Monday, March 10, 2008

Behold the future today!

We've just finished our admitted students weekend. I'll give you the leading up events before I threw myself into the department.

Wednesday night I went to a chamber music concert, David Krakauer and the Orion Quartet. Haydn and Beethoven, performed the the dirt-kicking energy that I find rather invigorating. Two new-ish works, a Golijov piece, suprisingly modest with its static, plaintive harmonies and wailing clarinet figures, and a Del Tredici work that underscored the fine line between cleverness and blandly derivitive by freely crossing it throughout. It's funny how modernist music can sound just as derivitive or uninspired as quotations, and that Beethoven can sound fresh when played with a certain disregard for the chamber aesthetic. The Del Tredici also had some of the most lush writing for quartet I've heard.

Thursday afternoon I went to a talk in the English department about Wicked and queer relationships and girl bonding. Interesting, and often very persuasive. I also enjoyed the chance to be of genuine use, when I pointed out that the ending of the show is taken directly from West Side Story, which scored me a nice little chat with the presenter afterwards. Her first words were, "So I take it you're a musicologist." Apparently it shows, and apparently it has purpose outside our department

Friday afternoon was the opening event, a lecture given by Bonnie Wade on contemporary Japanese composing, which I will say is one of the best talks I've ever attended. Not only is she bright and engaging, but her work was not just fascinating, but relevant on so many levels. It spoke to issues of whether Western music is Japanese (it is, she says, since they grow up with it), to whether traditional can be modern (it can), to intersections of industry, politics, and music in funding, in short, the perfect way to open a weekend about musicology and ethnomusicolgy (I was glad to see a couple composer friends of mine in the audience too).

Now, on to the weekend. It's always a bizarre sort of thing. I remember distinctly the almost surreal string of trying to answer the same questions in subtly different ways, of trying to mark myself off as engaging, bright, grounded, serious, personable, and unique-but-not-in-a-bad-way. It's hard. And the fact that the weekend is so centered around their future, interests, and the same old questions makes me wonder how much of the real them I'm starting to see, and how much of a school trying to sell itself they're getting. That said, when we had the Friday night, post-lecture grad student party, I was immensely happy. We joked, laughed, shouted at each other, and gave what may be the most real moment. The unguarded camaraderie is one of the strengths of the students here, the fact that I really do feel like we bond well, enjoy each other, laugh, and get to know people outside of class. It struck me as bizarrely real in the middle of a cautiously crafted weekend (on both sides). Thinking back to my own time, I remember my best moments were with the other recruits, talking about non-music things. We weren't impressing or being impressed, we were just talking. That's what I try to keep in mind at conferences, in class, around campus, that musicology is what we all do, but it's not all we do, or all of who we are. And when it becomes everything, it gets strangely impersonal and uninvolving.


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