How can music be real if our ears aren’t real?

As we bid farewell to the last few fleeting days of not-finals, I can think of only one reflection┬áthat accurately describes what I’ve gotten from this course. Although I did manage to learn quite a bit about Luther, the Reformation, and music (& religion) in general, my most valuable takeaway was that of renewed respect for the complete subjectivity and ambiguity of music.

Like, what can we really know, you know? It might sound like a cop-out, but it seems that, as a musicologist, it’s a true struggle for concrete knowledge about music other than times and dates and other indisputable (sometimes) facts. Our journey through this class has shown me the difficulties of conducting thorough research into the more meaningful aspects of music. There is so much scholarship on the topic of music and religion that it’s challenging to┬ámake original, non-obvious claims.

I appreciated the opportunity we were given for a wide range of research topics, but I think that the course could have benefited from a narrower focus overall. The range of material at some points felt overwhelming, and I feel that the breadth of the scope somewhat prevented me from gaining a deep understanding of anything we talked about. On the other hand, there is still a lot about the relationship between music and religion that we didn’t cover (obviously). What I mean by that is that as westerners, we really have such an inadequate understanding of the music of other parts of the world. I get it, that’s what World Music is for, but if we’re going to focus on the Reformation, then let’s focus in further.

The podcast projects are my favorite part of the class. I really enjoyed being able to focus on topics that interest me, and the prospect of releasing these snippets of knowledge to the world brings a more concrete sense of relevance to the abstractness of the study of music. To me, listening to a finished podcast is much more satisfying than reading a finished paper. It’s more of a work of art than an essay is. It’s also a good way to include modern technology into the course.

I’d say the class was a success. Despite my critiques of it, I found it very fulfilling, and I think that it would be a good class to keep on the books.

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