Classical music lectures and courses available online during lockdown

A round-up of lectures, talks and courses you can take part in online during the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing period of lockdown

Online learning during lockdown
Published: June 29, 2020 at 2:27 pm


Open University: Composition and improvisation in cross-cultural perspective


Free, 20 hours study, Advanced

'Improvisation and composition are words frequently used in the western world to describe the creation of music. But are they really two distinct processes, or are they aspects of the same phenomenon? In this course we will explore the relationship between the two using examples of Asian music to help us clarify the concepts.'

Open University: Discovering music: the blues

Free, 6 hours study, Introductory

'This free course will introduce you to a musical tradition with roots in the nineteenth century but which is still relevant to making music today. You will learn about how the lyrics of blues songs reflect the social environment in which they were created, and about the musical techniques that underpin the structures of blues songs.'

Open University: An introduction to music research

Free, 16 hours study, Advanced

'In this free course we have gathered together materials to allow you to explore the ways in which music may be researched. After thinking about different kinds of musical knowledge and their relationship with various musical practices (including performance, composition, and listening), you'll be introduced to some of the digital resources and methodologies that inform music research.'

Open University: Music and its media

Free, 16 hours study, Intermediate

'This free course examines some of the main ways in which music is transmitted. It considers how the means of communicating a particular piece can change over time; and how the appearance and contents of a source can reflect the circumstances in which it is produced.

The course focuses on three examples of musical media that allow us to study music of the past: manuscripts of sixteenth-century Belgium, prints of eighteenth-century London, and recordings of twentieth-century America.'

Open University: Recording music and sound

Free, 8 hours study, Intermediate

'This free course provides an historical introduction to music and sound recording in the creative industries and offers some guidance about making your own recordings. Many of the processes that have been developed and the issues that have been raised in the first 150 years of recording are still relevant today, and a solid grounding in them will help you understand the wide range of recording techniques currently in use.'

Open University: Reception of music in cross-cultural perspective

Free, 15 hours study, Advanced

'Music is created to be performed, in most cases for an audience, whether in a concert hall, at a street fair or through a radio. But how those listeners receive a piece or style of music influences future music production. This free course, Reception of music in cross-cultural perspective, explores how audience reception, changing social situations and technology impact musical performance.'

Open University: Schubert's Lieder: Settings of Goethe's poems

Free, 16 hours study, Intermediate

'This free course looks at the short poems in German that were set to music by Franz Schubert (17971828) for a single voice with piano, a genre known as 'Lieder' (the German for 'songs'). Once they became widely known, Schubert's Lieder influenced generations of songwriters up to the present day. The course then discusses a selection of Schubert's settings of Goethe's poems, and recordings of all of them are provided.'

Stanford University: Defining the String Quartet II: Beethoven

Free, 7 weeks, 3-6 hours per week, Introductory

'This course aims to enhance your understanding and appreciation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s music by exploring a genre at the very core of his development as a composer: the string quartet. Evenly distributed among the periods into which his life and work are customarily divided, his 16 quartets offer a broadly representative record of his changing musical language.'

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: World Music: Balinese Rhythms

Free, 10 weeks, 6-7 hours per week, Introductory

'This course provides an introduction to Balinese music, and the role of music in Balinese culture. Students will have the opportunity to both learn about and watch Balinese performances, as well as start to learn and practice the rhythms and techniques of Balinese gamelan online, using the “Jamelan” game.'

Harvard University: 19th-century Opera: Meyerbeer, Wagner and Verdi

Free, 6 weeks, 3-5 hours per week, Introductory

'Travel through central Europe in the 1800s to experience the premieres of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots , Wagner’s Das Rheingold , and Verdi’s Otello. A complement to the course on 18th-century opera, you’ll be introduced to opera through an in-depth study of these canonical works.

You’ll learn about the musical details of each opera and the cultural influence of the works by understanding the circumstances of its composition, premiere performance, and its legacy and significance today.'

Stanford University: Monteverdi's L'Orfeo and the Birth of Opera

Free, 3 weeks, 3-5 hours per week, Introductory

'Harvard's Thomas Forrest Kelly (Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music) guides learners through the first half of L 'Orfeo , highlighting aspects of operatic form and dramatic technique, the rehearsals and cultural context for the premiere performance, and the work's continued relevance today. There will also be a focus on Monteverdi's life and work as a Renaissance court musician.'

Berklee College of Music: Music for Wellness

Free, 4 weeks, 3-5 hours per week, Introductory

'Learn simple techniques to enrich your mind, body, and spirit through music. The methods can be applied in your daily life, particularly when you are feeling down or stressed out. Developed by a board-certified music therapist and a vocalist/pianist/composer/recording artist specializing in Indian music, these strategies combine science with the wisdom of Eastern philosophy.'

Berklee College of Music: Introduction to Music Theory

Free, 6 weeks, 3-5 hours per week, Introductory

'This course includes six lessons that will give you the knowledge and skills you need to understand basic music theory. You’ll learn from Berklee College of Music professor George W. Russell, Jr. and from Berklee students who share their musical journey and offer advice for those wanting to study music.'

Stanford University: The New World of Arnold Schönberg's Piano Music

Free, 10 weeks, 5-10 hours per week, Introductory

'We will discuss the history and musical details of each work and give suggestions for pianists who are practicing and performing the compositions. We will also encounter related compositions by other composers and get a tour of Schönberg's house in Austria.'

Harvard University: Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and Programme Music in the 19th century

Free, 3 weeks, 3-5 hours per week, Introductory

'Harvard's Thomas Forrest Kelly (Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music) guides learners through Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique, highlighting Berlioz's compostional process, his innovative orchestration, and the reception of his controversial piece of narrative instrumental music.

You will learn the basics of Romantic musical style, Berlioz's creative expansion of the standard orchestra, and the debates surrounding the idea of purely musical narrative in the 19th century.'


Monday 29 June

5pm: The Secret Inner Life of the Piano: Cosmologies for the Piano and 3D Electronics

In this City University lecture, composer Aaron Einbond discusses his composition Cosmologies for piano and three-dimensional electronics. This discussion, chaired by Dr Ian Pace, will explore the role of AI in music and the importance of space in considering the instrument and performer.

Tickets free, but required. Sign up here.

Wednesday 1 July

5pm: A Prehistory of TIME TIME TIME'

City University presents another lecture, this time with Dr Joseph Browning, who looks at Jennifer Walshe's recent opera, TIME TIME TIME, which uses human's voices to recreate a prehistoric soundscape.

Tickets free, but required. Sign up here.

Tuesday 7 July

5pm: Who exactly is in charge here?: Composing for large groups of improvisers

Dr Moss Freed's lecture for City University focuses on compositional structures for improvisers, with emphasis on his recent collection of pieces, Micromotives and the issues that arose in the performance of this piece.

Tickets free, but required. Sign up here.

Wednesday 8 July

5pm: Composition as hyper-object

This City University lecture with Dr Claudia Moliter questions what it means for compositional practice to consider itself as part of a bigger whole rather than a singular entity.

Tickets free, but required. Sign up here.

Tuesday 14 July

5pm: Liszt and National Identity – What else is new?

Dr Shay Loya looks at our enduring fascination with Liszt's mixed sense of national identity, thanks to his German-ethnic West-Hungarian Catholic background, Parisian cultural influences in his teens and later ties with Weimar, Hungary and the Catholic Church into adulthood.

Loya writes, 'Examining this scholarship, and a few examples from Liszt’s music, I will argue that we are only at the beginning of analysing the way the construction and negotiation of national identity is encoded in music; and as music scholars, we have yet to avail ourselves of, and test, the full range of critical theories on nationalism.'

Tickets free, but required. Sign up here.

Friday 17 July

5pm: Preliminary notes on the Beethoven-Liszt Symphonies: topics of transcription and para-timbral virtuosity

In this City University lockdown lecture, Dr Ian Pace looks at Liszt's solo piano transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies, examining audiences' relationship with both sets of works and putting the transcriptions in the context of Liszt's compositional output as a whole.

Tickets free, but required. Sign up here.

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This list will be regularly updated. To get in touch with any more lectures, courses or talks, please contact

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