Month: October 2010

Going Sane

I’ve decided graduate school is about finding sanity, even if it means going a little nuts in the process. I question whether or not to trust my sanity, whether or not to trust my creativity, and whether or not to trust my intellect (or lack thereof). Identity/autonomy is a revolving door here.  It feels as though almost every week a new boundary is crossed or a new logical stake is claimed. Personal needs and interests announce themselves as marcato accents, and dissolve just as quickly as they arrive – always before they’re seen to.

Trusting in creativity is probably something a lot of people have trouble with. I imagine there are a billion people out there, like me that have ideas up the wazoo. The creative energy that belts out the ideas ends up being spent on “important things” – whatever that might mean. Consequently more than ever I see the connection in every reading assignment and task – everything seems important, something I need to know before I can take another step. No longer are there days when I feel as though a ‘homework’ assignment is mundane or ineffectual. Though I’m sure it won’t last forever, it’s quite refreshing. Creativity though, this is an odd little character in my life.  I have this desk drawer [literally] full of ideas and it makes me feel erratic when I open it to look at them (or to throw another one in); erratic because I’m always feeling stuck or blocked and every idea has this ounce of hope within it as if it’s the key to pulling free from that stuck feeling. Yet generally, for now, they stay there in their comfortable nest-of-a-drawer. I nod my head in acknowledgment toward the stuck feeling, knowing that one day I’ll grant myself some sort of creative license to work with those ideas.

Self-doubt comes into play here. Regardless of the idea that arises, this little voice in my head is always saving it for someone else who will come along to do “it” better than I would, or that I’d do “it” wrong altogether. I’d be much better as a consultant to a company than a CEO, or a songwriter instead of a performer.  I imagine sometimes that there’s this little nova-looking bright spot in my head that would allow me to take on a host of projects and go with it, but I can’t ever seem to find it. I know this probably all sounds a bit angsty, however self-reflection is a big reason why this space exists for me.

One of my biggest issues with academia is the constant barrier we’re all told to hide behind: don’t show your true selves – it won’t get you the job. It will bite you in the ass eventually (think Malinowki’s diary). That’s of course why we’re told not to blog in the first place, or even to have a facebook account. If I’m going to do this – go through with this entire process – it’s going to be on reflective [and reflexive] grounds. I have no intention of dangling the ‘me’ outside of the research box altogether, as so many people do. The various aspects of my identity will have to tag along to everything I do in different shapes and sizes. Knowing the time and place for it to seep through, and other methodological decisions will have to be made as they arise. I’m confident that I’ll know what to do, and that my own ethics will steer. Currently, one of my professors is in China doing fieldwork. He brought his entire family – thus, they become part of the process. Likewise with Rob Baker in West Africa, whose blog I’ve been following for ages. There are a lot of excellent role models out there, and so much has been written. I just have to dig through it all and carve out my own path.

One thing’s for sure – I’m finally in a place where I feel as though I can unleash whatever’s thrown at me. That alone has caused some of the blockage to be chipped away. Instead of being surrounded by skeptical friends and professors, I’m surrounded by like-minded musicologists with their own pool of creativity, and brilliant professors who stretch my synapses with every sentence that comes out of their mouths.  It’s a hell of a lot more painful to be blocked with a drawer full of ideas than to pick one and start chipping away at it. That’s the next step.

The Great Digital Camera Search of 2010

It’s official. I need a decent digital camera – preferably one that has video capabilities as well. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, as I am completely out of my element here. I’ve been using my iPhone as a camera for far too long.  I don’t want anything too expensive (more than a few hundred $$) and I don’t want anything that’s cumbersome to tote around.

That’s all – back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I’m wearing horns today.

It’s reminding me how conservative this school is – sort of a “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas (New Orleans) anymore” moment. I left off the latex body paint – for now anyway. I created a Zombie Apocalypse playlist on Grooveshark, so that’s accompanying my horns quite well as I sit here in the library procrastinating and prepping for a seminar this afternoon.

This past week or so has been kind of a hot mess.  I haven’t been feeling well, which has resulted in a lack of productivity, procrastination, and all of the consequences that go with it.  My partner is off recruiting all next week – Boston Center for the Arts, somewhere in Philly, somewhere in D.C, Juilliard, and up in Rochester at Eastman. Just prior to her leaving, I always get in kind of a tizzy. Being from the Northeast myself, I also get a tinge of jealousy that she gets to go ‘home’ so often. I’m fortunate if I get there once a year. All part of the package, I suppose.

Classes have been going very well. I was prepared for them all this week, and they’ve become a refreshing sort of stability. There’s one in particular where I feel like I have to walk in so prepared that I feel armed. When I accomplish this, it feels great. When I don’t, I walk in feeling vulnerable – like I should be hiding behind a bunker.  The good thing is this feeling has only happened once, and I definitely learned from it.

I can’t believe how fast this semester has been flying by. My main professor is leaving for a couple weeks to present at conferences. When he returns, we have two weeks left.  Also, our Gamelan performance is this coming Tuesday. I feel very prepared for this show – my first time performing on gangsa and jegogan, the latter of which is much, much easier.  We’ve turned The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” into a Beleganjur tune – the most interesting aspect of that is balancing the traditional with the non.

My thoughts are broken up into themes based on paper topics and readings. Meanwhile, different concepts keep playing pong in there, ricocheting off walls (more like stockades): reflexive ethnomusicological writing, compiling my own reference tools, how to make a documentary, the need for a new digital camera and having no idea what to buy, choosing ensembles for next semester, and musical gender norms.  I have about 100 one or two sentence word document files saved in a ‘random’ folder on my desktop. They all have project ideas or questions I want to answer. I have to be careful not to get so caught up in the ideas and start working on some of them.

Travel plans are becoming solid. We had decided to go on a cruise that included Rome, Palermo, Malta, Tunisia, Barcelona, Marseille, and Savona. With credit card in hand, she found out she couldn’t leave until the 23rd and the cruise set sail on the 16th – this was definitely disappointing. Two days later, I was talking with a friend who is spending her break in Kuwait with her father. I told her about a Whirling Dervishes Festival in Turkey that I wanted to go to, and an hour later she had confirmed those plans with him. Again, this is all earlier than the 23rd so I had to grit my teeth and say no to what would probably have been an amazing trip to Kuwait & Turkey as well (all with a male escort, even!). So, after several hit and miss trials, we decided to go back to our original plan: Rome. I’m going to spend a week with the family in Massachusetts, she’ll join me right before Christmas, and we’ll fly out of Boston to spend the New Years holiday in Italy. Despite the cool things we ‘could have done’, I’m super excited about this trip. I get to see my family in Massachusetts for a while, plus I’ve never been to Italy, and we’re kind of making it into an “off-the-beaten-path” kind of tour. We found a quaint little dyke-owned B&B a few blocks from the Forum, and it looks like they have a great New Years Eve celebration.

Time to go be productive…

Free Book Download

A pdf copy of the 2001 book ‘Tide Lines: Music, Tourism and Cultural Transition in the Whitsunday Islands‘ by Prof. Philip Hayward at Southern Cross University  is available as a free download via the the Small Island Cultures Research Initiative (SICRI) website (see under heading ‘SICRI NEWS 2010’). The book includes discussion of Ngaro, Torres Strait Islander, Polynesian and Euro-Australian music in the region and its relation to lugging and tourism.

On the SEM mailing list, Prof. Hayward asked that this be passed on –