In the capstone project to culminate the past years of learning I have spent as an interdisciplinary student at Plymouth State University, I want to create a short book that overviews some of Christianity’s most popular contemporary worship songs and see how the musical structures are presented to augment their theological message. With this project I want to primarily create a short book that I can distribute for free by hand. This project represents the culmination of my interdisciplinarian learning because I will show how harmony specifically relates to the text and theology, viz. the theological text painting. My capstone project will have two portions, a research paper and applied project. The research paper will precede the applied project, for the applied project serves to make the specific research more accessible to a wider audience via short book format. I estimate that the paper will be no shorter than 20 pages of writing, and the book approximately 75-100 pages within a 4″ x 6″ mass market style book (similar to Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series in size).
Through the past classes and work I have done, I believe that I am now prepared to complete this project, which I would have been able to do before I came to PSU. I have taken two years of music theory and I am finishing my second semester of music history. Furthermore, I have written several research papers and last semester wrote a music history/theory focused paper concerning Bach’s Johannespassion. The greatest skill I have gained from my research is the ability to utilize the interlibrary loan system to acquire that texts I need.
However, this capstone project will also come with its own share of challenges. Although I the booklet I create is completely not for profit, I will still need to be careful about copyright restrictions concerning any scores and images used within the work. Furthermore, I will need to learn how to properly format the book for print-on-demand publishing (I plan on utilizing Lulu xPress for printing). Additionally, there will be a great challenge in procuring accurate scores/lead sheets for these songs for musical analysis. Lastly, many contemporary songs (including mainstream pop music) tend to follow either a I-vi-IV-V (maybe one V7) or vi-IV-I chord progression throughout the entirety of the piece. Therefore, my analysis could be limited to only the first verse and chorus until the text painting could be lost in favor of maintaining a rounded binary and unchanged chord progressions.
Concerning more specifically about my research paper, for the majority of this post thus far has been primarily concerned with my project, 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. I find this topic highly engaging for myself, because I often find that people in some form shape an identity based on the music they listen to in some manner, the best example I can think of to explain this thought is people consistently wearing black clothing if their favorite band/music is that analogous to My Chemical Romance. This paper will be written for a musically educated audience with no theological understanding. The key terms I am currently using for my searches (which have been semi-successful) are contemporary worship, christian worship music, and worship music. These will definitely change over time, but I am not far in my research at all since I only started last week. The current databases I am using are JSTOR, Google Scholar, our Library’s search/Wildcat, and PsycINFO.
Timeline for Research Article
- Conclusion of the bulk of my literature review by March 3rd
- My precis finished by March 6th
- Something resemblant of a presentable full rough draft by March 24th
- Note: This is assuming spring break completely halters any work from being done, but hopefully I will be able to continue writing over this time!
- Finalized research paper by April 7th
Timeline for Applied Project
- This cannot be started without a finished research article, since this applied project is a dissemination of my research in a more accessible format with less jargon
- First step is to reformat my research paper in multiple ways
- Size will change from 8.5 x 11 to 4.25 x 6.875in or 5.5 x 8.5in
- Make sections from paper less transitional, so that each chapter in the booklet can be read out of order, barring the introduction being first.
- Reduce Flesch–Kincaid grade level from what I estimate will be >14 to somewhere around 9
- Remove most music theory jargon, and any that remains will be explained in layman’s terms
- If theological terms are not explained sufficiently, then I will explain them
- Change footnotes into endnotes or endnotes where number is tied directly to the source, not its appearance (I think Chemistry uses this method for citing)
- All reformatting and transfer over to .pdf (for printing) done by April 14th
- Finish gentrifying, title covers, and image placement within text by April 17th
- Submitted my order for books to Lulu xPress by April 21st