Contemplating Capstone Project Ideas

In this post I’m going to describe my ideas for my research paper and applied project for my interdisciplinary studies capstone class, and some of the challenges that each idea brings with it. I’m giving an extremely short introduction, because I want to jump right into the important stuff.

Research Topics

  • I am working on the topic Bach’s theological beliefs, because I want to find out how his religious beliefs influenced the composition of his St John Passion BWV 245, in order to help my reader understand better how Bach’s composing and his theology are singular.
    • This idea interests me because I find the harmonic structure of this piece amazing, particularly the opening chorus, and I would love the opportunity to expand my former research into that which is truly interdisciplinary.
    • The disciplines that would be required to research this idea are music theory, music history, theology, and philosophy.
    • The major challenges to this idea are . . .
      • 2 hours of music is a lot to analyse, thus I would have to somehow determine what songs are more important than others, and only analyse the important ones
      • I cannot read German, and there is great research on Bach done in only German. Thus, my research is contingent on that which is translated/published in English.
  • I am working on the topic of Mozart’s religious and theological beliefs, because I want to find out how his religious beliefs influenced his composition of his Don Giovanni, in order to help my reader understand better the theological backdrop and painting of the Commandant Scene from Don Giovanni.
    • This idea interest me because I have always wanted to have an opportunity to explore Opera more, and this Opera is considered an extremely important one in the historical development of this genre
    • The disciplines that would be required to research this idea are music theory, music history, theology, and philosophy.
    • The major challenge to this idea is my relative lack of expertise on Mozart compared to my knowledge of Bach. Furthermore, I would fare to guess that there is a large body of research done on Don Giovanni, but is written in Italian and German, both of which I cannot read.
  • I am working on the topic of famous classical composers who were religious, because I want to find out how their religious beliefs influenced their most famous compositions, in order to help my reader understand better the impact religion has had on the historical development of music.
    • This idea interest me because I want people to find classical music more interesting, and I think it creating a short book utilizing this research would engage people due to the involvement of composer’s personal lives.
    • The disciplines that would be required to research this idea are music theory, music history, theology, and philosophy
    • The major challenges to this idea are . . .
      • This is a broad topic, and it may sacrifice specifics too much in the goal of general understanding
      • Determining who and who is not considered important enough for inclusion into this work. Everyone knows about Bach and Mozart, but Pierre de la Croix was significant for his compositions during the Papal Schism, yet only few know of him.
  • I am working on the topic of the composition of metal music, because I want to find out how the harmonic structures of metal music function, in order to help my reader understand better the underlying influences of western harmony on composition regardless of genre.
    • This idea interest me because I think metal music comes across off as a smorgasbord of notes, but it does contain harmonic structure. Furthermore, the pillars of tonality are how we contextualize music we listen to in the west today, and I think even metal music cannot escape these pillars.
    • The disciplines that would be required to research this idea are music theory, music history, and some philosophy
    • The major challenge to this idea is . . .
      • Obtaining scores or lead sheets to metal music. Unlike classical music which is published for performance, metal music is published for listening.
  • I am working on the topic of contemporary Christian worship music, because I want to find out the underlying theological systems as painted through the text and harmonic structures, in order to help my reader understand better how worship music influences the theological systems we adopt as our own doctrinal belief systems.
    • This idea interest me because the most popular Christian worship bands are from pentecostal or charismatic theology churches, yet the greater evangelical community indulges in this music, and I believe that music is an expression of ourselves, including beliefs.
    • The disciplines that would be required to research this idea are music theory, theology, and some music history.
    • The major challenges to this idea are . . .
      • How do I determine which bands to include or exclude, and which specific song do I deem as the embodiment of a particular band’s theology? I cannot write and analyse forever, so I can choose ~5 bands, and only 1 song from each.
      • Obtaining scores or lead sheet to this music as well. Although there are multitudes of written music circulating, most of it are fan created and not from the composer/band themselves.

Applied Project Ideas

Instead of going over the challenges of each idea under it, I am going to do it at the end since there are only three forms of project.

  • Because I want to help my reader understand better how Bach’s composing and his theology are singular, I want to present my findings to either (a) the music department in a focused academic lecture, or (b) to a general academic audience at a showcase event
  • Because I want to help my reader understand theological backdrop and painting of the Commandant Scene from Don Giovanni,
    I want to present my findings to either (a) the music department in a focused academic lecture, or (b) to a general academic audience at a showcase event
  • Because I want to help my reader understand the impact religion has had on the historical development of music, I want to present my findings to either (a) the music department in a focused academic lecture, (b) to a general academic audience at a showcase event, or (c) create a short book highlighting my research presentable to general/ general academic audience.
  • Because I want to help my reader understand underlying influences of western harmony on composition regardless of genre, I want to create a short book to show people how ingrained the pillars of tonality have become in all western music, as shown through an outlier genre–metal.
  • Because I want to help my reader understand how worship music influences the theological systems we adopt as our own doctrinal belief systems, I want to create a short book to highlight analyses of several highly popular worship songs, looking at their underlying musical-theological structures.

Challenges to my Applied Project ideas

  • Student Showcase Event
    • Of all three, this is definitely the route of least resistance, however it also has the least impact beyond myself as well. I would rather do this as a supplement to the other two project ideas, rather than on its own
  • Music Department Lecture
    • The greatest challenge with this idea is that I don’t even have an undergraduate degree in music theory/history, so I think I would have a hard time finding a time and place to give a lecture on these music subjects.
    • Due to the previous note, this idea I would have to get highly creative in execution. I would possibly even have to organize a showcase or symposium to share my research.
  • Creating a Short Book
    • I like this idea the most, because it can reach the most amount of people through non-profit book distribution.
    • The biggest challenge for this though would be all the barriers to self-publishing (such as copyrights on scores and images used in , even though this would be a short book not for mass distribution (i.e., I would be handing these out personally or leaving them around academic collaboration spaces on campus

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1 thought on “Contemplating Capstone Project Ideas”

  1. I was just reading a book about Bach’s cello suites, so am excited to see your interest in him. It made me think of a possibility (which you are totally free to reject) — is there a way to help college students understand and appreciate composers such as Bach? I thought of this because of your idea about researching metal and its harmonics — I immediately thought, “What about a program of Bach for metalheads?!” (I know, I’m weird.)

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