Learning in a Musical Key examines the multidimensional problem of the relationship between music and theological education. Lisa Hess argues that, in a delightful and baffling way, musical learning has the potential to significantly alter and inform our conception of the nature and process of theological learning. In exploring this exciting intersection of musical learning and theological training, Hess asks two probing questions. First, What does learning from music in a performative mode require? Classical modes of theological education often founder on a dichotomy between theologically musical and educational discourses. It is extremely difficult for many to see how the perceivedly nonmusical learn from music. Is musicality a universally human potential? In exploring this question Hess turns to the music-learning theory of Edwin Gordon, which explores music's unique mode of teaching/learning, its primarily aural-oral mode.
This challenge leads to the study's second question: How does a theologian, in the disciplinary sense, integrate a performative mode into critical discourse? Tracking the critical movements of this problem, Hess provides an inherited, transformational logic as a feasible path for integrating a performative mode into multidimensional learning. This approach emerges as a distinctly relational, embodied, multidimensional, and non-correlational performative-mode theology that breaks new ground in the contemporary theological landscape. As an implicitly trinitarian method, rooted in the relationality of God, this non-correlational method offers a practical theological contribution to the discipline of Christian spirituality, newly claimed here as a discipline of transformative teaching/learning through the highly contextualized and self-implicated scholar into relationally formed communities, and ultimately into the world.