WISE – Bernstein’s Lecture Series

I can’t believe I hadn’t found this gem of musical research beforehand: a series of 6 lectures given by Leonard Bernstein at Harvard, titled “The Unanswered Question.” Yes, he did title it after this piece.

Since they’re each more than an hour long, I’ve only managed to get through one of them, but I hope to be able to watch all six by the end of the project, since they’re extremely informative and thought-provoking. He connects uses the science of linguistics to analyze music as a universal human language, as is suggested by the famous phrase “music is a universal language.”

What was most informative to me relating to my project, however, was when he sat down at the piano and explained the structure of Mozart’s symphony. Hearing his explanations about the tonic-dominant relationship and chromaticism, then hearing it played by an orchestra conducted by Bernstein himself was surprisingly educational, especially from a symphony that was so familiar to me.

Another thing that I noticed was his conducting technique. He is a very expressive conductor, as all good conductors should be, but many times he seems to sacrifice correct posture (keeping arms low, not leaning forward) for expression. Since I have had very little formal education on conducting, this raised a question: what is good conducting? This is a question that I will be pursuing as I reach the rehearsal part of my project.