Oliver's Observatory

The Blog & Observations of Oliver H. Evans

A MOOC I Will Follow

At age seven, I began studying piano, an instrument I formally pursued until age nineteen. By that time, I was in college and majoring in music, but after a year, I changed my major from music to English.

Playing the piano is a bit like riding a bicycle or swimming, in that one never forgets the location of middle C. But unless one practices, one does not automatically get better with time. And yet even though I do still practice, I am not sure I improve with time.


But I love piano and pianists, especially classical pianists, and a few years ago I discovered Jonathan Biss, thanks to the Gilmore Keyboard Festival.

Recently, on Coursera, Biss began a class on Beethoven's Piano Sonatas. The class is offered through the Curtis Institute of Music, where Biss teaches. Biss is also a concert pianist who records for Onyx; and he has begun while still in his early thirties a ten-year project to record all thirty-two Beethoven Piano Sonatas.  

Unlike some other MOOCs, I have mentioned, I know I will follow this MOOC not only because the subject interests me, but because I find it fascinating that a young pianist is allowing us a glimpse into his journey as he begins recording Beethoven's entire thirty-two.

And I am especially delighted that in covering the early Sonatas, Biss chooses to focus on the 4th Sonata, Opus 7, a work I studied and played at age eighteen or so in a master class conducted by Coleman Blumfield--a pianist I wonder if people still remember. 

The MOOC by Jonathan Biss is now in its third week. I am interested in this MOOC because in addition to the Sonatas themselves, I love the idea of a young pianist talking about his experience with these works; and I am most interested in the whole areas of MOOCs and their potential, or lack thereof, for changing higher education.

I find it wonderful that two interests--music and higher education--can come together for me in the land of MOOCs; and I will continue to post about this experience with Jonathan Biss and Beethoven in the weeks to come.