Timeline

Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and Fridays at 7 a.m.

Timeline is a journey into the events, characters and concepts that shaped our Western musical tradition. Hosted by VPR Classical's James Stewart.

Listen to the latest series, Timeline: Elements, a four-part educational series based on the elements of antiquity: FIRE, WATER, EARTH and AIR.

If you'd like to go deeper, please see our suggested reading list.

Timeline is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Ida and William Rosenthal Foundation.

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Created by Emily Alfin Johnson and James Stewart

Dive into the four elements of antiquity: Fire, Water, Earth and Air in this multimedia presentation of Timeline:Elements, featuring lecture and live musical performances.

Timeline: Elements

Jun 23, 2018
Emily Alfin Johnson/James Stewart / VPR

From VPR Classical comes a four-part educational series of podcasts based on the elements of antiquity: FIRE, WATER, EARTH and AIR.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Created by Emily Alfin Johnson and James Stewart

In our final episode of Timeline: Elements, host James Stewart explores the history and cultural significance of the element air.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Emily Alfin Johnson/James Stewart / VPR

Our third episode of Timeline: Elements focuses on our home, the ground beneath our feet: Earth.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Created by Emily Alfin Johnson and James Stewart

Our series, Timeline: Elementscontinues as we explore the source of life: water.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Emily Alfin Johnson/James Stewart
VPR

Join host James Stewart for the first part of a new series, Timeline: Elementsexploring the elements of antiquity: fire, water, earth and air. 

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

U.S. Public Domain

When I was in middle school my class put together a time capsule and I remember caring so much that music be included that I put together a mixed tape, with popular songs recorded haphazardly off the radio.

U.S. Public Domain

On Timeline we’ve asked a lot of questions; what is music? How was music created? Why is music written? Here’s another interesting question I’d love for us to ponder, where is music?

U.S. Public Domain

It was her first piano lesson with me, but she wasn’t new to the instrument. She had learned from YouTube tutorials and her own explorations to play some of her favorite songs. After a good first lesson her mother came over and said, “She is very talented”. I smiled and agreed. Then her mother said, “It’s surprising to me because I’m not musical at all.”

Timeline: Soundwaves

Dec 11, 2017
U.S. Public Domain

Picture yourself at the beach watching the waves rise and break over the sand. You can see the water gather and rise as each waves comes in. Once a wave breaks the water level drops again. You watch the peaks and valleys rolls onto the beach. These waves transfer huge amounts of energy from one place to another traveling through the water and displacing it. We call this a mechanical wave because it needs to travel through a medium, in this case water. The number of waves that crash during a specific period of time is called the frequency.

mattabbe / iStock

Why do humans sing? Why do we make music at all?

U.S. Public Domain

The desire to preserve music for future generations led to the development of Western notation; the lines and staves that we associate with written music today. However, there are many other forms of musical notation that were developed over the centuries by cultures around the globe.

U.S. Public Domain

James: You’re hearing recording artist Bobby McFerrin at the 2009 World Science Festival. I asked a couple of my colleges at Vermont Public Radio to watch a video of Bobby leading the crowd in a musical, communal social experiment and give us their reactions.

Timeline: Bone Flutes

Nov 13, 2017
U.S. Public Domain

Music lies close to the foundation of our common humanity. Let me explain what I mean.

U.S. Public Domain

We start with a recording I made almost 13 years ago of my oldest son, Jeremiah. He’s a teenager now, runs track, plays cello and already sings lower than his dad. Like most parents, I remember spending hours holding Jeremiah as an infant; marveling at his little hands and feet and watching him begin to take in the world around him. I laughed as he discovered his own fingers, smiled as he began to recognize faces and listened intently as he began to make and mimic sound. I listened to his coos and cries, his moans and gurgles, waiting to hear his first words. There was a sense of pride that I felt when he said, “Dada” in the tiny, thin baby voice.

U.S. Public Domain

Let’s start from the beginning… Where does music come from? I believe that music is at the heart of everything. It is the language of a vibrating, living cosmos. And this isn’t exaggeration; this is the basis of a current theory about what truly makes up the universe.

U.S. Public Domain

Music has always been created with a specific venue in mind. The composer may not know who will be in the audience or how it will be received but they know it has to be played on an instrument or sound system in a place. Throughout all of history, whether it was a church, a ballroom, a dance hall, an opera house or a dive bar, music was written to fill that location.

U.S. Public Domain

In the 20th century no medium affected culture more than film. The music written to accompany the images, story and dialogue has become a huge part of the movie-going experience. In many cases it’s impossible to separate the musical theme from the film itself; the two become one in our minds.

Timeline: Minimalism

Apr 3, 2017
U.S. Public Domain

The music of the early 20th century was marked by increasing complexity and abstraction. Serialism and the chance practices of John Cage and his followers created an aesthetic that stood opposed to the Romanticism of the century before. In the '60s and '70s a counter-reaction began to emerge as a new group of young composers sought to free themselves from the strict rules of atonalism and serialism and embrace the simplicity of minimalism.

Every morning, for more than 75 years, American composer Elliott Carter would awaken and go to his studio to write music. Carter and his wife, Helen Frost-Jones, lived in the same apartment in Greenwich Village in New York, since 1945. He was one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century, composing over 40 works after the age of 90. Carter’s music encompasses many of the influences and styles that shaped the last 100 years of music.

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