Music CDs and the Computer: Powerful New Teaching Tools

By Holzberg, Carol S. | Technology & Learning, September 1990 | Go to article overview

Music CDs and the Computer: Powerful New Teaching Tools


Holzberg, Carol S., Technology & Learning


Music CDs and the Computer: Powerful New Teaching Tools

For most of us, the first compact disc we ever encountered was an audio CD. Today the same digital technology is being used to store text, graphics, and speech on CD-ROM. These discs, which are generally controlled by a computer, offer the best of both worlds: the high-quality sound of the audio CD and the powerful interactivity of a computer program.

Because of their close association with audio CDs, many of the first CD-ROM programs to reach the schools have been designed to teach music and music appreciation. Here's a glimpse of what's available for your classroom now.

An Annotated Version of

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

One of the first CD-based music appreciation programs to reach the schools was Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, the initial title in the Voyager Company's CD Companion series. The program includes a commercially available audio CD (a 1966 recording of Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, digitally remastered by London Records) and two 800K floppy disks.

The HyperCard stacks included on the floppies were authored by noted historian, pianist, and UCLA Professor of Music Robert Winter and include text, graphics, and audio samples designed to enhance the listener's experience of Beethoven's celebrated work. A Pocket Guide allows listeners to hear any major section of the symphony simply by clicking on it. The user can request commentary on the music as it is being played, or can branch off in search of additional information. For example, Beethoven's World examines the historical setting in which the music was written, while The Art of Listening uses actual excerpts from the Ninth Symphony to explain the symphony's musical structure, movement by movement. (This section also provides an in-depth discussion of the sonata form and a description of the instruments in a classical orchestra.)

An online glossary offers definitions of 133 musical terms with examples taken directly from the audio CD. Sometimes musical notation is provided as well, so listeners can follow along as the music plays. As a culminating activity, the program offers a game which challenges one to four players with questions about the work. A second program in the series, based on Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, has recently begun to ship, and more titles are on their way.

Warner's Magic Flute:

A Multimedia Musical Experience

Warner New Media is taking an even more ambitious approach with Audio Notes, a series of CD-ROM titles that offer music, text, voice narration, graphics, and--for those with the right equipment--access to video footage.

Like Voyager's Beethoven disc, the first Audio Notes title starts with an available recording: a 1987 Teldec-label performance of Mozart's popular Magic Flute opera (conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt). However, instead of delivering this recording on a standard audio CD, Warner New Media (taking advantage of the fact that its parent company, Time-Warner, owns the Teldec label) has produced three entirely new CD-ROMs, each containing a portion of the opera, along with additional audio tracks. HyperCard stacks (also stored on the CD-ROM) run the program.

Once the listener has selected a starting point and set the music in motion, the opera continues to play in the background while other choices are being made. It is easy to flip back and forth among the German libretto, an English translation, a synopsis of the story as it unfolds, and a musical analysis of what you are hearing.

You'll also find a glossary of unfamiliar terms (many featuring musical illustrations)> background information on characters and songs> a tempo guide that uses a computerized metronome and examples from the opera to illustrate such musical terms as "andante" and "allegro"> and an informal exam to test your knowledge. …

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