What Do I Learn in College?

This semester I’m currently taking six classes and I want to focus on what I’ve been learning about this semester in this blog post. However, I’m going to just focus on two classes, Musicianship II (Music Theory II & Ear Training II) and Behavioral Neuroscience. Here’s a quick summary of what each course is for those who do not know.

Musicianship II is a combination of two traditional classes more commonly known as Music Theory & Ear Training. It teaches both, but is just referred to by one name. The reason they are one class and not two is to prevent someone from missing out on one of the two classes by accident, since they are always offered only together. The downside of this is that you can pass Ear Training portion of the class and not the Music Theory portion, forcing you to retake both before you can go to Musicianship III (Music Theory III & Ear Training III). Music Theory looks at the constructs and mechanics of music (we use the textbook, Tonal Harmony) in how notes come together to form melody (music over a span of time; ‘x axis’) and harmony (music in a single span of time; ‘y axis’). Ear Training is the study of how to sight read music and sing it back (we use Music for Sight Singing by Ottman), and do the almost impossible task of hearing music and notating it down it must be notated for it to be played back correctly. Except for the 1 in more than 10,000 people who have Absolute Pitch, then Ear Training is about how to hear the notes and transpose (change notes from one key to another)them, because our instructor plays Ear Training assignments different form the key (an array of notes originating from one note) he wants us to notate them down in.

Although Musicianship II is a really cool class, I feel like it is harder to define what I’ve learned in a simple way. I can throw terms around like: Common Practice Period Composition, Parallel 8ths, Consecutive 5ths by way of Contrary Motion, Focal Point, Pre-Dominant Chord, Secondary Dominant, etc.; but they have no meaning to you most likely unless you study music. So to be short about describing this, I would say what I have learn to do in Musicianship II are two main things. One, learning how to better notate music that is heard down into proper notation. Two, how to compose music similar to that found from 1600 through 1900 (others will say 1750 to 1800, it depends on who you ask).

Behavioral Neuroscience is the study of the physiological basis of behavior. Or in simpler terms, understanding how the brain as a physical object influences our mind/personality. This class is really cool because the more you learn, the less you know, all courtesy of the textbook “Physiology of Behavior”. I remember the first day of this class and hearing the professor say something along the lines of “If you leave this class with less questions than you entered with, you did not truly learn the material”. At first it may come off as an insult, even more so that I don’t remember it with 100% accuracy, but he is right. You can go into that class wondering how Schizophrenia occurs, but at the end of that class you should have tons of questions about that. For example, why is there an: enlargement of the ventricles in developed Schizophrenia, reduction of Lithium levels in the brain, decrease in Catatonia diagnoses, etc. All of these questions can start rising once you learn about the physiological basis for behavior and the anatomy of the brain.

Now that I’ve mini-lectured about these two classes which hold little bearing to each other, I’m going to tell you why they are related. Musicianship II is its own thing, however Behavioral Neuroscience is the study of the physiological basis of behavior. Applications of Neuroscience to Music can get deep such as this, “What is the progression of development in the brain that gives rise to different musical interests?” In other words, what is physically happening in the brain that makes people like different music? Although this may seem like a question not worth exploring, it could serve many functions most notably therapy. Music Therapy is a new occupational field of psychology that utilizes music for therapeutic purposes. If you were to find out what physically is going on in the brain for the development of musical taste, maybe you could find out with a formula what type of music is guaranteed to reduce anxiety in someone. If you can find that out, then instead of using Benzodiazepines for treatment of Anxiety Disorders, music could be a more ‘natural’ way to treat that.

Even though my main area of study is philosophical applications to music analysis, my studies more broadly deal with multilevel analysis of music. First I analyze music in the way that Music Theorists do, then I add more perspectives on top of that, which include Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience. Although my studies may seem too critical and completely devoid of any pragmatical purpose, I believe that it is able to open up doors for new areas of research. As stated earlier, what if Anxiety Disorders could be treated through Music instead of sometimes highly addictive benzodiazepines. If someone where to find out how to do that, millions of people could be saved from a possible future of battling addiction due to a medication originally meant to help them not destroy them. It seems like a very far fetched idea that Music, Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience could produce anything; but someone has to be the one to find out if that is the case.

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2 thoughts on “What Do I Learn in College?”

  1. This might be the first post of yours where I really just got so excited thinking about where your interdisciplinary education is going to bring you down the road, and where that could, in turn, bring humanity. We have to make sure we find good mentors for you starting next year, so you can follow the work of people who are exploring these questions. Very compelling and important work to be done here, I imagine.

  2. Wow. Just wow. Very informative. I have always wanted to know more about your major because at times I had no idea what you were talking about when you spoke in class. Even after reading this post I still became lost at times but this helped out a bit. Great read!

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