This is our catalog of courses. We will occasionally adjust the course listing to reflect the addition of new courses and the retirement of others. 

Recorded HS
Art and Music
The Sound of Beauty: Music Appreciation for Catholics

Journey through music from the inside out! Learn the physics and psychology of how music moves the mind and emotions. Learn what beauty, truth, and goodness have to do with a well-formed Catholic understanding of music — and learn several great classical musical masterpieces as you study with a world-renowned musician/composer!

Total classes: 12

Prerequisite: None

Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th

Suggested credit: One full semester Music Appreciation


The Sound of Beauty: Music Appreciation for Catholics. Renowned classical composer Michael Kurek, professor emeritus of music at Vanderbilt University and a certified catechist of the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, takes you on a twelve-week journey through music, from the inside out, explaining the physics and psychology of what music is and how it moves the mind and emotions. What do the Transcendentals of beauty, truth, and goodness have to do with a well-formed Catholic understanding of music? How can music symbolize all kinds of spiritual truth, from immanence and transcendence to the Eucharist, to the Trinity? Based upon the author’s 2019 book from Ignatius Press, The Sound of Beauty: A Composer on Music in the Spiritual Life (which will be our textbook), the course will also introduce the students to several great classical masterpieces of music, explain what the documents of Vatican II really say about what music at Mass should be, and provide a user-friendly introduction to chant. This course is also for the non-musician and does not require any music reading or performing skills.


Class One: What is music made of? The physics of sound and of music as a part of God’s natural creation. How does music affect our minds? The psychology of the perception of music. Composition of the week: Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 (Note: All compositions of the week are available for online, including YouTube, at no cost.)

Class Two: How spoken language influences the way instrumental music is composed and heard: The Figures of Classical Rhetoric in Music and Liturgy, Ways we listen to music; classic types of a listener – which are you? Composition of the week: Antonin Dvořák: Symphony no. 9 “From the New World”

Class Three: Instruments and instrumental families of the orchestra. How music is arranged in a conductor’s score. Why does some music move our emotions? Rightly ordering our emotional response to music. Composition of the week: Peter Tchaikovsky: Overture to Romeo and Juliet

Class Four: How music communicates in society. Music all around us, and its spiritual effects. The lure of fame in music. Virtue rating system for discerning the spiritual value of songs. Composition of the week: Gustav Holst, The Planets.

Class Five: Modernist art and contemporary classical (avant-garde) music. The responsibility of the artist in society (Pope Saint John Paul II). Discerning the transcendentals in music: truth, goodness, and beauty. The Christian symbolism of “narrative” in music. Chord progression as narrative. Composition of the week: Paul Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Class Six: Music as a spiritual symbol of incarnation, the Trinity, and the Eucharist. What is creativity, from a spiritual perspective? Ways of listening to music spiritually; St. Ignatius’s “rules for the discernment of spirits”. Composition of the week: Alexander Borodin: “Polovtsian Dances” from Prince Igor.

Class Seven: Music as an art of the time – how we perceive time differently from God. Sacred and secular, how they apply to music in entertainment and in worship. Immanence and transcendence in theology reflected in the music. Catholic and Evangelical philosophies of music’s purpose in worship. Composition of the week: Giovanni P. da Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass)

Class Eight: What do the documents of Vatican II and other Church documents say about music at Mass? Musicam Sacram, Sacrosanctum Concilium, and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Compositions of the week: Ludwig van Beethoven: “Moonlight” Piano Sonata, op. 27, no. 2; Piano Concerto no. 4, movement 2

Class Nine: Form in Music: Binary Form, Termary Form, Song Form, and Sonata-allegro form in music. Compositions of the week: Camille Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (“Organ Symphony”) (This class will accommodate both students who can read music and those who cannot.)

Class Ten: Rondo form in music. Compositions of the week: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Sonata in Bb Major, K. 333, mvt. 3; Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata no. 8, op. 13, “Pathétique”, movement 2.

Class Eleven: What is an “ism”? Selected “ism’s” of music: Classicism, Romanticism, Expressionism, Impressionism. Compositions of the week: Claude Debussy: “Rêverie” and “Clair de Lune”; Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2

Class Twelve: Gregorian Chant seminar: What is chant? Where did it come from? Why does the Church still use it? Chant notation made easy for anyone to read and sing.

Materials and Homework

Course Materials: The Sound of Beauty: A Composer on the Spiritual Life, by Dr. Michael Kurek (the instructor), Ignatius Press, 2019

Homework: Students will complete one open-book quiz on the “composition of the week”. Students will complete one closed-book quiz on the assigned reading from the textbook and material discussed in class. May be re-taken.

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