Music at St. John’s
In an effort to recognize and celebrate music’s
original place among the liberal arts, St. John’s
gives it a prime role in the curriculum.
Music’s affinity with theology and its relation
to language, rhetoric, and poetry make it
a natural complement to much that is
discussed in seminar. And like mathematics,
its elements—notes, scales, fifths, octaves,
rhythm, melody, harmony—lend themselves
to study and analysis. Further, one might say
that music, insofar as it combines passion
and reason, provides an unusually complete
reflection of our humanity.
As freshmen, students learn to sing
together and are taught some of the music
they will analyze in the sophomore year.
They also study the rudiments of music
notation. In the sophomore music tutorial,
students consider musical compositions as
their texts. They learn the elements of
music and apply them to the study of great
works, both through listening and through
the analysis of scores. And, as they do
throughout the program, they ask questions:
What is melody?” for example, can lead to
extensive inquiry as its simple surface gives
way to astonishing richness and complexity.
Neither music history nor apprecia-
tion, the study of music at St. John’s might
best be described as a journey into the
intellect and spirit—as well as an entry into
the dialogue between ancients and moderns
that pervades the program.
Will I have toperform?
The study of music at St. John’s does not rely on performance. At all-college events, however,
freshmen do sing as a whole chorus—to the delight of all who attend. For those who are interested,
the communities on both campuses brimwith opportunities to pursue music in its myriad forms.
What is a melody?