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Peer Review

The Reith Lectures 2006

by Daniel Barenboim


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Jun 05, 2010 by Music
Overview: This website comprises links to transcripts and audio files for five lectures on music presented by renowned conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim for the 2006 BBC Reith Lectures. The topics are: 1) "In the Beginning was Sound," 2) "The Neglected Sense," 3) "The Magic of Music," 4) "Meeting in Music" and 5) "The Power of Music." Venues for the lectures are Cadogan Hall, London; Symphony Center, Chicago; the Berlin State Opera, where Daniel Barenboim is Music Director, and two sites in Jerusalem. A video is available for lecture 1 only.
Type of Material: lecture /presentation
Recommended Uses: These lectures are rather long for in-class listening, but would make excellent out-of-class reading/listening assignments at any point where the nature and importance of music is under discussion.
Technical Requirements: although the site states that downloading and playing audio files requires BBC iPlayer, RealMedia also works.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The listener/reader will gain a deeper appreciation of the power of music and its connection to human culture. In the beginning of his first lecture, Barenboim says: "I will therefore attempt the impossible and maybe try and draw some connection between the inexpressible content of music and, maybe, the inexpressible content of life. ... In Chicago I will try to discover why it is that we are neglecting our ears so much, and why we have become such a visual society, and why it is that the eye seems to have so much more power than the ear. ... In Berlin I will try, always with connection to music obviously, to explain why I think that it is so difficult in today's world to grow up when we don't really give our children real education, but at best information, and that this is why words have lost their meaning and words that are full of content have become pejorative. ... In Ramallah I will speak about the ability of music to integrate, and how it is that a musician is by the sheer nature of his profession in many ways, an integrating figure. ... in Jerusalem, I will try to explain what to me is a very major difference between power and strength - something which I learned very precisely from music, that if you attack a chord with more power than you are going to sustain it, it has no strength. ... [speaking about the first lecture in London] my contention is that music has another weapon that it delivers to us, if we want to take it, and that is one through which we can learn a lot about ourselves, about our society, about the human being, about politics, about society, about anything that you choose to do."
Target Student Population: Because of the level of sophistication of ideas and language usage, these lectures should be used with college students, preferably upper division and graduate. Some of Barenboim's comments require some background in history, current events and music theory, which could be addressed by the professor when assigning them.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some background in world history, current events and music theory would be helpful for some sections.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: These lectures address challenging and significant questions about the nature of music in an engaging and articulate way. Barenboim is a brilliant and inspirational speaker whose passion for music is evident.
Concerns: The ideas and the language may be over the heads of some students.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The ideas presented are cumulative over the lecture series. Barenboim is clear about what he intends to address in each lecture and what he intends about the series a whole. While the lectures could be assigned separately, they function as a unit and Barenboim reinforces his concepts progressively.
Concerns: The lectures are probably best experienced as audio recordings, which retain Barenboim's rhythm and timing in presenting his ideas. Even if the transcripts are assigned, this is a lot of material, and requires a time commitment.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The Reith Lectures site is straightforward and easy to use. The menus and icons are consistent. The sound quality of the audio files is excellent.
Concerns: Video of the other lectures (besides lecture 1) would be useful; the site as it is appeals only to aural and verbal learners.