Sunday, March 02, 2008

Swimming with Mozart and Haydn

I suppose it isn't a bad thing to feel torn between two different areas of academic interest. I missed my American music friends in San Antonio, but did meet a whole new network of 18th-c music friends in California. An excellent paper on the 18th-century American Symphony and its influence on national identity managed to pull together both interests.

What struck me most, however, is the sense of camaraderie and collegiality that permeates SECM* (and the Society for American Music, I might add). Academically speaking I was a fish out of water at this particular conference, given that I specialize in twentieth-century American music. However, it didn't seem to matter. These scholars of Haydn, Stamitz, Mozart, etc., seemed ready to discourse about the 20th-century concert Mass no matter their own areas of research. There was a general sense that the common link was music, and that was most important.

Oddly, I felt that the blurring of "specialist" distinctions was far more obvious at this "specialized" conference than at AMS** conferences, where one is supposed to find a peaceful co-existence of varied academic interests all under the same roof. It didn't matter if I had demonstrated 18th-c music as a legitimate secondary research interest. All that really mattered was that I was there, engaged and ready to learn and share. In the breaks between papers, we talked about music, teaching, power point, structuring articles...every single area of common ground. It didn't feel contrived, either. There were no wandering glances over to the other side of the room in search of "true" colleagues. There were no "so what exactly are you doing here?" questions (a question I have received more than once upon entering an AMS session outside my field of specialty). The overall sense of inclusivity was striking and encouraging.

I hope that this is what we (as a discipline) are moving toward. That is not to say I want to see job descriptions that seek scholars who specialize in Prussian music and have "secondary research areas" that include jazz, Turkish pop, and medieval chant (and must be able to teach bassoon!). Specialization is fine, and indeed, it is necessary. I just think we need to encourage a sense that specialization does not preclude mingling and mixing with the crowd at large.

*Society for Eighteenth-Century Music
**American Musicological Society

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Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea