Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

A Brief History of Early Music: Medieval to Baroque

Course Number


Study Group Leaders (SGL)

Gil Harel


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

5-Week Course

March 8 - April 5


Early Music, from the medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods, remains mysterious to many music lovers. Because of the chronological distance from our own time, we simply don’t have the abundance of information available that we do with later composers and works in the canon. Despite this, we can learn a great deal about the music of this time. Using the most current musicological research, class participants will learn about the music of various pre-modern periods and become acquainted with the people who composed it and the world that they lived within. In addition to learning about musical elements, participants will learn about concurrent social developments in the areas of politics, religion, geography, and contemporary artistic works in the form of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, that intertwine with the history of music from c.1100 to 1750.


Group Leadership Style

More lecture than facilitated discussion.

Course Materials

While there is no textbook for this class, we will be using a variety of free online resources, including scores, libretti, program notes, and more. All listening excerpts will be available through YouTube, and all scores available through the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP).

Preparation Time

Approximately 2 hours/week, split between listening and reading assignments.


Gil Harel (PhD, Brandeis University) is a musicologist and music theorist whose interests include styles ranging from western art music to contemporary musical theater. Previously, he served on the faculty at CUNY Baruch College (where he was awarded the prestigious "Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching"). Currently, he is Full Professor of Music at CT State Naugatuck Valley, where he has been presented with the AFT "Merit Award for Exemplary Service to the College" for 6 consecutive years. In 2020, he was honored with the coveted Connecticut Board of Regents (BOR) Teaching Award. At Naugatuck Valley, Dr. Harel conducts the college chorale, a cappella ensemble, teaches music history and theory, and serves as musical director of theater productions.