Summary Synthesis

My interdisciplinary studies program is called Musical Aesthetics (some courses have changed since I wrote that article, but the spirit of my program has not changed). I combined the fields of Musicology (the academic study of music) and Philosophy in order to create a learning experience that would allow me analyse and interpret works of music beyond their musical constructs alone. While one can examine music for music’s sake, or music for interpretive conclusions like with works of literature, it is in the combination of both of these methods where I found a passion for music theory.

For my applied project I created an eBook that focused on increasing the accessibility of my research article beyond the highly niche subfield of musicology known as theomusicology. I decided focus both my research article and applied project around theomusicology and accessibility of information because many Christians have the perception of theology as hidden knowledge in a far off ivory tower. This concerns me, because I believe that theology plays an very important role in forming the identities of every denomination. Yet, if no one wants to learn theology, then we end with pious people who dislike other pious people who believe nearly the same exact doctrines as them, for no tangible reason.

In my research article I briefly discuss the history of contemporary worship and the “worship wars” in light of the history of western music. From there I analyse one of Christianity’s most popular contemporary worship songs How He Loves by the David Crowder Band. After a lengthy analysis, looking at various musical constructs and how they could convey the composer’s personal theological convictions, I conclude by discussing what the purpose of worship is. It appears to have become one of a Christian political correctness, however I speak more into what Augustine said, that worship is just simply the act of “loving whom is sung about”.

While my research article and applied project are hand-in-hand with each other, they also point towards something far greater in the future. From each of these tasks, I learned more about what my future studies will look like. Next semester I will be studying towards a Master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, with the purpose of one day hopefully being able to pursue a PhD in Theology. From now, until the end of my academic career, having the understanding of who can read and understand my research will be of great importance. I want my theology to be accessible to everyone, not the few elite scholars. However, this comes with its own problems.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I think it is truly impossible to write for a faceless general audience. I found this troubling during the editing of my eBook. Even when I explicitly explained what knowledge of music someone should have before reading the musical analysis, it was still very hard to know what terms to explain, or not explain. While some, like meter and hemiola, leaped out as needing to be explained, there were other discussions that presumed a knowledge of modes that, at the time, seemed self-explanatory. But some of these nuanced details seemed self-explanatory because it was me who was writing, a musicologist. As such, I find that I will run into the same issues when I a ‘more proper’ theologian. But this is good, for now I have the information to act in a way to find these solutions when they arise in the future.

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1 thought on “Summary Synthesis”

  1. Great stuff here, John. You’re right about the idea of a “general audience” — there’s no such thing, because it’s utterly impossible. Just by writing in a particular language, we’re limiting our audience to people who are literate in that language. And by using words that are any more complicated than Dr. Seuss might use, you limit your audience to people who are more than basically literate in that language. Then there are all the choices of what you want to assume for base knowledge. I once taught high school English at a yeshiva school in NJ, and quickly had to adjust my lessons because though my students knew tons of things about Judaism that I didn’t know, the basics of Christianity (necessary for understanding Shakespeare, for instance) were completely alien to them. So there really is no general audience. And that’s a good thing once you recognize it, because it forces you to make choices as a writer, and good writing comes from specific choices.

    Anyway! You’ve done lots of good work here, and it’s been a pleasure to follow you on your thoughtful journey through so many different realms.

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