Sounds from the Past: How Did Music Become “Classical”?

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On March 9, Eliot Grasso will give the ninth talk in the series “It’s Complicated: The Histories Behind What We Think We Know?”

If you’ve ever enjoyed an opera, symphony, or concerto, if you’ve ever appreciated a film’s music score, then you have experience with classical music. But, how did music become classical? Have all people at all times sought to listen to music of the past? Why do we want to listen to old music–music, that at the time of its creation was most appreciated because of its novelty? This class will consider the trajectory of music in Western civilization and examine how and why backward-looking tendencies arose in the musical arts.

Eliot Grasso is the vice president and a tutor at Gutenberg College where he teaches art seminars and leads discussions in Western Civilization and the Great Conversation. Eliot holds a B.A. in music from Goucher College (2005), an M.A. in ethnomusicology from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick (2007), and a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance (2011). He has performed, recorded, taught, and lectured on Irish traditional music internationally. A fuller picture of his intellectual and artistic endeavors is available at

This class may be attended in person at Gutenberg College or online via Zoom.

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