liszt
Great Masters: Brahms
Music of Richard Wagner
Life & Music of Verdi
Great Masters: Tchaikovsky
Great Masters: Mahler
Great Masters: Stravinsky
Great Masters: Shostakovich
The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works
The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works (October 2013)
Given the magnitude of his opus, this obviously may not be everything, but will provide the tyro as well as the expert a clearer path through some fascinating work. I’ve presently worked my way through 3 of his courses (72 lectures comprising 54 hours of material), so I’ve only barely scratched the surface, but I couldn’t be more enticed and satisfied with what I’ve consumed so far. His engaging lecturing style, the melodic quality of his voice (not too far from that of renowned announcer and voice artist Casey Casem – though with out the “big bottom” common to radio personalities of this type), and the dynamic range of his emotion make these series more entertaining that most of what is on television these days (and keep in mind I consume a lot of television). Even better, I’m always learning something while I’m listening. I would dare to say that even if he “phoned in” the remaining lectures, they’d still be at an absurdly high quality level, and I would still want to devour them all.
Follow Robert Greenberg
For others who are (or are soon sure to become) fans of Robert Greenberg, you can find him easily on Twitter and Facebook.