Double Major in Music and Philosophy
Story by Camille Brown '14
Photos by John Williams '12 and Michelle Orr '13
Originally appeared in The Knox Student in February 2012
Music and philosophy are both central to senior Chelsea Coventry's research concerning consonance and dissonance.
"I wanted to somehow combine my two majors in a cool way," Coventry said.
She is researching poignant musical compositions from the 16th to 20th century and exploring well-known moments of dissonance within these pieces. Dissonance describes parts of a composition that are "stressful" for listeners while consonance carries a more pleasing sound. The five composers Coventry has chosen to focus on are Palestrina, Bach, Chopin, Wagner, and Beethoven.
Coventry got the idea for her project after a discussion in a 300-level music theory course during which students were asked to decide if a portion of a piece was dissonant or consonant. There was often disagreement among her fellow music majors as to what exactly was consonant and what was more dissonant.
"I thought it would be cool to see how the designation of consonance and dissonance has changed over time," Coventry said. "I'm trying to discover what's behind the things we call dissonant now as opposed to before."
"The hard part right now is putting the music and philosophy together," Coventry said. Coventry consults her Honors committee for guidance; for her committee, she chose Visiting Instructor in Philosophy Brandon Polite, Associate Professor of Educational Studies Jason Helfer, and Professor of Music Bruce Polay.
"Bruce has been helping me research really good moments of dissonance and pieces that will really drive my point home," Coventry said.
Coventry is currently applying to graduate schools for music theory and hopes to eventually teach music theory, perhaps at the college level.
Her project is on track to be presented at Knox's undergradute research symposium.