Interactive Listening

This past year, Peter Carney and Brian Felix teamed up together to bring an interactive iBook on Music History to the iPad. They have had a printed book and a website ( for some time, but the goal was to bring music history and music appreciation to students using technology in a way that would make them excited and interested about the subject, rather than through a traditional approach of a textbook and a CD series. The result? Interactive Listening on the iPad. Until the next version of the Mac OS X operating system is released, you will need an iPad (or iPad Mini) to buy and open this book in iBooks (The next version, Mavericks, will allow iBooks on the Mac).

From their introduction:

Teachers in the 21st century are constantly dealing with the issue of technology – not only how to incorporate it into the classroom, but also competing with the myriad devices and media that are always vying for students’ attention. While teaching at the City Colleges of Chicago, Prof. Carney and I have been faced with the fundamental question of how to keep students of the digital age engaged in an introductory music history class. Almost everyone listens to music, loves music, and can benefit deeply from the study of music if they are given a roadmap to discovery.

What we’ve found is that if the students are given this roadmap of how to interact with the music, they become infinitely more engaged and glean far more from listening and reading assignments. Typical textbooks, while they serve a purpose, fall short of bridging this gap. Combined with reading assignments and in-class explanation, this book serves as a new guide to music history for a rapidly changing era.

Our classroom discoveries mentioned above have served as the fundamental guiding principle for this book: targeted assignments for listening and reading that call the student to dig deeper into the music – to draw upon their own musical experience (trained or untrained) to unlock the secrets that the music holds.

Inside this book we’ve presented interactive listening activities for music from Hildegard to Radiohead that reaches out draws in the 20th century student. Often these assignments incorporate modern technology in order to assimilate the wider world of media that we have available at our fingertips.

Excerpt From: Peter Carney & Brian Felix. “Interactive Listening.” v1.0. Interactive Listening, 2013. iBooks.

The book features various levels of interaction with the student, not to mention the student and the teacher. There is a wide variety of audio examples, the book is popping with great visuals, and YouTube videos are embedded in the textbook (this is really important, as videos take up a huge amount of space). There are quizzes throughout the book that can be completed on the iPad and e-mailed to a teacher. The only caveat is that you will need a connection to the internet to access those Internet-based resources.

The book could be used as a textbook in a collegiate music appreciation course, a high school music history course, or as a supplementary teacher resource in any music class. Although the book may seem expensive ($14.99) from the iOS app perspective, it is a bargain as a textbook, as all the resources you would need are embedded directly in the iBook itself.

You can download a free sample of the book from the iBookstore, or you can watch this YouTube video.

I have had the pleasure to meet Peter Carney–he's a great guy, and he and Brian Felix have done a wonderful service for music education in providing this iBook, not only for the book itself and how it can relate to today's students, but also in paving the way for iBooks in music education.

%d bloggers like this: