Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Engaged and Integrated Scholar"

Requested responses to university Provost's "Engaged and Integrated Scholars" series feature. Surprising how much more honest you can be when you've got tenure:

1. What is your research objective/interest(s)?

American and African-American Music, 20th Century Music, Irish traditional music and other folk musics and cultures, improvisation, music and politics, performance practice, historical performance.
To do work as a research scholar which enriches historical understanding, empowers communities, and overcomes cultural boundaries.
2. How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
In my research, I am a proponent of Patrick Geddes's dictum to "Think globally, but act locally". I believe scholars should recognize wider impact and responsibility for their work, not only within their own disciplines, but also as part of wider research communities and, indeed, as part of all communities worldwide. Because my own work is especially engaged with the histories of marginalized, colonized, ostracized, and working-class musics, it also engages issues of politics, race, class, and power and I am particularly aware of my responsibilities in these areas.
3. Where do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired by my own teachers and predecessors, within and beyond the field of musicology, who have modeled for me the combination of rigor, curiosity, insight, sensitivity, and work-ethic which I strive to realize in my own work. My own teachers J. Peter Burkholder, Austin Caswell, Thomas J Mathiesen, Thomas Binkley, and Richard Bauman were giant intellects and inspirations. Beyond musicology, I am inspired by the poetics of Gary Snyder and Peter Mathiessen, the spiritual insights of Dainin Katagiri Roshi and Thomas Merton, and the stunning beauty and emotional depth I have found in many different forms of traditional music. As Bob Dylan said, "traditional music will teach you everything you need to know to live. If you let it."
4. What type(s) of service projects do you enjoy doing?
I am acutely aware of the unusual privilege I enjoy as a a white, male, tenured, heterosexual college professor. That privilege--though hard-earned and many years in coming--obligates me to work to help others. I donate my time writing, teaching, playing, and speaking as much as I possibly can. Possibly the most gratifying service projects of all are those in which, through teaching, I am privileged to help people become participants in the creation of their own artistic lives.
5. What projects are you currently working on?
My primary current research project is a large-scale scholarly monograph on the earliest roots of blackface minstrelsy, the early 19th century street idiom which synthesized African-American and Anglo-Celtic styles to create the first great American popular music. I am also heavily involved in expanding the range and visibility of the work done by my own Vernacular Music Center, and the activities of the Celtic Ensemble, a unique ensemble among North American music conservatory programs.
6. What advice do you have for new faculty members on balancing all of the components of an integrated scholar into their careers (academics, research, service)?
Although I would certainly not think of myself as exemplifying effective integration of al these elements--I am acutely aware of my own limitations and inefficiencies--I have found the following dicta to be practical and useful:
  • Cultivate the ability to concentrate closely in short bursts of time. Available time for one's own research is never sufficiently great and it is always prone to interruption; therefore, it is important to be able to muster concentration in shorter bursts.
  • Related to the above: identify those patterns in your calendar and schedule in which your concentration is best and most suited for certain types of activities, and protect those times for your own work. I get up at 4:30AM, six days a week, for this reason.
  • Develop a physical and a spiritual discipline. Do something outdoors and something physical every day. I bicycle, garden, do yoga and martial arts.
  • Invest effort not only in your own work, but also in communicating and collaborating with colleagues, making sure that they know what you are working on. Work a little bit harder and be a little bit friendlier--this pays large dividends.
7. Lastly, please provide us with some background information to help people get to know you. What is your official title, educational background and hometown?
I am Associate Professor of Musicology; I serve as Chair of Musicology, director of the Vernacular Music Center, and director of the Celtic Ensemble. I hold a BA (Music) from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's in Music (Jazz Studies) and Ph.D. in Musicology, from Indiana University. I was born on the north shore of Massachusetts, in a small town called Marblehead (home of the painting The Spirit of '76), but have lived, worked, and played music in Cambridge MA, Manhattan, Chicago, and New Orleans, as well. My wife Dharmonia (also professor of Musicology at the university) and I lived in southern Indiana for 12 years, and here in Lubbock since 2000, but my heart is still in the foothills and seashores of northern New England.

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