Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 15 (Round IV) "In the trenches": casting-the-net edition

Another busy tough day, bringing its own conflicts (and technology snafus), with not enough time to create a proper-length blog post. But in the interests of maintaining the continuity, here's a short note I dropped to a student a while back who was expressing difficulty in "choosing" a research topic--really, in generating ideas that felt as if they had enough potential to permit moving forward:

Thinking about research areas:

Don't underestimate the validity of first/initial impressions; they need not connote a long-term commitment. It's worth at least looking at any topic that seems interesting, if for no other reason than that such a look is the only way to deepen the sense of whether there's any there there:

Here's a way to start thinking about it. Rather than thinking about time-periods that interest you, think about approaches to a topic which you might find congenial.

What kinds of research-work appeal? Score-study? Primary sources? Biographical links to compositions? Culture/context/reception of works? Interaction b/w music and other cultural/historical phenomena? Oral history? And so forth.

What repertoires appeal? Orchestral? Chamber? Song? Non-traditional/vernacular? New music?

What time periods or geographical regions appeal? It is no longer the case that musicologists "only deal with classical music"; musicology is now very widely-understood to encompass the whole world of music and the whole gamut of analytical approaches.

Different topics will tend to demand different types of research approaches. If you have a sense of the research approaches you might find congenial, you can reverse-engineer to find topics that respond well to those certain approaches.

Sometimes you ask yourself, not "What is the 'good' topic?" but rather "What kind of work do I like to do? With what kinds of tools am I facile?"

There are a lot of ways to peel the apple.

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