Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hello, again...Hello.

Well, I've been on quite a vacation, but believe me, the only vacation I have had has been in the virtual realm. My friends with whom I communicate via e-mail must think I've gone AWOL. I won't make any promises about the frequency of my posting, but let's just say I'm hoping to be more present, at least in my reading of wonderful musicological blogs. I devoted some time today to "catching up" with the blogging community, and discovered I missed this wonderful post by Phil Ford over at Dial M. I have watched my own writing develop, and can gladly say that I no longer feel it necessary to include the word "polemic" in every single piece of academic writing I produce. I'd like to think I use it with more discretion now. Writing, much like teaching, can always be better. Part of the "fun" is the revision process (although it is rarely fun in the moment) because you catch those entire paragraphs that probably made sense to your sleep-deprived brain at the time, but now read like a sermon in Swahili. Thank goodness for peer-reviewers and editors.

Before I tell you what has kept me from engaging with the blogosphere this summer, I have two bits of inconsequential but fun news to share.

First, I received my wonderful t-shirt from Soho The Dog. I'm wearing it proudly today as I'll be meeting with a musicologist colleague later. I prefer to think of it as "edgy coolness" rather than nerdiness.

And, this came in yesterday's mail. One down, one to go!

So what has Rebecca been up to? For the first summer in a long time, I have not left the state of my residence (and now that I live in Massachusetts, we will not be counting day trips to New Hampshire or Rhode Island). I did, however, receive a flurry of house guests all in the span of three weeks: friends, parents, and in-laws. I took a course in Marketing for Performing Arts Organizations. I've been organizing conferences, sitting on boards, doing some preliminary house-hunting, and trying to enjoy the summer offerings of Massachusetts.

Musicologically speaking, I'm working on several projects. One involves the Pittsburgh Symphony, but that is on hold until my dear friends move to Pittsburgh in a few weeks. M has just accepted a professorship at U Pitt (in physics), and he and his wife have bought a house...with plenty of room for guests. So, you see my strategy---free accommodations should never be rejected.

Secondly, it appears I'll be teaching a class entitled "Music in the United States" this fall. So, I'm going through the gratifying/frustrating process of constructing a syllabus. It is a general course for non-majors, and cross-registered with American Studies. I'll be using Richard Crawford's America's Musical Life, which I think will suit my class quite well. Of course I'm struggling with distribution and how much time to spend on the potpourri of musical styles I'll need to cover. I'm considering some overarching themes ( "Music and Religion," "Music and War," for example) to guide the course structure, rather than a strict chronological approach. I'd love to be able to talk about William Billings and William Schuman (New England Triptych) in the same class. Why does this feel so risky to me? (Not a rhetorical question---I'd like to hear your thoughts!)

It is my hope that my connections between ye olde American musicke and modernity will lend some kind of resonance to the subject matter. I don't think these students are taking this particular course so that they can recite some sort of canonized development of music in the United States. The timeline aspect is important, yes, but I think it is secondary to understanding the major interactions between society, culture, politics and music. Isn't that why I'm a musicologist in the first place? So, I'm going to continue to pull from the past and pull from the present, and hopefully the class will come to appreciate music history as part of a greater work in progress.


Dan B. said...

I think part of the hold-up about going out of order is we start to feel like "Oh, you don't know the context behind this, so I can't fully explain it to you until you know that this was also happening, which doesn't make sense without..." and so on.

I think the best tend to draw out these themes but also have some sort of broader arc (My US music class mixed old and new, but felt extremely random, and without much connecting being made). Chronology is the easy answer, but not the only one.

Rebecca said...

Thanks for your comment Dan. I think you're right. But isn't there always more context to be had? At some point one has to let go of something in order to teach anything! I find this to be true in my own research as well, which tends to be interdisciplinary in nature.

Exhaustive can be exhausting and might not always be the best approach. I'm still thinking about all of this and I appreciate your feedback, Dan.

christopher jette said...

wow, people pay off loans during their life time? Congrats!


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea