Thursday, February 07, 2008

Day 21 "In the trenches" (rollin-them-bones edition)

Rollin' them bones today--booked straight, but for some reason it doesn't feel quite so arduous. Got a little bit of a second-wind deal goin' on here.

Dharmonia leaves for a flying dharma weekend in a couple of hours. Historically, those weekends of her absence are usually pretty low-profile for me: do the gigs, work at home, make early nights of it. I am told by behaviorists that the way to tell the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is not on the basis of whether the person in question avoids people or is sociable: introverts can be outgoing and extroverts quiet, etc--but rather on the basis of how that person by preference recharges mentally and emotionally: alone or in company with others.

On that basis--and contrary to what the undergraduates who fear I'll "eat their soul" (actual quote) when I loom over them might think--I'm an introvert: when the gig's over and the wife is out of town, I'd rather go home, feed His Highness, cook for myself, and be quiet. My life is so jammed-full of input that the opportunity to simply not talk is pretty welcome.

The Dearly Deported out of town for PhD interviews, which means I take the doo-wop lecture in the 410-student Rock History class. This will be both welcome and a challenge--he's got a great crew of student assistants, to whom he's assigned the rotated roles of "Technology" (running smart-classroom podium: DVDs, Powerpoints, etc) "video-recorder" (roaming camera shooting digital video for upcoming podcasts and online teaching), and "bouncer" (general security, student attention and focus, and floggings-as-requisite--Quantzalcoatl's construction). On the other hand, I know pretty much fuck-all about doo-wop, can't teach the lecture off the top of my head, and so will need to actually prepare. Taking a leaf out of Zappa's audience-participation experiments, I'm thinking of dividing the whole 410-person lecture hall into 3 parts and having them sing doo-wop in sections--we'll see if that flies.

DD asked for some feedback re/ those interviews, and here, suitably redacted, are my bootlegged comments. I think these are not bad psychological advice for anybody in any kind of search/interview situation:

  • Try to realize that, contrary to how it feels, it's a buyer's market, and you're the buyer: doctoral programs seek candidates who already know who they are as scholars and adult humans, and have a clear--but open and receptive-to-influence--research plan and set of goals. Realize that, with a clear sense of who you are as a scholar, you have something they need--not just vice versa. The "right fit" between candidate and situation is thus (or should be) a situation of mutual agreement and compatibility.
  • With this in mind, your goal thus becomes, not to sell them on you or to stand hat-in-hand saying "please let me into your program", but rather to convey, "here's what I have to offer to your program." It's not unlike my attitude interviewing for this job in 2000: my stance was "Jesus, if I'm going to even think about taking a job here hell-west of nowhere, I better be damned sure they understand how much of a hippie I am." Because there was no way I was going to take a job hell-west of nowhere, and ask Dharmonia to move there, if there were going to be unbearable constraints on who I was and what I wanted to accomplish (luckily, it worked out for us). Of course you don't want to cop an attitude, but you should let them know: "hey, I'm a working musician or otherwise functional human being with goals and avocations beyond being a drone, I will still be wanting to make gigs, I have a clear research identity and area of specialization and I'm looking for a place that values and rewards that, I have teaching experience and would like to put that to use here" etc.
  • Work hard to figure out which of the people you meet could work, in terms of research specialization but also personality type, as a dissertation supervisor. That person doesn't have to be expert in the topic you want to work on, but s/he has to (a) understand why you want to work on it--that is, why it's a valuable topic and (b) bring good mentoring, editorial, and academic-rigor skills to the table. Where you study or teach at the doctoral level matters one hell of a lot less than with whom you study or teach, and your degree of compatibility and collegiality with those specific persons.
  • Ask about assistantships, scholarships, fee waivers or reductions, and any/all other financial remuneration. Almost any college town will have a student-economy infrastructure (cheap housing, part-time work, etc): you can find affordable situations, but you still need to assess the local economy in order to understand whether (a) you can afford it and (b) whether you can afford it and still have enough time to go to school full-time. A graduate musicology/ethnomusicology program will demand 50 hours a week of studying/writing--make sure you can pay the rent while doing so.
Below the jump:

Clear though cold as hell out here, but the light's beautiful and, as I always (and thus tiresomely frequently) say, "My ancestors wouldn't even wear shoes." Over the weekend, Dharmonia, with a little weeny help from me, did the late-winter everything's-about-to-start-budding cleanup, and it makes the yards and beds look good--bare, but ready for new green.

Springtime comin'.

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