Karen Marston
Performing Arts
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Critical Listening: An Introduction to Classical Music


Textbook for music appreciation courses, written by Dr. Karen Marston, Mt San Antonio College, Walnut, CA.

Textbook for Music Appreciation

Critical Listening: An Introduction to Classical Music

Dr. Karen Marston
Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA
Last update, June 2020

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this book

Although this text can be used by students at any level, it is intended for the non-major who has little or no previous training in music.  As such, it is necessarily broad in its overview of historical events and musical works, for the purpose of providing students with key guideposts in the cultural evolution of music.  It is not a comprehensive course of either music or culture, and should not be regarded as the final word on any events, genres, composers, or styles; rather, the goal is to draw meaningful connections between culture and expression, for the purpose of making Classical music relevant to non-musicians.  In all cases, events, people, and musical works are presented for the express purpose of showing their meaning in broader cultural contexts, and it is suggested that the instructor focus learning in this area, since there is much to be gained from a clearer understanding of culture and its intersections with the arts.  To that end, the number of musical examples is limited, as compared to other books on this topic, so that there is ample time to study each composer and their work in an in-depth way.

About the author

Dr. Karen Marston is on the music faculty at Mt San Antonio College Music in Walnut, CA, where she teaches low brass lessons, chamber music, and academic music courses.  Karen holds degrees in trombone performance from the University of North Texas and Rice University, and both a masters and doctorate in music education from Columbia University, where she was the recipient of the Elin B. Stein Graduate Fellowship.  Karen has received performance and pedagogy grants from the San Jacinto Foundation, the Brown Foundation, the American Chamber Music Players of New York, and the Houston Arts Alliance, and has been published in the Journal of the International Trombone Association multiple times.  She has performed with the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra, Omni Brass, Alliance Brass, the Resonance Brass Choir, the Houston Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Houston Composers Orchestra, and many other professional organizations across the county.  She currently works as the Director of the International Trombone Festival and performs in the SoCal region as a professional trombonist. 

Fair use

This textbook can be freely used in academic settings.  You are free to: Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format (according to the requirements listed below).  Under the following terms: Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

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Copyright © 2020

Suggested supplements

Met Opera, Magic Flute Guide:
Met Opera, Madama Butterfly Guide:
Berlioz Interactive, from the San Francisco Symphony:
Howard Goodall’s, Twentieth Century Greats (Leonard Bernstein):


Recordare mei, Anonymous
O virtus Sapientae, Hildegard von Bingen

“As Vesta was from Latmos Hill, Descending,” Thomas Weelkes
“Flow my Tears,” John Dowland

“Pur ti Miro” from L'incoronazione di Poppea, Claudio Monteverdi
Marche pour la cérémonie turque from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Jean Baptiste Lully
La Primavera, I. Allegro, from Le quattro Stagioni, Antonio Vivaldi
Orchestra Suite No. 3 in D major, Air, BWV 1068, Johann Sebastian Bach

Fugue in G Minor ("Little"), BWV 578, Johann Sebastian Bach
Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, Prelude, BWV 1007, Johann Sebastian Bach

Symphony No. 94 in G Major, II. Andante, Franz Joseph Haydn
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 , I. Molto Allegro, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Die Zauberflöte, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart *
   “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen”
   “O Isis und Osiris”

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, All Movements

“Die Erlkönig,” Franz Schubert
Symphonie fantastique, Hector Berlioz

   IV. Marche au supplice
   V. Songe d'une nuit du sabbat
Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini*

   “Dovunque al Mondo”
   “Un bel di”

20th Century Modernism
Le Sacre du printemps, Introduction, Igor Stravinsky

20th Century Postmodernism
West Side Story, Mambo, Leonard Bernstein


*Note that Mt San Antonio College maintains a subscription to Met Opera Live on Demand, available to students and faculty through the Library