Leonard Bernstein’s Masterful Lectures on Music (11+ Hours of Video Recorded at Harvard in 1973)

In 1972, the composer Leonard Bernstein returned to Harvard, his alma mater, to serve as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, with “Poetry” being defined in the broadest sense. The position, first created in 1925, asks faculty members to live on campus, advise students, and most importantly, deliver a series of six public lectures. T.S. Eliot, Aaron Copland, W.H. Auden, e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Jorge Luis Borges — they all previously took part in this tradition. And Bernstein did too.

Delivered in the fall of 1973 and collectively titled “The Unanswered Question,” Bernstein’s lectures covered a lot of terrain, touching on poetry, linguistics, philosophy and physics. But the focus inevitably comes back to music — to how music works, or to the underlying grammar of music. The lectures run over 11 hours. They’re considered masterpieces, beautiful examples of how to make complicated material accessible. And they’re available in full on YouTube. You can watch the first lecture (on Musical Phonology) above, and find the remaining five lectures below. The lectures can also be purchased as DVDs or in book format.

Lecture 2: Musical Syntax

Lecture 3: Musical Semantics

Lecture 4: The Delights & Dangers of Ambiguity

Lecture 5: The 20th Century Crisis

Lecture 6: The Poetry of Earth

This lecture series has been added to our extensive collection of Free Courses.



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by | Permalink | Comments (8) |

  • ?what?

    Gosh, I must be a musical idiot. I need Tonal Music for Dummies, never mind that this lecture is already for laymen. Am at 1:05 of the first lecture and I’m still at sea.

  • Artemis

    This was a complete mystery and yet I persevered with the entire lecture set and was rewarded handsomely. There are only a few words to describe the likes of a startling real and accessible master teacher and musician like Mr. Leonard Bernstein — rare mind, exceptional talent, skillful presenter, and completely disarming human being. I like his style above all — he gets you to the heart of the idea with minimal theatrics and with much depth. In spite of my own rather naive musical mind, I have learned much and profited greatly by hearing him speak here and explain his field so lucidly. Many thanks!

  • http://www.steamboatrealestate.com/ Luciano Lenihan

    homes I need to thank you for the efforts you’ve made written this kind of post. I hope specifically the same greatest item within you in the foreseeable future as well.

  • Mike Stephens

    I saw this series when it was first broadcast in the UK, and have wanted a permanent record of it ever since, but was able to find it only on discs incompatible with Europe. Thank you for making it available here; it was a great series.

  • Lois Manowitz

    This is phenomenal. That we can access it from the internet is such a pleasure. Thank you!

  • Avital Roenll

    I know it’s a valuating demand, in this case, is there a transcript?

  • Avital Roenll

    Correction ‘vaulting demand’….

  • Nichael Mubertz

    Leonard Bernstein, cut throat post mortem by some anonymus who claims ownership of his voice!nn”This video previously contained a copyrighted audio track. Due to a claim by a copyright holder, the audio track has been muted.” by YouTube

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