Sunday, June 12, 2011

On (not) writing

I took last summer off for a little perspective in terms, and also to refocus energies elsewhere. And coming back, I'm not sure either of those panned out in the ways I thought. There were several times I started writing something, but couldn't quite get it out in a way that made sense for me, or that I wanted to write something but just got busy. And these I suspect will be continuing problems for me, but for the mean time I'm back largely in part to a) my missing this and b) the feeling that it's worthwhile beyond me.

There's been a lot of discussion lately on the AMS listserv (and echoed nicely over at amusicology about the place of blogs. I don't imagine I get much draw outside of people I already know, but it's a way of disseminating even in small steps some thoughts. I could also be a better self-promoter, I suppose. But modest aims are fine, I think, for where I am. It's nice, honestly, to feel like I'm communicating more with these folks more than the once-or-twice-a-year conference or trip.

Instead, I think the broader goal for me is pedagogical, self and otherwise. Taking this teaching writing seminar underscored how much I value that sort of daily, low-stakes writing (an added bonus of where the free time went, I did more fiction reading, and intend to continue this trend!). It's hard to square the publicness with the lack of a really public readership, meaning that ideas occupy this nebulous space of inquisitive working through and digested and eloquent. I'm the kind of writer who likes a space to sort of see it on paper or hear myself talk it out, hence I'm back. But I've also seen a lot about blogs in the classroom. We had listening blogs in one class, but the class was too large (in my opinion) to really make it a space for much discussion to erupt and, in a fitting parallel to Ryan's post students managed to spread the rumor that they didn't need to actually do it and it was a losing battle. I like the idea of blogs though, as a space for working out ideas, sharing perspectives, continuing exchanges and collaboration beyond the classroom, and I expect to continue this in the fall when I teach freshman writing. Blogs are good for just practicing writing, doing it daily, letting students get feedback on their ideas, learn how to make and support arguments, how to provide commentary, and to realize that their ideas participate in a broader conversation.

All of this is to say that if we want to make musicology active in the public domain, keeping that in mind in the classroom is a good idea. We encounter students who will become musicians, medical researchers, administrators, psychologists, whatever- the people who will become potential readers of our words. But if the classroom is just a place to learn about musical form, concerts attended just so they can write 3 pages rehashing it, music and its teachers seemingly cut off from the modern world, they won't go into the world expecting to see musicologists playing an active role. They may very well appreciate what they learned, they may remember us fondly, but they won't see us as a missing part after they get their diploma. Which would be a shame, because what I love about my work and my colleagues is how they make me feel connected to a larger world, and hope that my presence in it will be of use to someone.


  • Dan--
    Welcome back. We missed you.

    Thanks for linking to my post.

    I really like your suggestion of introducing "musicology" into the classroom as a means of finding a wider public. Of course, doing so is more difficult. One of the things I try to integrate is a sense of how history is constructed. Nothing too in-depth, but enough to relay the idea that history is a construction and that musicologists are responsible for what they learn in their textbooks and in the classroom.
    I'd be curious to hear your ideas on integrating "musicology" into classes.


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