Interdisciplinary Studies Update!

Preface

This semester marks my last semester for my undergraduate interdisciplinary studies program at Plymouth State University, and there has been change and constancy in these past couple years. With my nearing graduation, the time to take my interdisciplinary studies capstone class has now come. Below I have uploaded my original program application essay, after which I’ll go into more detail about the specific changes that have occured.

Interdisciplinary Studies Program Application: Musical Aesthetics

The program I will be studying for my B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies will be Musical Aesthetics. It is a combination of philosophy and its applications to music analysis (a branch of music theory) to have a more holistic understanding of music. Not only will my studies include an interdisciplinary study of music, it will also look at the connection between music and religion. It is known that religions often use music for different occasions such as sung Judaic prayers (Psalms), and the Common Doxology sung by Protestant Christians. When analyzing religious works of music, philosophy is critical in gaining truer understanding of the themes depicted in these works of music such as masses, cantatas, and requiems.

I want to create this interdisciplinary program to be able to do more than just music analysis. It is known that Plymouth State University is home to the Silver Center for the Arts, which has degree programs in Music, Theatre, and Dance. However, PSU does not directly offer any degree options for Music Theory and/or Music Theory and Pedagogy. Although there is a Music Contract degree, it would still fall short of what I want to do in my scholarly work. My program in Musical Aesthetics will not only allow me to study Music Theory, it allows me to do so while incorporating different academic fields to get greater understanding of works of music.

Like all other interdisciplinary programs, my program has a multitude of requirements such as, 51 to 53 credits, connections courses incorporated into the program, and so on. This next section of my program statement will be going over each class or a cluster of classes, and why they are important to have in my interdisciplinary program. To begin with, I will explain classes that I believe to be crucial to getting an education in music and philosophy.

Musicianship I, II, III, and IV (MU1210, MU1220, MU2210, and MU2220 respectively) are together in a four class cycle spanning two years that build essential skills as a musician and musical scholar. In these four classes, you learn how to analyze music, notate, and develop aural skills. PY1010 Ultimate Questions and PY2310 Elements of Logic are two classes crucial to an education in philosophy. Ultimate Questions is an Intro to Philosophy class at PSU. Elements of Logic is a beginner level logic class which is the study of argumentation, also allowing those who take it to learn about rhetoric.

Building upon these six classes that lay the foundation for this program, is the study of history and the impact of religion. History & Literature of Music I and II (MU3310 and MU3320 respectively) are about music history and music analysis. The classes cover most of music history, and each is concluded with an in-depth music analysis work. PY3111 History of Medieval Philosophers is another philosophy class and focuses on a period of time when philosophy and religion were strongly interconnected with one another. Then to build these courses, PY3515 Philosophy of World Religions and PY3540 Philosophy of Religion will be taken. These two classes will teach how to better analyze religious music in philosophical ways.

The last portion of the program builds upon the history portion, completing the program entirely. PY3820 Existentialism is a branch of philosophy that deals with the essence existence. I desire to apply themes of existentialism to music appreciation, and counter themes of religion. PY3830 Phenomenology goes over the idea of the first person perspective, such as consciousness and experiences. This ties directly into how we perceive music, and relates to the themes of Aesthetics. Then the last class, PY3870 Non-western Philosophy, builds upon Philosophy of World Religions by gaining more holistic understandings of non-western perspectives on western matters (i.e. European Classical Music Tradition).

This program is interdisciplinary because of how much it strives for more holistic analysis of music. Instead of learning how to better analyze music within the traditional music theory constructs, it aims to expand understanding of music. This program is designed to reflect upon basic questions such as, “Why do people like to listen to music?” This program also strongly transitions into my future because I plan to go earn a doctorate one day. I’m wanting to go to graduate school as soon as I complete my undergraduate degree, and I plan to study either Music Theory/Analysis or Theology. This program will prepare me for either path, however one or two independent studies may be needed to be fully prepared for post-undergraduate school.

Reflections as a Senior

Now that I am a senior, I am near the end of my time here at Plymouth State University and get to reflect on how my program has went for me. My experience in interdisciplinary studies has been nothing short of wonderful. With the ability to bounce my mind between the two disciplines in my major, Music Theory and Philosophy, and two more disciplines in my minors, Psychology and Neuroscience, the curiosity for learning that I had when I came to college has only grown. My program still looks very much the same barring a few classes that had to be swapped due to cancellations. I never took Philosophy of World Religions or Philosophy of Religion, replacing them with History of Ancient Philosophy and History of Modern Philosophy. These changes ended up being for great good, because I am now familiar with the canonical works of philosophy, that I would not have been had I not taken these historical surveys.

Horseshoe Crab on Porch Railing

Furthermore to my own surprise, for the past year I have even been able to do a great amount of research within the fields of my minors. I have had the pleasure of working under Dr. Brian Healy as a lab assistant, and Dr. Chris Chabot as an undergraduate researcher. Even now in my last semester I am wrapping up my last investigation with Dr. Chabot concerning the effects of angiotensin-II modulating drugs on juvenile Limulus polyphemus (American Horseshoe Crab). Moreover, my major has now really started to come full swing with my Music History classes, where I get to write extensive music analysis papers. It is in these papers that I can understand the philosophical undertones of the text to investigate if the composer tried to paint those complex ideas with the actual music itself.

Concerning matters outside of the classroom, I joined a total of three student organizations at my tie here. I am now transitioning my way out of all them, but my time in each of them are special to me. I got to be a student leader in Cru for these past three years, helping facilitate meetings, events, and live music! I also restarted the Psychology Club with three other students, creating a place for anyone on campus to come and hang out with other for an hour a week (with some psychology themed events here and there). Lastly, I got to found the Korean Culture Club with two friends of mine. Every week we got to learn a snippet about South Korean culture and discuss with each other, sometimes also enjoying a Korean meal. I never thought I would get involved beyond one club, but I ended up leading in three and creating a new one!

Unfortunate my time is coming near to its end and as I now near the finish line, I realize that there is still much ahead of me. The future holds with it many unknowns. I desire greatly to pursue graduate studies in theology, but I still am not sure where I will go between Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary. Although are so many experiences left to have in this semester, the encroaching coming of graduate school comes with it much planning. I focus on the planning for my future a lot, but I hope that I can also remain present, because once I graduate I won’t be able to enjoy the unique opportunities I have in Plymouth anymore.

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