Website of Musician Eric B. Chernov

UnGeeking Music: Lectures about Music
All lectures are free, open to the public, and begin at 3:30 PM (EST) unless otherwise stated.

Rarely-Heard Works
Thursday, 11 January 2024 — 7:00 PM (EST)
via Zoom click here to register
In this UnGeeking session, we will discuss and listen to two types of musical rarities: (1) interesting works by very well-known composers (like Mahler, Rachmaninoff, and Wagner) which, nonetheless are rarely heard, and (2) important works by much lesser-known composers (like Fritz Heinrich Klein) which are also rarely-heard. Key to the discussion will be why the works are interesting or important and why they are, nevertheless, seldom heard.

An Introduction to the Works of David Bowie
Wednesday, 15 February 2023 — 8:00 PM (EST)
via Zoom click here to register
David Bowie (1947-2016) was a mod, a mime, a painter, a folkie, and a British dance-hall aficionado long before he was an art(istic) icon. But no man is an island, and all art is of a time and place. The peculiar and particular climate in which he grew up helped lead to his rise in the late 1960s, which ultimately set him up for great fame in the 1970s, and world domination in the early 1980s. In this UnGeeking session we'll look at some of Bowie's most famous works, from the character-driven Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom, through the Thin White Duke, to the Berlin works and even his turn as Jareth the Goblin King.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Strauss's Ein Heldenleben
Wednesday, 14 December 2022 — 8:00 PM (EST)
via Zoom click here to register
Though not the inventor of the tone poem, Richard Strauss (1864-1949) had unparalleled success with his ten works in this genre, and more than half of his tone-poem output remains well entrenched in the standard orchestral literature. In this UnGeeking session we’ll examine the eighth of his tone poems, his A Hero's Life, op. 40. Echoing questions which arose when Beethoven’s Third Symphony was examined at a 2016 UnGeeking session (Who is the hero? What is a hero?), the work is at once a bombastic flight of fancy, an overwhelming paean to a mythical figure, a virtual inventory of prior Strauss works, and a biting indictment of critics. Come be entranced in heroic E-flat major!

Mourning in Music
Wednesday, 04 May 2022 — 8:00 PM (EST)
via Zoom click here to register
Polyphonic settings of the Requiem—the votive mass on behalf of the dead—have existed since the 15th century and include some of the most profound and beautiful music ever written. Every composer's setting reflects their relationship to the text(s) and their sense of history, tradition, and drama, resulting in works which are often startlingly different in nature from one another. In this UnGeeking session we'll sample settings from a wide range of composers to see how each approach this most serious of musical endeavors.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Puccini's La bohème
Wednesday, 15 December 2021 — 8:00 PM (EST)
via Zoom click here to register
One of the most popular operas of all time, Puccini's grand Parisian masterpiece is full of charm, drama, lightheartedness, laughter, and tragedy in equal measures. Chock full of inventive melodies, sophisticated and often subtle harmonic command, and an uncanny sense of rhythmic flow, Bohème delights through and through, and sounds as fresh today as it surely must have at its 1896 premiere. Come to this UnGeeking session and hear what all the fuss is about!

Masters and Masterpieces (series): An Introduction to the Music of Florence Price
Saturday, 24 April 2021 — via Zoom due to COVID-19click here to register
Florence Price (1887-1953) was a pioneering composer, pianist, and educator who, after achieving wide recognition for her Symphony in E minor (with the symphony's premiere in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, she became the first African-American woman to have an orchestral work performed by a major American orchestra) and her songs (sung most notably, but hardly exclusively, by Marian Anderson), fell into a long period of relative obscurity. Happily, this trend has reversed itself, and her music has, for the last several years, enjoyed a well-deserved revival. In this UnGeeking session, we will listen to several of Price's works to glean an introductory overview of her remarkable output.

Sophisticated Pop Music
Saturday, 06 February 2021 — via Zoom due to COVID-19click here to register
A great deal of pop music is full of sophistication, artistry, subtlety, and finesse. In this UnGeeking session, we'll listen to selected works from a wide range of pop artists and examine the genius of their compositional and performance output. Some of the artists we'll listen to include icons, like Stevie Wonder and Madonna; the Queen Bey herself, Beyoncé; ear-candy merchants, Def Leppard; modern chanteuse, Zaz; and current phenoms of Spanish Garage Pop (yes, that's a thing), Hinds.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): A Look at Stravinsky's Genius
Saturday, 17 October 2020 — via Zoom due to COVID-19click here to register
In 1998, when Time magazine came out with their list of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century, they chose Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) for most influential classical composer. They chose correctly and, to be fair, even with the likes of Schoenberg, Puccini, Boulez, and Ravel in the mix, it really was a no-brainer, no-contest choice. Come to this UnGeeking session to get an introductory overview of Stravinsky's life and works and hear why his influence was so profound.

Myths about Music
Saturday, 02 May 2020 — via Zoom due to COVID-19
People say things about music that sound good, perhaps even convincing, upon first hearing, but don't hold up to scrutiny very well. In this Ungeeking session, we'll look at some of the more ubiquitous, but suspect, pronouncements about music. For example, "Music is the Universal language" or "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." We'll also discuss some common mistakes, the vast majority of which are unnecessary and avoidable, pedagogically, which are nonetheless ubiquitous (e.g., "that's not the letter 'C,' and it doesn't 'stand for' common time").

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeomen of the Guard
Saturday, 18 April 2020 — via Zoom due to COVID-19
Librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) jointly wrote fourteen of the most beloved and oft-performed operettas in the English language. In this UnGeeking session we'll take stock of their creative genius in general, and then examine it more closely by looking at their 1888 masterpiece, The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid. Considered by some to be their magnum opus, it intrigues and delights through and through.

A Look at Ives's Genius
Saturday, 01 February 2020
Charles Ives (1874-1954) was a man in some ways caught in a psychologically complex web of contradictory impulses, specifically in the irony of his anachronistic existence. He was a man brought up in the late Victorian era, with values and aesthetics which he much admired and which he spent great energy pining for throughout his life. There are legion examples of this overt pining in his work. And yet, from his earliest musical experiences he placed a premium on experimentation and finding the new. The results were often astounding, and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential composers in American musical history. He also was an unusually successful businessman, a great supporter of others, and a Pulitzer-prize winner (for a piece he wrote almost forty years before he got the prize). Come to this UnGeeking session and learn about the wonderful genius which was Charles Ives. And, when it's over, go around the block to 70 West 11th street and read the historical marker at one of the several buildings in New York in which Ives lived.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Tchaikovsky's Symphony #6 in B minor, op. 74
Saturday, 04 January 2020
In this UnGeeking session, we'll discuss in detail and listen to the last completed symphony of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). The so-called "Pathétique Symphony" is one of the most glorious contributions to the orchestral literature. Here we have a master in full command of the full range of his skills. Flawless form; impeccable, and sometimes intriguing, orchestration; soaring and heart-wrenching moments in equal measure; and, of course, glorious melodies, combine to create an unforgettable experience.

Claude Debussy and the Death of Tonality
Saturday, 23 November 2019
Tonality, the musical system of organization which uses major and minor keys, had a long and slow death, starting at the moment of its birth in the Baroque. Schoenberg is usually given credit (or blamed, depending on who you ask) for putting the final nail in its coffin. The true tale is more complicated, and Debussy (1862-1918) is probably a better contender for the title. In this UnGeeking session, we'll look at several Debussy works which push tonality to the breaking point, and a few which push it past that breaking point.

Studio Cats and Brill Building Denizens
Saturday, 26 October 2019
Every era in popular music in the 20th century (and beyond) has writer/performers, but there are always also professional songwriters who sell their wares. The late-19th and early-20th centuries version of this phenomenon, Tin Pan Alley, had amongst its ranks composers and lyricists such as Harold Arlen and "Yip" Harburg (think The Wizard of Oz), Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, George M. Cohan, Dorothy Fields, the Gershwin brothers, Rogers, Hammerstein, Hart, Loesser, and many others. The mid-century had its version, too, and the musicians' activity was concentrated in two New York City buildings: (1) 1650 Broadway, and (2) much more famously, the Brill Building, still there at 1619 Broadway at 49th Street. But every major recording city in the world had its own cabal of professional musicians to perform the music, too. Most of these session musicians ("studio musicians") go unheralded, but they collectively played on virtually every major recording from the 1950s until today. In this UnGeeking session, we'll take stock of the major writers and composers (Lieber, Stoller, King, Diamond, et al.), and performers (The Wrecking Crew, The Funk Brothers, Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Muscle Shoals, et al.) You will surely be surprised at how ubiquitous their collective work really is.

Rachmaninoff's Choral Music
Saturday, 13 April 2019
The last great figure of Romanticism, and somewhat anachronistically at that, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was one of the giants of 20th-century pianism. While his works for piano are among his most famous pieces, he did not, unlike Chopin, for example, write exclusively for the instrument. In this UnGeeking session, we will examine some of Rachmaninoff's greatest choral works, including one which is widely considered one of the greatest a cappella works of all time.

Fear Not the Second Viennese School
Saturday, 23 March 2019
The three principal composers of the so-called Second Viennese School, Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951), Anton Webern (1883-1945), and Alban Berg (1885-1935), wrote an impressive array of beautiful music. And yet, even though Schönberg's been dead nearly seventy years (and the others even longer), much of their output is still met with accusations of being nonsense, cacophony, esoteric and inscrutable, or just plain unemotional drivel. The vitriol with which Schönberg and Webern's music, in particular, is routinely met is nothing short of shocking. In the UnGeeking session, we'll unravel some of the mysteries and misconceptions about the works of these influential masters. Fear not; come and have your dodecaphobia cured!

One-Hit Wonders of Classical Music
Saturday, 02 March 2019
It may surprise some to learn that the phenomenon of the "one-hit wonder" is not confined to the world of popular music. The classical world has its fair share of composers who have suffered this fate. Sometimes the fate seems justified (Ippolitov-Ivanov; Orff, to a degree); other times, maybe not so much (Honegger, Litolff, Pachelbel, et al.) In this UnGeeking session, we'll examine some of these composers and their works and try to gain a larger view of their output.

Let's Get Pretentious: A Sampling of "Concept" Works in Rock
Saturday, 17 November 2018
Since the mid-1960s there have been rock and rollers who have attempted to push rock n roll past the constriction of the "Two Minute Fifty" song into more expansive storytelling possibilities. Song cycles, cantatas, "operas," etc. have resulted. In this session we'll look at some of the best early pioneering examples of this (e.g., Small Faces' "Happiness Stan" and The Who's "A Quick One"), as well as some later works (e.g., Pink Floyd's The Wall).

Vocal Music of the 14th Century
Saturday, 27 October 2018
The fourteenth century was a mess. Between the Hundred Years' War, the Great Plague, and emergence of the Ottoman Empire, there is strife on virtually all fronts. But there was much great art, too. While England and France began to forge separate identities (a result of the Hundred Years' War), Chaucer was busily writing the greatest work of Middle English, The Canterbury Tales. And in France, one of the greatest writers of all time, Guillaume de Machaut, was also making a name for himself as, incidentally, the greatest and most influential composer of the 14th century. In this UnGeeking session, we'll sample some of the great works of Machaut, as well as works by Philippe de Vitry, Francesco Landini, and others.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Ravel's Operas
Saturday, 21 April 2018
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is one of those composers who had a relatively small output (around 80 works total, not counting his Prix de Rome output) but who honed virtually each work into a unique masterpiece. In this UnGeeking session we will look at the only operas Ravel wrote. His first, L'Heure espagnole (The Spanish Hour), is a comedy with a glorious score, and moments in which Ravel simultaneously pokes fun at Carmen…and his own predilection for Spanish-influenced music! His second opera (also a comedy), L'enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells), with an amazing libretto by Colette, shows what happens when the objects on the receiving end of a child's temper tantrum come alive to torment him!

Entartete Musik
Saturday, 17 March 2018
The Nazi regime's heinous views on virtually everything applied even to the art world. Music that was deemed contemptable by the regime was dubbed "Entartete Musik"—degenerate music. While many of the composers who were labeled degenerate are well-known (notably Schoenberg, Mahler, Hindemith, and Stravinsky, among other luminaries), a great many talented composers, including some true geniuses, remain to this day relatively unknown. In this UnGeeking session, we'll examine the works of some of these lesser-known figures.

Bach and the Art of Imitation
Saturday, 10 February 2018
The quintessential Baroque artist, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was more than a great composer. His beautiful works showcase one of the greatest minds in history. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in his works of imitation. In this UnGeeking session we'll examine several works by the master, but will concentrate on two in particular, his Das Musikalische Opfer (The Musical Offering), and one of his last works, Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue) to gain a little insight into just how such a mind works.

An Introduction to the Works of Pete Townshend
Saturday, 02 December 2017
Following last year's commitment to offering at least one non-classical session per year, this UnGeeking session is intended as an introductory overview of the works of Pete Townshend, both as a solo artist and as leader of The Who. We will examine his artistic journey from musical, social, and spiritual angles and place his work within larger contexts. This session may be inappropriate for pre-High School aged children.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Schumann's Carnaval, op. 9
Saturday, 28 October 2017
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)'s first artistic period consisted of compositions almost exclusively for piano; he was an aspiring pianist himself, and his future wife, Clara Wieck, was one of the great pianists of the 19th century. Among his shining achievements from this period is his highly imaginative—if oddly spelled—Carnaval, from 1835. Its subtitle, Scènes mignonnes sur quatre notes (Little Scenes on Four Notes), only hints at its expressive content, and Schumann combines dramatic imagination, psychological insight, hidden messages, unplayed music (!), artistic soapboxing (!!), and spelling (!!!), into a glorious half-hour tour de force, full of beautiful music and playful flights of fancy. Come enter the magical world of Schumann's party in this UnGeeking session.

Bartók's Chamber Music
Saturday, 07 October 2017
Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was one of the central figures in 20th-century music making. While he wrote influential works in many genres (opera, orchestral, solo piano, etc.), his chamber works have been especially influential. In this UnGeeking session we will listen to three of his chamber music works, and discuss why they are so important.

The Mahler Influence
Saturday, 22 April 2017
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was widely regarded as the greatest conductor of his time. His compositions, however, were rarely met with widespread approval; disdain and confusion were much more common. Undeterred, Mahler famously predicted that "[his] time would come." And so it did. By the 1960's, Mahler had become "groovy," and by the 1980's his works were among the classical best-sellers in recordings and concert-hall attendance. In this UnGeeking session, we'll examine what the allure of Mahler is, and explore both his influences and his influence. (And listen to a lot of music, too!)

Mendelssohn Re-Examined
Saturday, 25 March 2017
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) is likely the only composer in history who can meaningfully challenge Mozart for the title of greatest compositional child prodigy (which is not to suggest that he was the greater composer of the two). Despite this, and due to at least some circumstances well beyond his control, he remains a markedly underrated and somewhat maligned composer in some circles. In this UnGeeking session, we'll review what led to Mendelssohn's unusual reception history and take a fresh listen to several of his works, both well-known and more obscure.

The Emergence of British Rock
Saturday, 11 March 2017
The 1960's saw the rise of a musical movement which was destined to significantly alter popular music history: British rock and roll. While some greatly-influential groups never really made it over to these shores, several artists became part of the so-called "British Invasion," bringing American and American-influenced music back to its homeland. But there is a deeper issue here: what on Earth could all of these (mostly) middle-class, white, teenage British boys possibly identify with in songs and experiences of (mostly) poor, Southern USA, black men? On the surface, they have absolutely nothing in common; British rock should not have happened. We'll discuss why it did.

Do You Know What You Like About Music?
Saturday, 10 December 2016
This UnGeeking session is more interactive than other ones in the series. In this fun session, the audience will play a game in which they listen to excerpts from the literature and try to determine if, with no information other than the excerpt itself, they like what they hear, if they can determine what style the work is in, when it might have been written, who might have written it, etc. As a group, we'll compare notes and see if we can determine what it is we like (and dislike) about music, what criteria we use to judge a work's "worth," etc.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Beethoven's Symphony #3 ("Eroica")
Saturday, 12 November 2016
Beethoven's Heroic Symphony is probably the only one which can rival his Ninth for sheer influence. We'll begin this class by taking stock of what a symphony was before Beethoven created this repertoire staple, and then we'll explore why it remains one of the most powerful musical statements in history, why it is heroic and who the hero is (hint: it's not Napoleon), and why it is considered the quintessential "revolutionary" work.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Schubert's "Erlkönig"
Saturday, 29 October 2016
Just in time for Halloween! This 4-minute lied (song), written by a teenager, was a great hit in its day and remains one of Schubert's most popular compositions. The subject of countless essays and even dissertations, many consider it the single greatest lied in the literature. In this class, we'll examine some of the the reasons why this still-powerful work is so revered.

A Look at Haydn's Genius
Saturday, 16 April 2016
The elder statesman of the First Viennese School, much of Joseph Haydn's music remains little-known, certainly in comparison to the works of his younger colleagues, Mozart and Beethoven. Among many other things, though, he justifiably has both honorifics "Father of the Symphony" AND "Father of the String Quartet" (though he invented neither). In this UnGeeking session, we'll examine Haydn's unique and genius contributions to the literature and why he is so revered.

The Reformation's Influence on Music History
Saturday, 02 April 2016
Few events in Western History have been as seismic as the Protestant Reformation. Its effect was wide-ranging and permanent, affecting every part of society and profoundly altering art history. This class will examine the three main branches of the early Reformation (Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism) and show how each changed music history. We will also briefly look at music before the Reformation, and the Church's musical response to the Reformation (the Counter-Reformation) to gain a wider context.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Saturday, 30 January 2016
Arguably the most influential symphony ever written—and certainly the most famous one—we'll examine the Ninth's structure in detail to delve into why it was such a game-changer (it's not just because of the singers)!

What is Musical Form?
Saturday, 14 November 2015
Have you ever read in program notes that a musical work was in "rounded binary form," "ternary form," was a "rondo" or a "ritornello," or was in the ubiquitous "Sonata Form?" What do these terms mean? Why is form so important in music? How are forms even formed, and how can understanding form help your listening experience? This class will look into these issues from a historical perspective and use clear, real musical examples from the literature to illustrate.

A Look at Mozart's Genius
Saturday, 03 October 2015
Rather than focus on a single work, this class will take an overview of Mozart's life and work and explore his output to discover the most conspicuous aspects of his unique genius.

Masters and Masterpieces (series): Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Over 180 years after its composition, Berlioz's Fantastic Symphony remains, by far, his most famous and most-performed work. Still shocking in some regards, with aspects which remind one more of the tabloids than of high art, we'll explore Berlioz's influences, the work’s program, its sequel (!) and fallout, and its lasting influence.

Recording Rarities
Saturday, 27 September 2014
Since the mid-19th century, we have had technology hitherto unknown: the ability to record sounds and hear them back. In this fun class, we will listen to a range of rare recordings (the first dating all the way back to 1878), from lead and wax cylinders, to perforated piano rolls and beyond. Come hear the famous (Mahler, Stravinsky, Sullivan, Puccini, and many others) and the less-than-famous (everyone remembers Frank Lambert, right?) as they take us back in time with their music and voices.

Characteristics of the Baroque Era
Saturday, 09 November 2013
Artistic eras never start and end on a dime, but rather tend to be defined by large changes over time. In this class, we'll look at what are the types of things which make Baroque music Baroque, and will examine a great masterpiece, Antonio Vivaldi's Magnificat setting, to witness these characteristics in action.

What is "Techniques of Music" and Why Does it Matter?
Saturday, 27 April 2013
Every student in the Mannes Prep is required to take "Techniques of Music" (TOM) courses. In today's talk, as co-chair of the TOM department, I'll explain what these classes are, what types of things they cover, and why they are so important that there is no exemption from taking them.

Launch date: 21 November 2001.
© 2001 - 2024 Eric B. Chernov. All Rights Reserved.