Music History of the Western World 2: Classical, Romantic, and Modern

Author: Tom Rudolph   •   Course Code: OLART-234

Just as learning the theory behind how music creation works, exploring the history of music, including important composers, performers, and the evolving influence of society on music, is key to understanding the genres of music that we perform, create, and consume today. Music History of the Western World 2: Classical, Romantic, and Modern will take you on a guided study of music in the Western World during the periods of time that encompass the classical, romantic, and 20th century. Through audio, video interviews, and interactive viewing and listening activities, you will experience the historical processes through which musical styles begin, grow, mature, and decline. The course begins with the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of opera, early symphony, and keyboard music, and then explores the emergence of the classical style and the works of Haydn, Mozart, Paradis, and Beethoven. It delves into the Romantic period, profiling such composers as Schubert, Berlioz, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Rossini, Verdi, Brahms, Bruckner, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler, followed by an exploration of impressionism, including the works of Debussy, Fauré, and Boulanger. The course then chronicles music in the 20th century, including such topics as Russia’s Silver Age, atonality, the twelve-tone method, music in Latin America, electronic music, new textures, and minimalism, exploring the music of Ravel, Webern, Clarke, Copland, Barber, Penderecki, Cage, and others. The goal of the course is to provide you with a foundation for understanding how music has developed in the Western world through an analysis of the characteristics of musical genres from the various periods studied, in addition to the major composers, their compositions, and typical performing mediums of those genres. You will also gain an understanding of the relationship between music, art, and society through these periods.

By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Identify the music of the major composers of the classical, romantic and 20th century
  • Identify the elements that define each of the major style periods from the Age of Enlightenment to the present
  • Recognize the representative musical forms and genres in the classical, romantic, and 20th century
  • Use terminology associated with each style period
  • Identify the key aspects of culture, society, history, and geography that relate to music in Western civilization over the last 250 years

Lesson 1: The Age of Enlightenment (1730-1770)

  • Age of Enlightenment (1730-1770)
  • Opera
  • Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
  • Age of Enlightenment and the Middle Class
  • The Early Symphony
  • Keyboard Music
  • Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia (1723-1787)

Lesson 2: Classical Music in Vienna

  • Classical and Neoclassical Architecture and the Classical Style
  • Characteristics of the Classical Style
  • Ternary Form
  • Sonata-Allegro Form
  • Rondo Form
  • Theme and Variations Form
  • Classical Instrumental Genres
  • Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Maria Theresia von Paradis

Lesson 3: The Music of Beethoven

  • Ludwig Van Beethoven
  • Beethoven and His Early Piano Works
  • Beethoven's Middle Period: 1802-1814
  • Beethoven and Napoleon
  • The Opera Fidelio
  • Beethoven's Late Period: 1815-1826
  • Beethoven's Death

Lesson 4: The Early Romantic Period

  • Romanticism
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  • Music in Paris
  • Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
  • Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
  • Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896)

Lesson 5: Romantic Opera and Nationalism

  • Opera in the Nineteenth Century
  • German Opera: Carl Maria Von Weber (1786-1826)
  • Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
  • Opera in Italy: Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
  • Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
  • Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century

Lesson 6: Vienna, Prague, and Russia

  • Music in Vienna
  • Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
  • The War of the Romantics
  • Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
  • Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904)
  • Russian Music: The Kutchka (The Five)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
  • Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
  • Alma Mahler (1879-1901)

Lesson 7: End of the Romantic Era, England and Italy

  • England at the End of the Romantic Period
  • Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
  • Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958)
  • Ethel Smyth (1858–1944)
  • Opera in Milan after Verdi

Lesson 8: Impressionism: Debussy, Fauré, and Boulanger

  • Impressionism
  • Claude Debussy: His Harmony and Music
  • Gabriel Fauré
  • Lili Boulanger

Lesson 9: The Early Twentieth Century: Strauss, Stravinsky, The Six, and Ravel

  • Music after 1900
  • Russia: "The Silver Age"
  • Maurice Ravel
  • Music after World War 1

Lesson 10: Atonality, Twelve-Tone, and Serial Music

  • Atonality
  • The Twelve Tone Method
  • Anton Webern
  • Rebecca Clarke
  • Alban Berg
  • Milton Babbitt and Serialism

Lesson 11: Composers in the Twentieth Century: Ives, Copeland, Seeger, Barber, and Chávez

  • Charles Ives
  • Ruth Crawford Seeger
  • Aaron Copeland
  • Samuel Barber
  • Music in Latin America

Lesson 12: Music after 1945: Chance, Electronic, Textures, and Minimalism

  • Krzysztof Penderecki
  • Chance Music: John Cage
  • Electronic Music
  • New Textures
  • Minimalism
  • Returning to the Known: Music of the Recent Past
  • Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Tom Rudolph

Author & Instructor

Thomas E. Rudolph, Ed.D., is a national leader in the field of music education and technology. He is one of the founding directors of the Technology Institute for Music Educators; adjunct assistant professor of music at the University of the Arts in Pennsylvania; and director of music for the Haverford School District in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He has trained thousands of music professionals at many institutions, including: Berklee College of Music in Boston; Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut; The University of the Arts in Philadelphia; and Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania. His publications include Teaching Music with Technology, The MIDI Sequencer in the Music Classroom, and Technology Strategies for Music Education.


None required.

Required Textbooks - Choose ONE of the following options:

A History of Western Music (Ninth Edition) by Burkholder, Grout and Palisca, W. W. Norton & Company

Music in Western Civilization, Media Update (no other editions acceptable), by Craig Wright and Bryan Simms, Cengage Learning

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • A printer is recommended, so that you can print out music examples used in the course
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


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