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During most of my career as a music professor, the text for my music history and appreciation classes was a book and a set of CDs. It worked fine.

When I left teaching in 2006 to write, YouTube was barely a year old and consisted of three cat videos and Numa Numa Guy. But now that I’m back in the classroom, the primary text for my music appreciation courses is YouTube.

Me in 2004  A fugue starts with a monophonic melody called the subject, with a really clear initial motive. As that melody continues, the same melody enters in another voice on the dominant, now called the answer. Because of the clear head-motive, you can easily hear that second entrance. A third voice enters with the subject on the tonic again, then a fourth with the answer on the dominant, and you have a complex contrapuntal texture of four independent melodic lines. This ends the fugal exposition, which is followed by a series of short developmental sections called episodes (etc)

Me in 2018  Watch this, I’ll be right back.

[arve url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddbxFi3-UO4″ parameters=”start=4″ /]

I joke, a little. I’ve written before about how constant motion through time makes music hard to study. These visualizations go a long way to making complex musical ideas accessible, which is why I love them so.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.