This class was really, really hard. I expected this, though. I expected to work hard, learn a lot, and be challenged. This fulfilled my expectations. However, there were many ways where the course surprised me. First of all, I expected (as I think many did) that there would be more on non-western music. I think what we covered in a semester was appropriate, but that maybe the name “Music and Religion” wasn’t quite accurate. I felt that the structure and material of the course was very scattered at the beginning (in a good way) but then was so focused that I got a little lost towards the end. I also found most of the readings really hard to get through and usually did not understand more than about 25% of them (at least until getting to class). However, class discussions based on these readings were always fascinating for me, despite how useless I tend to feel in discussion-based classes. I usually would finally understand the article or chapter I had attempted to read and felt pushed to consider such a wide range of perspectives that I never would have thought of. I almost always left class saying “That was such an interesting class!!!!!” So, I think the most positive memory from Music and Religion will definitely be the in-class discussions.
Research. This was something I really struggled with this semester. I found it difficult to do largely self-guided (or one-on-one) research that was not inherently related to the class topics. I definitely appreciated the possibility for us to research whatever we were interested in, but I think it would have been less of a chore (and I think there is still room for it to be equally rewarding) if there was a more narrow focus/place to start. Also, while I don’t feel like the workload was unreasonable, I think I would have had more successful podcasts/finished products if they had been more spaced out. The first one had SO much time, and the last two seemed to be completed within a much smaller time frame. I just felt more stressed and less rewarded the further we got in the course.
All that being said, this has been one of the most exciting and challenging courses I’ve taken at St. Olaf. I think there are a lot of ways the course could be improved for the future, but I think it is absolutely one to keep around. (If we all make it through this week alive.)