Music and Philosophy!?

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 analysing 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), these four classes 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 analyse music, notate, and develop aural skills. Next up are PY1010 Ultimate Questions and PY2310 Elements of Logic, two classes crucial to an education in philosophy. Ultimate Questions is the closest thing to 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.

Image from “The box of whistles : an illustrated book on organ cases: with notes on organs at home and abroad”

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 are concluded by in-depth music analysis work. PY3111 History of Medieval Philosophers is another history class and this class 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 analyse religious music in philosophical ways.

The last portion of the program builds upon the history portion, completing the program entirely. PY3820 Existentialism is obviously about existentialism, which is a branch of philosophy that deals with someone’s existence, learning how 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).

The Death of Socrates by French painter Jacques-Louis David in 1787

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 allows to study even 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 would prepare me for either path, however one or two independent studies may be needed to be fully prepare me for graduate school.


1 thought on “Music and Philosophy!?”

  1. I love that you address this to the internet and to me. That gave me a good chuckle! Though maybe you should cut that out now since the wait is over and also since I’d like to share this and don’t want any advisors to see that note…

    This is such a vibrant major that reminds me of classically interdisciplinary Humanities majors, where students would wrestle with big questions about the nature of art. You are such an important addition to our program, helping all IDS majors realize that interdisciplinarity helps us think about the world in connected ways and appreciate the beauty and oddness that is art. Asking the big questions about music, art, life…I just love this.

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