Music is a universal language. That phrase is thrown around a lot, and in many ways, it is. You don’t need to speak the same language to share a melody with someone. But music, as an element of worldwide cultures, is diverse. What one society deems enjoyable can be regarded as obscene to another. Certain notes belonging to other cultures don’t even exist in Western music, and the majority of world music is not written down, but rather passed orally, giving the pieces a rich history. The study of music and how it intersects with other elements of culture is called “musicology.” St. Olaf’s own musicologist, Dr. Louis Epstein, currently teaches St. Olaf music majors and even non-majors about these intersections, and the way that music has changed over the course of human history. Dr. Epstein is about to be joined by another world-renowned researcher, who will take charge teaching musicology this fall.
Rehanna Kheshgi is a 2017 Fulbright Scholar, with a masters and doctorate in Ethnomusicology from the University of London and the University of Chicago, respectively. She has spent the last year researching and teaching in India and has done extensive research and teaching on the music of South Asia. She’s also interested in the intersection of music and gender, which was part of her doctoral thesis. Dr. Kheshgi previously taught at the University of Chicago and at Yale, and will begin teaching on the hill this fall, which is a huge benefit for St. Olaf students.
Currently, the musicology offerings are mostly limited to Introduction to Musicology and World Music. These classes allow students to get a taste of what musicology is, and encourage them to listen to music with unbiased ears. It can be difficult- from birth, children are exposed to a certain kind of music. Whether or not we are musically inclined, somehow we detect when something sounds unnatural. These courses expose our ears to that music. Dr. Kheshgi will teach several more courses in musicology, from the intro course, to a course on gender and music, to upper level music history and beyond. Her insight and incredible experiences will add a richness to the music department’s offerings that has not been previously available.
Many of these musicology courses will be available for all students, regardless of major, so keep Dr. Kheshgi in mind as course selection begins soon!