I remember the excitement I felt when I registered for this class. The topic was familiar to me, since we discussed it at length in our regular music history class, and the intersection of music and religion is a prevalent topic at St. Olaf in general. However, before I encourage anyone to take this course, I would have to stress that it is only as rewarding as the amount of work the student is willing to put into it. This semester has been difficult. The readings are long and can be dense and dry, and the papers and podcasts require time and care.
This course challenged me, in both the great amount of work we all put in to succeed, and in the differences of perspectives from the authors we read and from our peers. The Sorce Keller article, with which we began the class, set a precedent for the class, as it asked me to question my own tastes, and why I consider some genres of music good or bad. I especially loved the Holsinger reading on Hildegard for a few reasons, the first being that Hildegard’s music is stunning, the second being that someone could potentially make the argument that a Catholic nun in the twelfth century was a proto-feminist. Although the argument is not foolproof, I still can assert that Hildegard was a bad-ass woman for her time.
The podcasts, though difficult and time consuming, are some of the more rewarding papers I have written. Because I was free to choose any subject relating to the course, I was able to choose topics in which I was interested. I found some great books while researching that I would like to add to my own personal collection. Why Catholics Can’t Sing by Thomas Day would be a great Christmas present for my mother.
Like I stated in the first paragraph, this class forced me to question my own perspectives, which is a lesson that I will use in many different aspects of my life, especially as a teacher. I wish that we had more time to focus on more non-Western traditions, and more modern music. The intersection between music and religion spans much more than what could be covered in one semester.