Sunday, September 7, 2008

Camp stories

50 posts. To celebrate I give you an inexplicably bizarre ad for the arts. I remember back in college coming up with a fake ad for Berli-Os ("They're Fantastique!"). But this is even better, in part because it's a) memorable and b) gets the point across without being preachy.

In other news, I'm back. Physically at least. Mentally, I'm still latching onto my one week of true vacation, spent in the backwoods of Massachusetts doing what I love: folk dancing. And returning is kind of like waking up. The possibility that you could stay up all night contra dancing and playing games and stargazing and listening to jam sessions go late into the night with a bunch of friends seems more absurd when in the library, and I find myself struggling to remember it all, just the way you would a dream.

The lessons of folk dance camp are surprisingly salient to life as a graduate student in musicology:

- You really do need sleep, but it's kind of nice when you really don't want it.
- I still want to learn the accordion/ I wish I played piano better
- Classics remain favorites for a reason
- Music/Dance is more fun when you do it with friends

This last point seems particularly key. I find it sadly rare to experience music as I really enjoy it: as a collective activity. Studying music is a solo activity. Earlier posts on Kyle Gann's site disassemble the idea of the audience into individuals. Even talking about it music is rare. In the classroom, I'm either teaching it and having trouble eliciting responses or feeling pressure to spend the time only on exam material, or I'm a student and spend most of the time absorbing what other people say, and the concern that what you say about the piece has to be supported by evidence (or sometimes simply agree with the professor's viewpoint).

One day, I brought in the Elgar first symphony. No real academic reason. I just wanted to share with my students the magic of this piece. The fourth movement features an ominous theme which quickly becomes martial in character. But about halfway in, the theme returns in the most lush, heartbreaking manner possible. It's easy to miss that it's the same theme, but once you hear it, it's magical. And the students smiled. And I wished I had time to just have them bring in more examples, to have them teach me how to listen to something.

And so every summer, I return to this sylvan place. It's an escape from work, from everything outside the forested walls. And I wish there was a way to bring that feeling more easily into my scholarship, the feeling when the only thing that matters is the music and who you share it with.


  • Scholarship as art and scholarship as a commodity. It is a tough struggle, indeed.

    I think if you err on the side of sharing music "just because" you'll probably be a more memorable and valuable teacher in the long run.

    By Blogger Rebecca, At September 8, 2008 at 8:35 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home