Whether high school history class left a bad taste in your mouth, or you’re a history buff, it’s never too late to learn through the lens of music and art. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of how certain creative mediums evolved to what they are today, but as a musician you may be inspired by the sights and sounds of the past, which you can incorporate into your current work. Berklee Online offers six different history courses, covering various topics and time periods. Here’s what you’ll learn:

History of Film Music

Providing a complete look at music for film from the silent era through the new millennium, this course is suitable for aspiring film composers or cinephiles. You’ll dissect film scores from the industry’s most influential figures including John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park), Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver), Alfred Newman (Wuthering Heights, The Song of Bernadette, All About Eve) and many more. By the end of the course, you will be able to better appreciate the art and craft of effective film scoring, as you come to understand that nothing you hear happens by chance.

Music History of the Western World 1: Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque

What do Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon all have in common? They are all visual artists as well as musicians. Music and art are interconnected forms of expression, and as course instructor and author Ross Bresler will tell you, studying art will help you understand your music as well as your identity. This course covers art of Western Europe from ancient Greece, to the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods, to the Modern and Contemporary. You will look at a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, and architecture, and discover the diversity of ways that works of art create meaning to the human experience.

Music History of the Western World 1: Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque

If you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding of classical music, then Tom Rudolph’s Music History of the Western World courses offer a comprehensive look at the genre’s origins. Rudolph’s first course in the series focuses on the development of Western European music from its earliest traceable roots during the Antiquity and Middle Ages, through the Renaissance and the Baroque periods. Concluding with the works of Bach and Handel, the timeline picks up again in the next course in the series.

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

In Music History of the Western World 2, you’ll learn about the heavy hitters who we commonly associate with classical music, including Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Debussy, to name a few. This course will take you into the lives and music of the composers, performers, and people of influence from the Age of Enlightenment (beginning in 1725) to the end of the twentieth century.

Rock History

In this course, you’ll learn the history of rock ‘n’ roll from the people who lived it. Author Steve Morse, former senior rock music critic at the Boston Globe, brings three decades of in-depth experience to Rock History. His past interviewees were willing to lend their voices to the course, including Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers, Mike Mills of R.E.M., and many more. You’ll explore many of the revolutionary artists who defined rock ‘n’ roll, as well as the unsung heroes in genres from rockabilly to psychedelia, punk, metal, art-rock, new wave, and beyond.

Music, Self, and Society

Instead of focusing on a specific time period, Music, Self, and Society investigates why we listen to music and what we use music for, looking to history to answer these questions. You’ll learn about the cultural implications of music through the philosophies of Kant, Locke, and Hume; the old and new systems of art, before and after 1800; about music through the context of religion, ritual, politics, and social change; and more. In this course, you will reflect on your own personal musical preferences and how they shape your identity.


 Published December 1, 2020