View Full Version : Something about music in general: Leonard Bernstein "What does music mean?"

04-28-2018, 04:05 PM
Hello UU members!

Moving onto the intermediate stage of playing the ukulele, I'm starting to learn about music theory, after all, the ukulele is actually my first serious instrument! For a total beginner in music theory, lots of books are getting into technical details very quickly, and very frustrating for me to read...

But recently I've found out these Young People Concert Series from Leonard Bernstein (what an incredibly charming man!) and the New York Philharmonics.

For example, in the concert/lecture named "What does music mean?", Leonard Bernstein said:

"We don't have to know a lot of stuff about sharps and flats and chords and all that business in order to understand music; if it tell us something - not a story or a picture - but a feeling - if it makes us change inside, and have all those different good feelings music can make us have, then we are understanding it. And that's all there is to it. Because those feelings aren't like the stories and pictures we talked about before; they're not extra; they're not outside the music; they belong to the music; they're what music is about.

And the most wonderful thing of all is that there's no limit to the different kinds of feelings music can make you have. And some of those feelings are so special and so deep they can't even be described in words. You see, we can't always name the things we feel. Sometimes we can; we can say we feel joy, or pleasure, peacefulness, whatever, love, hate. But every once in a while we have feelings so deep and so special that we have no words for them and that's where music is so marvelous; because music names them for us, only in notes instead of in words. It's all in the way music moves - we must never forget that music is movement, always going somewhere, shifting and changing, and flowing, from one note to another; and that movement can tell us more about the way we feel than a million words can. "

The original video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxwWlQNGeKE
Scripts here: https://leonardbernstein.com/lectures/television-scripts/young-peoples-concerts/what-does-music-mean

The entire series is just beyond mind-blowing!!! I know it's not about ukulele and I'm sure lots of you probably knew about this already, but I just couldn't wait to share these with you. And if anyone has some further recommended readings or videos for me, a total beginner, please share them too! Thank you!

Doug W
04-28-2018, 05:40 PM
Thanks for sharing. I remember that series.

Joyful Uke
04-28-2018, 05:41 PM
Thanks for sharing that. It sounds great. I'll be checking it out.

04-30-2018, 04:27 AM
+1 on the Bernstein recommendation. Bernstein is a remarkable speaker and teacher and his videos are captivating if you are interested in music. I also highly recommend this!

Additionally, I will suggest a personal favorite: Bernstein's lecture series called "The Unanswered Question."
1. Musical Phonology (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3HLqCHO08s&list=PLuQqHfLobLUIzDiIGrtE41KvQ-EKBXlol&index=1)
2. Musical Syntax (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_fxB6yrDVo&list=PLuQqHfLobLUIzDiIGrtE41KvQ-EKBXlol&index=2)
3. Musical Semantics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IxJbc_aMTg&list=PLuQqHfLobLUIzDiIGrtE41KvQ-EKBXlol&index=3)
4. The Delights and Dangers of Ambiguity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwXO3I8ASSg&list=PLuQqHfLobLUIzDiIGrtE41KvQ-EKBXlol&index=4)
5. The 20th Century Crisis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPGstQUbpHQ&list=PLuQqHfLobLUIzDiIGrtE41KvQ-EKBXlol&index=5)
6. The Poetry of Earth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWeQXTnv_xU&list=PLuQqHfLobLUIzDiIGrtE41KvQ-EKBXlol&index=6)

It is a long series (each lecture runs ~2 hours), but so excellent I couldn't stop watching. In it, Bernstein attempts to make the more academic topics of musicology and music history accessible to non-musicians. I dare say he succeeds tremendously. He selects several demonstrative pieces to play during each lecture to communicate his points and ties it all together into a fascinating story.