Reflections on the Semester

As a whole, Music & Religion challenged me in many ways, which gave me a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t even realize I gained. I can name off a long list of things I hadn’t even thought about before this course, including homoeroticism in Hildegard’s compositions, Islamic approaches to music, and what Martin Luther might say about Christmas Fest. Although the course mainly focused on Christianity and music, I was glad to read and talk about other religions and music as well. Through sometimes intense readings and class discussion, this class fulfilled me in the exact way I hoped it would.

The thing that will stick with me the most is the research I did for my papers and podcasts. Regardless of the thesis, final grade, or amount of time spent editing my papers, I learned so much about specific topics that are profoundly interesting to me. For my papers, I chose topics that interested me and applied to my real-life experiences. I’ve already found myself saying things like “did you know A Mighty Fortress is Our God is actually a paraphrase from a psalm?” which is frighteningly geeky but I’m not sure I would’ve known stuff like that without being prompted to find out.

From class discussions over the semester, I’ve found many new ways to think about music. I think it’s easy to categorize tough topics in your mind as black or white, no grey area. Music, however, will probably never fit into just one category, which comes as a refreshing change to some of the ways I’ve learned music in the past. Yes, you CAN challenge the meaning of music and you might not be right about it. Drawing inferences from music with evidence that supports your idea is probably even better for your brain than crossword puzzles.

I do wish we would’ve gotten to spend more time on music of religions outside of Christianity. Since St. Olaf is a Lutheran school after all, I think sometimes we focus too much on where “our” (but obviously not everyone’s) traditions came from. At the same time, I don’t think it was extremely detrimental that we didn’t spend as much time talking about other religions since the content we did cover was full of so much information. Overall, I’m very glad I got the opportunity to take this class and am thankful for all of the hard work I put in to learn something new.

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