MUS 171
Music and Spirituality: Cross-Cultural Perspectives Spring 2018
Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed REL 171 / MUS 171
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Class Details

How does the sacred sound? Across cultures and across millennia, music has served to enable, inspire, and express the spiritual life experiences of communities and individuals. Why is this so? In what contexts and through what means can making and hearing music reflect and produce spiritual experience? This team-taught course will take a comparative approach to exploring music’s spiritual power, considering such areas as the function of music in ritual practices from various cultures and times, the use of music to tell sacred stories, music and dance in spiritual practice, and the role of music created in the face of death and its aftermath. Working from both musicological and ethnomusicological perspectives, we will explore the possibilities of sensory ethnography for better understanding the role of perception and the body in spiritual experiences with music. Our comparisons will draw from Western and world Christian traditions from medieval to modern times, and on conversations with musicians immersed in the music of other faith traditions (including Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim). We will explore connections between music and spirituality through a wide variety of repertoires, including plainchant and Renaissance sacred choral music; the music and dance of traditional West African religions like vodun and orisa; music from the Western classical tradition by such composers as Bach, Beethoven, and Messiaen; American hymnody and spirituals; gospel music in the U.S. and Africa; and selected artists from the world of jazz and popular music, such as John Coltrane and Leonard Cohen. Owing to its critical cross-cultural and comparative approach to the expression of religious identity and belief through music, and an experiential component that aims to foster empathetic understanding of different religious and musical traditions, this course satisfies the EDI requirement.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 15
Class#: 3718
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation; class journal; presentation with annotated bibliography; ethnographic field study; final project with presentation
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: students with a demonstrated interest in music, religion, and/or anthropology/sociology
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under MUS; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under REL
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 171 Division I MUS 171 Division I

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