Lectures For Lifelong Learners!

Karen Painter

Karen Painter

Karen Painter

Music History

Classical & Pop Music

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Professor Karen Painter has taught music history to musicians and non-majors for nearly three decades—at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and since 2007 at the University of Minnesota. An expert on musical listening in past eras, Painter loves engaging with a broader public on the subject of classical music, music in film, and popular music. She has organized scholarly events for the public, working with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Ojai Festival, the Berlin Academy, and the Friends of the Salzburg Festival. Painter’s past lecture venues include the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera, and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Painter has published widely in scholarly journals as well as edited or authored books with academic presses.

Lectures include:

Classical Hit Tunes

We begin with famous storms in music (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, and Wagner’s Walkure) and then discuss the different qualities of music that make some music so memorable. We listen for the highly textured finale of Mozart’s famous “Jupiter” Symphony, the vast open space in the finale of Verdi’s Aida, the haunting repetition in Ravel’s Bolero, and the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen. Indulge in the music that novelists have found the most pleasurable moments in Western art music—Chopin’s Nocturne in F# and the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth. We end with two symphonic masterpieces that have transfixed generations of listeners—Beethoven’s Fifth and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

Classical Music on Film

When have movie directors turned to great works of classical music as background? You will recognize the famous excerpts we’ll watch in an early Disney cartoon and two blockbuster war movies (Apocalypse Now and Platoon). Classical masterpieces illustrate cosmic force, as we’ll see in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Classic horror films turned to modern music, as we see in The Shining. We’ll also study the opera scenes in some of Hollywood’s greatest films, like Pretty Woman.

“The Times They are A- Changin”: Popular Music that Changed the World

Listen to the greatest music that inspired political change from the 60s to the 80s. Some artists wrote their own music, others made famous recordings of earlier songs. Starting with the famous civil rights song “We Shall Overcome,” popularized by Pete Seeger, we’ll discuss local Minnesota artist Bob Dylan (“The Times They Are A-Changin’”). We’ll contrast two memorable hits from 1967— and blues star Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” We end with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”

Vienna from Mozart to Mahler

This magical city, with its splendor in architecture, the visual arts, and drama, had a love/hate relationship with famous composers—including Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler. Listen to excerpts from leading composers who made Vienna their home.

Beethoven across History

Napoleon inspired the world’s most famous composer, who died in 1827 without knowing how many political causes would embrace his music. Listen to his most famous works and hear about the historical moments (World War I, World War II, revolutions, the reunification of Germany) where Beethoven’s music and name served as inspiration.

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