Discover: Listen and Learn

Listening Adventures

Go on an adventure! Music can take you to wonderful places, whether you're traveling to a concert, going to a museum, or just sitting in your room. Music can paint colorful pictures in your mind - of a beautiful lake, a bubbling fountain, a big city.....the possibilities are endless! By learning to hear what music is telling you, you can close your eyes and go anywhere in the world!


Compare and contrast the styles of these two French composers

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Jeaux d'eau

by Maurice Ravel

This piece is about fountains and water play. Listen for dancing waters and water drops sparkling in the sun

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Gymnopédie No. 1

by Erik Satie

This lovely, calm and serene piece is very different from Ravel's fountain. What do you hear? What does it make you think of?


Compare and contrast these two beautiful romantic and impressionistic pieces.

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The Maiden & the Nightingale

by Enrique Granados

This is a romantic era piece inspired by paintings by Goya. Listen to the beautiful, flowing melodies and see if you can hear the Nightingale singing at the end (trills in RH).

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The Fountain of Acqua Paola

by Charles Griffes

This piece was written by an American impressionist composer after he had visited this fountain in Rome. Listen to the joyous way in which he describes the water.


Compare and contrast these two jazz-influenced pieces.

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Three Preludes for Piano

by George Gershwin

Gershwin was an American composer who was inspired by jazz in his music. These 3 short pieces have jazzy elements in them - the second is a bluesy lullaby. Three very colorful pieces!

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Etude Op. 40, No. 7

by Nikolai Kapustin

Nikolai Kapustin is a living Russian composer who is also influenced heavily by jazz in his music. Compare this Etude with the Gershwin Preludes. Listen to how each composer has his own unique style.


Compare and contrast these two Baroque composers.

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Sonata K. 427

by Domenico Scarlatti

Scarlatti was a Baroque composer who lived in the 1700's and composed music for keyboard around the time the piano was invented. His music was influenced by Spanish guitar. Listen for fast and repetitive notes that mimic the guitar.

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Prelude BWV 846

by Johann Sebastien Bach

J.S. Bach is probably the most famous Baroque composer of all time. He worked as a church musician much of his life. This lovely Prelude is one of his most beautiful and famous works. You may want to play it one day!


Compare and contrast these two charming pieces that depict characters and tell stories.

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Pantalon Op. 25, No. 3

by Amy Beach

Amy Beach was an American composer who lived 1867-1944. This piece is from a collection of six easy pieces for children and depicts a clown trying to walk with his silly long pants!

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Empress of the Pagodas
(Mother Goose Suite #3)

by Maurice Ravel

Here is another piece by Ravel. This is a piano duet played by two people. Watch how the video uses the music to tell the story of the Empress.


Compare and contrast these two beautiful pieces, often arranged for piano solo.

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The Swan

by Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns was a French composer who lived during the romantic era. This is a beautiful cello solo from Carnival of the Animals, one of his most famous works.

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Morning Mood
(Peer Gynt Suite)

by Edvard Grieg

Grieg is another romantic-era composer. "Morning Mood" is an incredibly beautiful piece. As you listen, think of the majesty of a sunrise, and see if you can hear the sun coming up!


Listen to and compare these two famous piano works about the moon.

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Moonlight Sonata Op. 27, No. 2

by Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven was one of the most famous composers of all time. Listen to the first movement of his Moonlight Sonata. It was compared to the moon rising over Lake Lucerne. What do you hear?

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Clair de lune

by Claude Debussy

Debussy was an impressionistic composer like Ravel. This song is also about the moon. Listen to the lovely, flowing harmonies and think about how this style differs from the Beethoven.


Compare this piece arranged in contrasting styles.

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(The Nutcracker Suite)

by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer and pianist who wrote the famous Nutcracker Ballet. Here is the famous March from the suite. Listen to how the orchestra depicts the marching soldiers.

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(The Nutcracker Suite)

arr. by Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington was a famous American jazz pianist, composer and bandleader. He arranged Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite in jazz style! Listen to how his version differs from the original. Which do you like better?


Listen to this famous piece played two different ways

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Hungarian Dance No. 5

by Johannes Brahms

Brahms was a German composer and pianist who wrote many famous works. Here is one of his most famous pieces arranged for four hands.

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Hungarian Dance No. 5

by Johannes Brahms

Here is the Hungarian Dance played by an orchestra. Which do you like better?


Carnival of the Animals

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Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals

by Camille Saint-Saëns

This suite for two pianos and small orchestra was one of Saint-Saëns' most famous and most loved. See if you can imagine an aquarium with fish and sea creatures swimming about!

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Aviary from Carnival of the Animals

by Camille Saint-Saëns

This lovely piece is all about birds. Listen for the flute trills - can you hear the birds chirping and flying? Listen for the piano also!


Felix Mendelssohn

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Spring Song from Song Without Words, Op. 62, No. 6

by Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn was a romantic-era composer who wrote music for piano, orchestra, and many other instruments. His sister, Fanny, was also a talented composer and perhaps even better than Felix! Here are two of his most famous and loved works.

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Wedding March from Midsummer Night's Dream

by Felix Mendelssohn

This is a very famous piece, do you recognize it? Where have you heard it before?


Sergei Rachmaninoff

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Prelude in C# Minor

by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, virtuoso pianist, and conductor of the late Romantic period. His works are beautiful and difficult! This is one of his most famous piano works. It is about a dream he had one night.

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Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 18

by Sergei Rachmaninoff

This is a variation from one of his most beautiful works for piano and orchestra. Do you like it? What do you think of when you hear it?


Contrasting Styles:
French & Spanish

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Gaspard de la Nuit: Ondine

by Maurice Ravel

Here is another beautiful piece by the French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel. It is about a dream of a water nymph who tries to lure observers to her kingdom at the bottom of a lake. Listen to the cascading waterfalls and the beautiful, flowing arpeggios. This piece is incredibly difficult to play!

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by Isaac Albeniz

Isaac Albeniz was a Spanish composer who wrote lovely pieces in the style of his country. This piece is a type of song and dance that alternates sung verses with guitar interludes. Listen to how the piano imitates the guitar, and the lovely, singing melodies.



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Feux d'artifice (Fireworks)

by Claude Debussy

This is another lovely impressionist piece by the French composer Claude Debussy. This piece is named "Fireworks" - can you hear them? Listen for the "darts" of sound that jump around the keyboard. Do you think they sound like fireworks?

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Stars & Stripes Forever

arr. by Vladimir Horowitz

One of the most famous patriotic songs in the U.S., this is a bright and showy piece arranged for piano by one of the great pianists - Vladimir Horowitz. Horowitz had large hands and could easily play all of the fast octaves in this piece. It's very difficult, and meant to showcase virtuosic pianists!


Contemporary Styles:
Bartok & Tanaka

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Sonata Sz. 80, No. 3 - Allegro molto

by Bela Bartok

Bartok was a Hungarian composer who wrote many pieces based on folk songs. He lived from 1881-1945, and his music is more contemporary sounding. His style is percussive and very rhythmic. Listen to this exciting movement from one of his sonatas.

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Techno Etudes II

by Karen Tanaka

Karen Tanaka is a living classical composer who is influenced by contemporary styles. This piece is inspired by hip-hop! Listen to the driving rhythm and energy of the music. Do you like it?


Contemporary Styles:
Pärt & Holst

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Für Alina

by Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pä is another living composer from Estonia who has a minimalist style and is inspired by Gregorian chant. This piece is very simple, but lovely and introspective.

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Mars, Bringer of War from
The Planets

by Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was an English composer whose most famous work is an orchestra work called The Planets. This piece is the first of seven movements. It is said that this piece was the inspiration for the Star Wars soundtrack! Does it sound familiar?


Contrasting Styles:
Liszt & Reich

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Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

by Franz Liszt

Even though he lived long ago, Franz Liszt is still considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. Not only was he a skilled composer, but his technical skills at the keyboard were unparalleled. He stretched the limits of the modern day piano, and his difficult and virtuosic pieces are still being played to this day. This is one of his famous rhapsodies. It is very exciting to listen to!

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Piano Phase

by Steven Reich

Steven Reich is a living American composer who is considered a minimalist. He uses many repeating patterns. This piece has a pattern that repeats over and over throughout the piece. It takes two pianos, and each player has to "phase" in and out with the other. It is a very unique and unusual piece.


Contrasting Styles:
Couperin & de Falla

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Le tic tok choc

by Francois Couperin

Couperin was a French composer who lived before the piano was invented. This piece was composed for a harpsichord, an instrument that came before the piano. It is thought to be inspired by a clock and the tick-tock motion. Do you hear it? Do you think it sounds like a clock?

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Fire Dance

by Manuel de Falla

This piece was written in 1915 by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. It is part of a ballet and originally for orchestra. This piece is played by one of the great pianists - Artur Rubinstein. It is very showy, virtuosic and exciting!


Contrasting Christmas Styles:
Brubeck & Messiaen

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Winter Wonderland

arr. by Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) was a great American jazz pianist and composer. This piece is cheerful, quick and uses many jazz techniques. Listen for melodic solos and playful rhythms.

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by Oliver Messiaen (1908-1992)

This modern classical piece begins with "bells" ringing and is described as "happy and joyous." It sounds very different than what we would expect! Does it sound joyous to you? How would you describe this piece?


Contrasting Styles:
Mozart & Scriabin

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Sonata in C Major, K.330: I

W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)

A lovely, light and uplifting classical piece played by renowned pianist, Vladimir Horowitz.

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Etude in D# minor

by Scriabin (1871-1915)

This piece is very different than the Mozart! Listen to the dramatic quality, large intervals and octaves. The composer, Scriabin, was noted for synesthesia, or associating color with sound. What colors do you hear?


Barber Excursions

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I: Un poco allegro

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Excursions is a set of 4 pieces written by Samuel Barber, who was an American composer. He used American styles like boogie-woogie, blues and jazz, combined with classical forms. This one has a lot of motion and sounds to me like a train traveling across the American landscape. Do you hear it?

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III: Allegretto

by Samuel Barber

This lovely movement is said to be based on a folk tune, "The Streets of Laredo." It is imaginative and free. What do you hear?

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