Cropped image of the painting the orchestra by Degas

"Where words fail, music speaks." - Hans Christian Andersen

Information at a Glance

  • Evening Class
  • Thursdays 18:30 - 20:30
  • 20 weeks: October to March
  • 2 hours taught time per week
  • Tutor: Dr Bruno Bower
  • Fees from £210 to £395
  • Location: Imperial College, South Kensington Campus
Booking Link

Baffled by Brahms? Perplexed by Prokofiev? This course offers new ways to understand classical music, without any jargon. The classes in the first term will gradually introduce tools that participants can use to get more out of their listening experience, starting with some of the basic concepts that lie behind classical music and building towards more abstract ideas of structure. In the second term, we will explore some of the most important genres in classical music and how they have changed over time, followed by four sessions on the major periods of music, synthesising information from the rest of the course and looking at overarching historical trends. People with no background in classical music are especially welcome, but even those who already have some knowledge will gain fresh perspectives on the more famous music discussed, and there will be plenty of opportunities to discover some less well-known pieces along the way.

The focus throughout the course is on stories: what kinds of stories do composers tell through music? What methods did they use to tell them? And what kind of historical stories can we tell about the music? How was the music shaped by the social and cultural context of the time? Knowing who, how, and why people created, played, and listened to music makes it much easier to relate to the deeper levels of texture and structure that lie behind the sounds.

One of the overall aims of the course is to give participants more confidence to go hear the music played live. Relevant events at venues around London, including in Imperial’s own Blyth Centre, will be highlighted throughout.

Course Information

Course Programme

Indicative Programme

  • Week 1 - Introduction
  • Week 2 - Concepts 1: Colours
  • Week 3 - Concepts 2: Pictures
  • Week 4 - Concepts 3: Stories
  • Week 5 - Concepts 4: Dialogue and conflict
  • Week 6 - Structures 1: Dances
  • Week 7 - Structures 2: Variations
  • Week 8 - Structures 3: Rondo
  • Week 9 - Structures 4: Sonata form

 *** Christmas Break *** 

  • Week 10 - Genres 1: Symphony
  • Week 11 - Genres 2: Concerto
  • Week 12 - Genres 3: Choral Music
  • Week 13 - Genres 4: Chamber Music
  • Week 14 - Genres 5: Art Song
  • Week 15 - Genres 6: Fugue
  • Week 16 - Genres 7: Opera
  • Week 17 - Periods 1: Renaissance and Baroque (16th and 17th century)
  • Week 18 - Periods 2: Classical (18th century)
  • Week 19 - Periods 3: Romantic (19th century)
  • Week 20 - Periods 4: Modern/Postmodern (20th/21st centuries)

This programme is subject to possible change.

Additional Reading and Credit Information

There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text.

No academic credits are available for this course. An attendance certificate is issued only to those who attend at least 80% of the taught sessions.

About Your Tutor

Photograph of Bruno BowerDr Bruno Bower is a lively and enthusiastic tutor, whose love of music is infectious. He is both an academic and a performer, having studied at Oriel College, Oxford, Birmingham Conservatoire, and King's College London. He completed his PhD at the Royal College of Music in 2016, with a thesis on nineteenth-century programme notes for orchestral concerts. He has written on subjects as diverse as Gilbert and Sullivan, John Cage, and Victorian polymaths, and he is also the General Editor for critical editions of music by Peter Gellhorn and Norman O’Neill. He currently teaches music history and analysis to first- and second-year students at Cambridge University, and is the principal oboist of West London Sinfonia and the cor anglais player for Chelsea Opera Group.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksInternal rateAssociate rateStandard rate
 40  20 £210*   Standard fee: £230 £280*   Standard fee: £305 £360*   Standard fee: £395
*Early-bird fee valid 1 August - 30 September only | Prices quoted are per one whole two-term course
Term dates 1

 Internal rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of Friends of Imperial College 
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Local residents (SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8 postcodes only)

Standard rate

  • Applicable to all who do not qualify for the Internal or Associate Rate.

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started, subject entirely to agreement by the tutor delivering the course. If you are able to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read the Evening Classes & Lunchtime Learning terms and conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 40  20 14 Oct - 12 Dec 2019 (9 weeks)* 6 Jan - 19 Mar 2020 (11 weeks) n/a
* Followed by the Christmas break

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 August

Enrolment & payment are through the Imperial College eStore. Please use above booking link noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on this page and your applicable category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications will be sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms your payment, date of payment and order number
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment receipt and therefore does not show your course however these details are sent to us via the system
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of September. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Confirms your course choice
  • Shows the programme your course is part of as well as the term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Although no credits are offered for this very part-time course, an attendance certificate is presented to students who attend at least 80% (16) of the taught classroom sessions.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be sent to the course tutor, Dr Bruno Bower at bruno.bower@oriel.oxon.org