Aquinas's Commentary On The Metaphysics

#56- How to Listen to Classical Music and Actually Enjoy It: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and The Heiligenstadt Testament with Michelle Hawkins

In this week’s episode, Scott and Karl talk with Michelle Hawkins, music professor and Online Great Book’s member. The trio listen and discuss Beethoven’s Third Symphony and read The Heiligenstadt Testament, a heartbreaking letter written by Beethoven to his brothers.

Beethoven’s Third Symphony is regarded as a turning point in musical history, the ideas for which began during his tumultuous “Heiligenstadt Testament” period. Why is it that so few of us are listening to this landmark symphony?

In today’s music climate, understanding and enjoying classical music may seem far-fetched for some.

Michelle has a theory: “We’re living in a post-musical culture now… people are not growing up in the same musical atmosphere that used to be the case. It is harder to listen to these pieces of music because you do need to have a little bit of context. They are complex, it may be hard to enjoy something so complex when you have no context and no exposure.”

What if you want to explore classical music, but you’re not sure where to begin? We approach great music the way we approach great books— you don’t have to be an expert before going out and encountering the thing.

If you are interested in starting your journey with the Great Books, use the discount OGBPODCAST to save 25% on enrollment at Online Great Books.


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  1. Michelle Beltrano

    You guys have done it again! I didn’t think I could enjoy your podcast more, then you did THIS! I am a classically trained pianist, my dad was a jazz drummer, and one of my son plays all things strings (also have a son taking drum lessons.) When they were younger and I homeschooled them we listened to “Classical Kids” all the time so all my kids have an appreciation for classical music. I have a little bit of music theory, but I don’t consider myself a musician truly because while I can sight read music and play by chords I do not have the gift of creating music myself. Whenever I hear beautiful classical music, my instinct is to close my eyes and let it wash over me to feel it all. This was a bit dangerous as I was driving while listening to your podcast! I had to laugh when you mentioned the Oboe – I had a friend whose brother in law played trumpet with the SF Symphony, her husband was a HS music teacher, and she taught OBOE lessons! That is for sure the platypus of the instrument community! Michelle was a wonderful guest for this podcast and I learned a lot! As I’m sure you need more projects (tongue firmly in cheek), an online great music corner of online great books would be outstanding! And, we’ll need a t-shirt for that too by the way.
    ~Michelle Beltrano 🙂

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