Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"The Office" (workstation series) 094 ("Is it Summer yet?" edition) and, Fuzzy People 33

Finally into the saddle--I hope!--for the summer's work, and the damned thing is half over. I've been pecking away at writing projects (described below) on half-days here and there, ever since school let out May 7, but there have been so many big-chunk away days that I haven't been able to get much into the groove. Or, as Steinbeck put it, "squirmed down into the writing chair."

Here's what the past 5 weeks brought:

May 5-9: final exams, final grades, inevitable hysteria by Those who Had Not Done What They Ought to Have Done;

May 9-16: prep for China trip; try to bang out some writing; meet with students working on summer projects; write recommendations referrals job-tasks etc; yard-work and home-improvements; woodshed and try to get my chops up

May 17-29: China tour with friend's university wind ensemble; 4 concerts in 10 days (immediately following the 3 days of Official Mourning for the eighty-thousand people estimated to have died in the Szechuan earthquakes); hard-traveling at times, to be documented in Dharmonia's trip notes, but also including the Great Wall, a visit to Han Shan's Cold Mountain temple and the most astonishing Buddhist carvings I've ever seen, plus a panicked cross-city walk in Yanchou in 100-degree heat, only to be rescued by 5 youthful Chinese angels in a Smart Car, and possibly the most foul distilled liquors I've ever imbibed;

May 30-June 6: right back into the saddle in Lubbock--we made our regular pub session within 20 hours of touching down, after a 30-hour journey from Beijing (don't ever fly United airlines!!!); "First Monday" ceili dance on June 2; meet with students; paperwork paperwork paperwork; second meeting with Celtic Ensemble "Summer Band" (a very informal, off-the-cuff weekly jam-and-rehearsal session with those CE members who are in town and bored - needing - something - to - do over the summer; more on that in a subsequent post); prep for Zoukfest;

June 7-15: Zoukfest. Consistently, now, one of the high-points of our annual calendar, and reliably one of the most intense artistic, personal, and spiritual experiences I've ever had. I said it 10 years ago after ZF I in Weston MO, and it's never more true than right now. For a week, it feels a little bit like it must have felt like to be in Paris in the '20s with Joyce and Hemingway, or Harlem in 1916 with James Reese Europe, Eubie Blake and James Weldon Johnson, or San Fran in '56 at the Six Gallery Reading, or courts of the Burgundian nobility in the 15th century, or hell, even Paris in 1100 when Perotin was scribbling notes in Leonin's composition classes: you just feel lucky to be there, alive and participating at a magical time.

June 16-22: recording with old friends (bit of overlap with ZF: tenor David arrived at our house in Lubbock before we even did). Breaking our necks to live up to mentor Peter Burkholder's expectations (justifiable or not) regarding what we're capable of, in re-recording for the venerable Norton Anthology. Also rehearsing Summer Band, woodshedding on an new baby (5-string tenor guitar by GD Armstrong, more on that later too), teaching and then leading English Country Dance for colleague Susan's Kodaly teaching workshop (in a country line-dancing bar, and chased home by massive softball-sized hail). Also cranking out additional prose and student essay questions for a music appreciation text I'm co-authoring (see below).

June 23: meetings all day (meatspace and virtual) with students needing mentoring and colleagues/supervisors problem-solving for Fall 2008 semester.

But, as of today (June 24), that is about to change, for around 4 weeks: I don't have to travel again until around July 27. Dharmonia is off to Bloomington to help celebrate 10-year anniversary of old friends' and revered teachers' monastic foundation, but I've begged off--airline fuel prices being so high and the caliber of the airline experience so horrifically low. Here's the writing I'm hoping to do in the next 4 weeks--or at least get as far as I can:

Essay for a collection called Lost Colonies, on the theme of the immigrant Irish in the American South. My particular topic is the interaction of Irish and African-American performance arts (music and dance) in the riverine and maritime environments of New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston. Reading a hell of a lot on immigration and demographics in those cities, as well as the history and primary literature on canal construction (and the workers who did it) on the Old Frontiers of upstate New York and Pennsylvania, and finding out that, once again, the received history about who lived there, what work they did, and the extent of their interaction, are all dreadfully incomplete in the scholarship. This is to be expected--there are so many different possible readings of existing primary data that any solid new research question is likely to uncover new patterns not previously recognized because not previously sought. This obviously ties in with the large-scale minstrelsy project, but very usefully kills two birds with one stone by requiring that I deepen my own understanding of black-white musical interaction in other maritime/riverine areas than Long Island. Research on this one well begun.

Essay for a collection (and conference) on 16th century (e.g., "early modern") Ireland. My particular topic is on the intersection of "early modern" (e.g., Continental) and essentially medieval (e.g., Gaelic) harmonic conceptions in tunes from this period, some of the first tunes that are documented--that is, written down--in the Irish tradition. I've suspected for years that the tunes of this period, some of which are clearly organized on modal (that is, medieval church-music) harmonic principles, and others clearly on triadic (that is, post-Buxtehude/Bach) principles, reveal the collision of two different musical traditions and the working-out of their synthesis in composed melodies. This essay and conference paper are a chance to try out that hypothesis. Research on this just started, but it's one I've thought about (and experienced, as a player) a lot over the years so I don't anticipate too much trouble in cranking it out. I expect my copy of Fleischmann's Sources of Irish Traditional Music, which I snagged at an outrageous discount at the AMS meetings about 6 years ago, will get quite a workout.

Conference paper for national meetings of Society for Ethnomusicology, held in my old friend Matthew Allen's old stomping grounds of Wesleyan university. I'm on a panel exploring the uses of music to create community and contexts in the Irish Diaspora. Haven't even begun this conference text, but I've presented on my own on this topic at various conferences, and published, and I've got fifteen years practical experience at using the music for precisely this purpose, so I expect that writing to proceed pretty freely and intuitively.

Writing review questions for publisher of a new music-appreciation textbook. This is contract writing, which pays a pittance, but it's a good thing to do, both for the CV and because it helps sharpen a critical eye one can apply to one's own writing--which is never wasted investment of time.

Continuing to work on my part of the co-authored music-appreciation text for Prentice-Hall. I've been recruited as the author for "Rock" sections (not the topic I would have selected myself--I'd be more comfortable with "Jazz" or "World", but "Rock" is what they had open). It's the first time I've worked on an entire book MS with multiple authors and with a team of editors, and it's proving to be an interesting discipline, to write to order (which I've done a lot), according to another party's multiple and occasionally shifting timetables (which I've done less), and according to a working- and text-organizing-method which is not my own (which I've done very little). Have to (a) try to leave space in the daily writing schedule to respond to editorial requests and (b) refrain from feeling obligated to crank out specific items within 24 hours of their being requested. I don't like having stuff sitting on my desk's (or desktop's) "Inbox"--am much happier "clearing to empty" as the Getting Things Done folks call it--but this compulsion can work against me if I drop other stuff I'm in the middle of.

And, all of that above leaves aside the garden stone I want to lay, the 2-hours-minimum of daily practicing, the 40 daily minutes on the elliptical, and all the other stuff I "told myself" I was going to do this summer.

Gotta get to work.

Below the jump: His Highness sleeping peacefully, post-tranquillized haircut and shearing (he picks up burrs easily but will fight tooth-and-nail to avoid having the resultant mats combed or cut). Below that, the "no papparazzi please" shot. One of the things I like about cats--and you can see it in this shot--is that they're never really tamed; they are always essential feral. And if you die, they'll eat you without compunction.

I like that.

[thanks to the Rev for the "fuzzy people" appellation]

No comments: