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The Visual Listening Guide

The Visual Listening Guide is a new way for you to discover a symphonic masterwork in a visually engaging and comprehensible manner, regardless of your musical background. Created by musicologist Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley, the Guide’s distinctive blend of graphics, colour, and text aims to help you structure your listening—and thus enrich your understanding—of the music. 

The Visual Listening Guide is a kind of map that indicates important sonic landmarks, showing when the main musical themes and motives appear within a movement and/or the entire symphonic work. The Guide is therefore not a comprehensive representation of the musical score, but rather, provides a “big picture” view of the work’s form, as determined by the presentation, recurrence, and development of these themes and motives.

For more information about the design of the Visual Listening Guide, see HERE and HERE

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The Visual Listening Guide has so far been featured in the program books of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In the summer of 2018, it will be presented at workshops as part of the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. The Visual Listening Guide was originally developed under the auspices of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Examples of the Visual Listening Guide

How to Purchase

Digital PDF versions of Visual Listening Guides for personal use and study (we recommend pairing them with an audio or video recording) can be purchased from the SHOP.

Interested in purchasing existing Visual Listening Guides for instructional use or for reproduction in publications? Please send a message using the CONTACT form.

I take commissions! Please send a message using the CONTACT form if you’re interested in commissioning a new Visual Listening Guide.

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Winner of the 2016 KANTAR Information Is Beautiful Bronze Community Award based on public vote

Praise for the Visual Listening Guide:

A valuable tool to non-musicians who want to learn more about classical music but who have limited means to understand more complex guides. It’s also a great teaching aid for young music students about the shape and structure of classical masterpieces.
— Classic FM
A deft mix of text and graphics, the guides can be read while listening to the performance, their layout visualising the thematic progression of the music, indicating the keys in use, what instruments feature and, using morse code-like notation, their duration.
— Creative Review
I thought this whole concept [of the Visual Listening Guides] was brilliant and really achieves information design’s primary purpose—bringing clarity and engagement to a complex situation.
— DesignEdge Canada

 Photo credit: Marc-André Misat

Photo credit: Marc-André Misat

Hannah Chan-Hartley

BMus (Honours Violin Performance; McGill University), MPhil (Musicology & Performance; University of Oxford), PhD (Musicology; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley is a musicologist, currently working in the orchestra world. She is musicologist-in-residence at the 2018 Verbier Festival, where she is presenting the Visual Listening Guide in workshops with children, Festival musicians, and the public. Recently, she was Managing Editor and Musicologist at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Visual Listening Guides she creates have garnered international interest and acclaim, including winning a 2016 KANTAR Information is Beautiful Bronze Community Award (based on public vote) and being shortlisted for the 2017 Classical:NEXT Innovation Award.

Hannah has performed professionally as an orchestral violinist and loves to play chamber music. She continues to pursue her research interests in the social and cultural history of music and music institutions, focusing on the Europe-North America transatlantic context from the 19th century to the present day, as well as music performance and reception history.