Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sounds of Things To Come

In an upcoming issue of The Annual Review of Anthropology there is an article co-authored by some well-known music scholars arguing for sound in anthropology. Just last month, a deadline arrived for a special issue of The American Quarterly on sound and culture. This November, the Sound Studies interest group of the AMS will have its very first evening panel session (sadly pitted against the Cold War Studies interest group and the Hispanic Music interest group – it will be a tough choice). And, of course, the Sound Studies special interest group of the SEM sponsored important panels last year in Mexico City. Something is clearly coming to a head.

Sound studies or auditory cultural studies has been an emerging field for years now.* Plenty of ethnomusicologists and musicologists have been engaging in this discourse for quite some time, but it seems that the near synchronous acknowledgment of sound by such prestigious venues as those above offers some compelling evidence that sound is finally... well... resonating.

Academic presses are clearly on-board: there are now readers and handbooks in production or in press. Some institutions are even lending the interdisciplinary field some credence by explicitly recruiting sound studies scholars to develop entirely new programs of study.**

I am heartened by these developments for a few reasons. As a scholar, I occupy the border between a few fields. If anything, sound represents something of a culmination of a certain type of interdisciplinarity between the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and public policy. I could list some of the varying ways that scholars are exploring sound, but trust me, it's huge, and people are excited.*** But more to the point, for those of us who lament that music departments might not get much respect in our institutions as they deserve, we have a clear opportunity here to lead the way in the intellectual discussion. As many music scholars are already doing with interdisciplinary fields such as performance studies, sound and auditory cultural studies is providing an important way to engage with scholars in other fields and offer a music-centered perspective. But more than that, the resonance of sound studies shows that with enough interest and persistence, new intellectual conversations will catch on in a wide variety of scholarly venues. These changes can happen, papers and panels can get accepted, and eventually scholars who once sat on the margins can become an integral part of their chosen field(s).

It makes me feel optimistic in an otherwise dreary economic landscape.


* Norma Coates, "Filling in Holes: Television Music as Recuperation of Popular Music in Television," Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 1 (Spring, 2007), 21-25; Jonathan Sterne, "Being 'in the True' of Sound Studies," Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 2 (Autumn, 2002): 163-167.
** Recall the job advertisements from NYU 2 years ago; University of Minnesota also had a Music and Sound Studies Initiative.
*** There are far too many to list here. Ben Tausig, co-chair of the Sound Studies Special Interest Group of the Society for Ethnomusicology, compiled a useful bibliography. Join the group to have a look.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Switching Productivity Gears

Fall semester is literally just around the corner, and like many of my colleagues, I'm gradually pulling myself out of my summer work mode. This year marks the first time in my professional life when summer translated into 3 very distinct activities: travel, research, and writing. (Research-related travel meant that I spent 4 weeks in Brazil and I also saw more music than I normally am able to do. It was awesome.) Since I am now living 3 flights away from my wife, recreational travel was very important to my emotional health even if it took a toll on other aspects of my life. For those who don't know, my partner and I both live about an hour or so away from the nearest regional airport and visits mean 8-14 hours of travel time. Now I am becoming one of those seasoned travelers contemplating expensive, travel-related purchases like noise-canceling headphones, an airport wifi package, and an ereader. All of that travel aside, writing actually happened, and very soon an article will be off to a journal. All of this is exciting.

I have been thinking about how much we academics need summers to get our research and writing done. Many academic bloggers "go dark" during the summer months, and many others get out of town with laptops in tow to web-challenged locales just to get some work done. I've found that I am the opposite. I actually tend to do worse with unstructured time and prefer to have some sort of constraint on my time, but not too much. During my fellowship-supported grad school years, I would often volunteer for various non-profit causes, and I wrote most of my dissertation while being a teaching assistant. A big appeal of a loose structure is the feeling of productivity and accomplishment. On the days when I have tangible results from my other demands, I feel more motivated to sit in front of a computer and tinker away at whatever project is before me. It really is too bad that the academic year is structured in feasts and famines of free time. I think the trick is that the other demands need to not take very much time of my day. In the real world, however, most demands take over when given the chance. And this is why so many young faculty fall into the trap of spending too much time on teaching or service.*

In other words, I am currently neck-deep in a self-assessment mode. As I face another year of clear structural demands on my time, I wonder if my anxieties about the daily grind of sitting before a word processing program will slip away? Or will they just change? In the distance I can anticipate the demands of students, colleagues, and more travel on my time. And let's not forget another year on the academic job market. It's going to be an interesting ride.

* Most of Robert Boice's Advice for New Faculty focuses on this problem. See also Kerry Ann Rockquemore's advice columns for InsideHigherEd.com.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Musicology and The Two-Body Problem

In approximately 6 weeks I will be living as a bachelorette for the first time in over 4 years.* As a young academic, my impending solitary life is inevitable. At some point, most of us face the prospect of entering a long-distance relationship. For many of us, our marital / relationship status directly determines what types of jobs we are willing to do, or what our job negotiations will look like.** For others, it means that somebody might compromise their career for the benefit of their spouse's. In my case, my relationship status means that I tend to look for jobs on coasts since my partner / wife is a marine ecologist and oceanographer. (Irony of ironies: her new postdoc is in the middle of the desert without an ocean for hundreds of miles. I'm not sure my preference for the coasts will last much longer.) As two young academics, we embody the good and bad of the two-body problem in a tough economic climate. However, the realities being what they are in our professional lives, we are willing to tough-out periods of distance for the sake of our careers. After all, I fell in love with ethno/musicology long before I met her as did she with phytoplankton.

When I do campus interviews, I try not draw attention to the reality of my two-body problem. I don't wear my rings, and I try really hard not to bring up my wife in casual conversation. But I don't think it works. After years of being in a productive and committed relationship, she sits very much at the forefront of my thoughts. She is the person who pushed me to work on my current specialization (she fully accepts the blame), her scholarly perseverance pushes me to work harder, and she is probably my toughest reader. Also, a simple Google search will probably reveal the fact that I am indeed in a relationship. Faculty search committees aren't supposed to ask questions about marital status, but they probably know. At this point, it is pretty difficult to erase all traces of her in my internet life, so I don't try too hard.

I bring this up in this venue in particular because of a recent flare up on the outpost of young musicological civility, the musicology job wiki. Many of my colleagues and friends treat the wiki with an addictive disdain; we hate to look, but then we must. Rarely does the wiki give us good news. Right now, I'd like to point to what I consider a productive discussion about gender and relationships during the interview process (scroll down to heading "This Year's Job Market" starting with A:16).

One of my anonymous colleagues pointed out the huge gender disparities in this year's hires. (It is apparently a great year to be a white male on the musicology job market.) In the midst of that discussion, the two-body problem appears front and center. Now, you might hypothesize that only women get the inappropriate questions about their marital status or families, but apparently men often get grilled about the very same issues (see A:36).

There are all kinds of nasty assumptions that happen with PIs and search committees about what relationships are supposed to look like (long-distance relationships are out of the question, relationships mean the candidate in question won't devote time to the campus community, having children means that the academic will be less productive, etc.). In the great game of negotiations and offers, committees sometimes try to hedge their bets. Sometimes they believe that a certain candidate probably wouldn't accept an offer and, unfortunately, they sometimes make these guesses based on their knowledge of relationships. Messed up, I know! In my case, I probably wouldn't accept an invitation for a campus interview that I didn't actually believe I would take. But then again, that is just me.

What I find strange about this discussion on the wiki is that very few people are willing to discuss the the positive effect their relationship has had on their scholarship and teaching. For years I have been citing statistics that grad students in stable relationships have much lower rates of attrition than the solitary ones. And the academic couples I know best are turning into power-couples of sorts. I'm wondering if search committees worry as much about the two-body benefit as they do the problem. In other words, do they see stability and productivity in the mix as well? If, for example, someone is a top candidate and the committee knows for whatever reason that their significant other just accepted a position at a neighboring institution, would that make the candidate more attractive?

I know it isn't kosher to talk about these things publicly (on the internet no less). However, I'm wondering if any of my other colleagues have thoughts about the two-body problem. Can we maybe change the discourse to something more inclusive and positive? The emotional stability factor, perhaps? Thoughts?


*This doesn't count my many solo research trips to Brazil (6 weeks, 6 months, 1 month, 2 months, and 1 month).

**In some states, my marital status is clear: I am legally married to another woman. In my current state of Maine, I am domestically partnered.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Syllabus: Music, Media, and the Representation of Difference

It's that time of year again. Here is the syllabus for "Music, Media and the Representation of Difference," a seminar I am leading this semester. We had our first meeting today, and it looks like I have a very bright group of students. I'm quite pleased. (I should have posted this earlier, but my schedule really ran away with me. Normally I post syllabi before they are finalized.)

A note on media logistics: As opposed to last semester, I have decided to use the library's reserve system to hold recordings and video of much of the course content. I'm hoping that students will feel motivated to post links to songs on lala or youtube when sharing ideas in the online discussion forums. Since there is no repertoire or listening requirement for examination purposes, I didn't feel compelled to create a digital playlist. I plan to try that the next time I teach a lower level course.

I originally designed this course as my "dream" seminar – you know, the course one imagines leading during the final stretches of the dissertation process. Since my defense, the idea of teaching a seminar on theoretical issues close to my research has made me much more excited to teach than I ever thought possible. As opposed to my fall class, "Music and the Global Metropolis," I intentionally left most things pertaining to Brazil off the syllabus in an attempt to diversify class content. I'm assuming that it will come up now that 2 students expressed an interest in Latin America. We shall see. I am also allowing students to be creative with their term projects. There are many students in this class with experience with various forms of media, and I assume that some of them will opt to do a creative project as opposed to a traditional paper.


Music 398: Music, Media, and the Representation of Difference

Seminar Meetings:
Mondays and Wednesdays
102 Bixler Art and Music Center

Office Hours:
Mondays and Wednesdays, 9AM-10:45AM.
You may also consult me via digital office hours. See the moodle for a portal to my Google Talk account.

Required Texts:
Vernalis, Carol. Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Revised edition. Edited by Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas M. Kellner. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.
Readings on Reserve

Course Description:
This course is designed as an introductory seminar about the critical issues of representing marginalized persons in music and new forms of media. Throughout history, artists have used music and visual media in a mission of representation, often depicting marginalized groups as part of larger goal of engaging the public for entertainment. With the advent of the motion picture, music and sound soon became primary sites for representing differences in race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and social class. Indeed, the coupling of music with multiple forms of media and communication has been a primary locus of social and cultural change and for marginalized groups to contest differences in power. As the internet became a major cultural force during the 1990s, music was a primary locus of cultural contestations about this new form of media, especially with the advent of remix, mash, and musical memes of existing recordings. With the introduction of smart mobile phones and music production games, music and new media have a close relationship in how dominant and marginalized groups engage with the cultures around them.
Throughout the course, the professor will bring audio, visual and participatory examples that relate to the reading. Students are encouraged to do the same so long as they email the professor in advance.
Students will become familiar with the critical issues at stake to these musical communities through a variety of course readings and the development of term paper. Class objectives include:
• increasing student media literacy as it applies to music.
• developing critical reading and listening skills.
• appreciating the debates and conflicts surrounding new music and media technology.
• understanding the politics of representation in music.
• the development and revision of an original term-paper, or an alternative scholarly project that meets the academic requirements of the course.

Course Expectations:
Students are expected to do all reading for the course before class and have questions and comments prepared before class convenes. The easiest way to succeed in MU 398 is to take note of questions that arise as you engage with course materials and bring those concerns to class meetings.
If students wish to develop an alternative scholarly project to the final paper, they must see the professor well in-advance and meet the other requirements of the course (proposal, bibliography, etc.).
All students with documented disabilities will be given special dispensations if they so require them. Please notify me during the first sessions of class.
I am happy to answer questions and chat with you about your thoughts and ideas about this class. Please feel free to visit me during Office Hours. I am also available by appointment.

Term Paper/Project:
Option 1: Paper
Throughout the semester, you will be working towards the completion of an original term paper of approximately 12-15 pages. For your term paper, you must critically engage with the material covered in this class to receive a passing grade. To receive a good grade, you must also conduct independent research to engage with your research or creative question intellectually with an argument or thesis. Generally, a good intellectual engagement will have a bibliography of at least 5 secondary sources and at least 1 primary source of music/media. To do this well, use the resources available to you at the Miller and Bixler libraries. Excellent papers will be show a clear organization, be free of careless errors, demonstrate a synthesis of the critical issues of the class, and show a unique and/or creative approach to the question of media, music and representation.

Option 2: Project
If you wish to do a creative project in lieu of a term paper, consult with the professor to ensure that your ideas will fit with the goals of the class. In place of research paper, you will produce a multimedia presentation or project. For a passing grade, you must critically engage with the material covered in the class. As with the term paper, you must conduct independent research to defend your creative choices for a good grade. Your realization or creative engagement with the course materials will serve as your thesis or argument that you will defend in your accompanying paper. The written explanation of your creative choices should be bolstered by 5 secondary and primary sources. Explanation papers will be around 8-10 pages in length. Excellent projects will creatively synthesize the issues of this seminar and will make an attempt to engage your audience. Excellent explanations papers will be free of careless errors and demonstrate a clear organization as they argue for their particular creative vision.

Term paper/project rough drafts will be due on Friday, April 30 by 5PM in the Music Department office. Final drafts will be due on Monday, May 17, via email by 5PM. Please note that all of your smaller assignments will be working towards the completion of this paper/project. It is best for you to approach all written work for this class with that goal in mind.

Grading and Assignments:
There will be no formal exams in this course.
All students are required to participate in online discussion forums in the class moodle which will count for 10% of your final grade.
There will be three written assignments designed to help you develop your term paper: one paper topic proposal (2-3 pages in length) worth 15%; one annotated bibliography related to your term paper (2-3 pages) worth 10%; a rough draft of your term paper (12-15 pages) worth 20% of your final grade. I will discuss the details of writing assignments throughout the term. Keep copies of all papers in the case my copy goes astray. Late papers result in a grade deduction of one-third a grade every day they are late.
There will be one final term paper (12-15 pages), worth 30% of your final grade. You must show evidence of incorporating the professor’s comments into the final paper to get a good grade.
Due to privacy rules, I only discuss grades in person. Please make an appointment or visit my office hours if you wish to inquire about your performance.

Grading Breakdown:
30% Term Paper (final draft)
20% Term Paper (rough draft)
15% Paper Topic Proposal
10% Annotated Bibliography
10% Participation in Online Discussion Forum
15% Attendance and Participation in Classroom discussion

Schedule of Readings

Unit 1: Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations

Week 1: Introductions: Media theory, cultural theory, and what it all has to do with music.
A/V: Richard Wagner, Das Rheingold, Prelude and Scene 1

Week 2: Foundational Theories 1: Frankfurt School of Critical Theory
Feb 8
Benjamin, Walter. 1968. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 18-40.
Horkheimer, Max and Theodor Adorno. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 41-72.

Feb 10
Adorno, Theodor. “Analytical Study of the NBC Music Appreciation Hour.” Musical Quarterly 78 (1994):325-77.
A/V: Orson Welles, The Invasion from Mars (1938)

Week 3: Foundational Theories 2: Birmingham School and Cultural Studies
Feb 15
Williams, Raymond. “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 130-143.
Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 163-173.
McLuhan, Marshall. “The Medium is the Message.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 107-116.
A/V: Early television broadcasts.

Feb 17
Special guest lecturer: Margaret Ericson, Music Librarian.

Week 4: Music and Representation
Feb 22
Leppert, Richard. “Music, Domesticity, and Cultural Imperialism.” In The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body. Berkeley: University of California, 1990. Pp. 91-117.
Taylor, Timothy D. “Introduction.” In Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Pp. 1-13.

Feb 24
McClary, Susan. “The Musical Languages of Carmen.” In Georges Bizet: Carmen. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. 44-61.
A/V: Georges Bizet, Carmen; Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones; Beethoven, Symphony No. 9

Week 5: Global Media
March 1
Appardurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 584-603.
García Canclini, Néstor. “Latin America and Europe as Suburbs of Hollywood,” and “From the Public to the Private: The ‘Americanization’ of Spectators” in Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. Translated by George Yúdice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. Pp. 97-122.

March 3
Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam. “Stereotype, Realism, and the Struggle Over Representation.” In Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media. New York: Routledge, 1994. Pp. 178-219.
***Writing Assignment 1: 2-3 page paper proposal (15%) due in the Music Office by Friday, 5PM.
A/V: Zap Mama; Global Rhythm; Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Unit 2: Music and Media Theory

Week 6: Utopias and Dystopias of Media Convergence
March 8
Jenkins, Henry. “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 549-576.
Flew, Terry. “New Media, New Economy? Technology, Political Economy and the Network Society.” In New Media: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 40-60.

March 10
Gitlin, Todd. “Supersaturation.” In Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001. Pp. 12-70.
Goodman, David. “Distracted Listening: On Not Making Sound Choices in the 1930s.” In Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Edited by David Suisman and Susan Strasser. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Pp. 15-46.
Optional: Jenkins, Henry. “Introduction: ‘Worship at the Altar of Convergence’” A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change.” In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: NYU Press, 2008. Pp. 1-24. ER

Week 7: Film and TV Music Studies I
March 15
Kassabian, Anahid. “Listening for Identifications: Prologue” and “A Woman Scored” in Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Hollywood Film Music. New York: Routledge, 2000. Pp. 1-14; 61-89.
Cook, Nicholas. “Introduction.” In Analysing Musical Multimedia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Pp. 3-23.

March 17
Vernallis, Carol. Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Pp. 3-26; 156-208.
Optional: Frith, Simon. “Look! Hear! The Uneasy Relationship of Music and Television,” Popular Music 21 (2002): 277-290.
A/V: Thelma & Louise; Ken Burns’ Jazz.

March 22–24: No class! Spring Break!

Week 8: Film and TV Music Studies II
March 29
Booth, Greg. “That Bollywood Sound.” In Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music. Edited by Mark Slobin. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008. Pp. 85-113.
Rodman, Ron. “The Truth Is Out There: Music in Modern/Postmodern Television.” In Tuning In: American Narrative Television Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. 257-289.

March 31
Stilwell, Robynn J. “I Just Put a Drone Under Him...: Collage and Subversion in the Score of Die Hard,” Music & Letters 78 (1997): 551-580.
Vernallis, Carol. Experiencing Music Video. Pp. 209-249.
A/V: Die Hard; Lagaan; Glee, Season 1; Prince, “Get Off”; Madonna, “Cherish.”

Week 9 Music and the Animated Imagination
April 5
Dorfman, Ariel and Armand Mattelart. “Introduction: Instructions on How to Become a General in the Disneyland Club.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 122-129.
Goldmark, Daniel. “‘You Really Do Beat the Shit Out of That Cat’: Scott Bradley’s (Violent) Music for MGM.” In Tunes for ‘Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. Pp. 44-76.

April 7
Goldmark, Daniel. “Jungle Jive: Animation, Jazz Music and Swing Culture.” In Tunes for ‘Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. Pp. 77-106.
Galm, Eric. “Baianas, Malandros, and Samba: Listening to Brazil Through Donald Duck’s Ears.” In Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music. Edited by Mark Slobin. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008. Pp. 258-280.

A/V: Saludos Amigos; The Three Caballeros; What’s Opera, Doc?; I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You

Week 10 Commerce, Advertising
April 12
Baudrillard, Jean. “Towards a Theory of Consumption.” In The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. Pp. 69-86.
McCarthy, Anna. “Introduction: Public Lives of TV.” In Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Sphere. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. Pp. 1-26.

April 14
Taylor, Timothy D. “World Music in Television Ads.” American Music 18.2. (Summer 2000): 162-192.
Optional: Sterne, Jonathan. “Sounds Like the Mall of America: Programmed Music and the Architechtonics of Commercial Space.” Ethnomusicology 41.1 (Winter 1997): 22-50.
A/V: Chrysler, Delta, Royal Caribbean, and Sprint TV Ads.

Unit 3: The Internet and Forms of Interaction

Week 11 Avatars and Afro-Futuristic Music
April 19
Kahn, Richard and Douglas M. Kellner. “Oppositional Politics and the Internet: A Critical / Reconstructive Approach.” In Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Pp. 703-725.
Case, Sue-Ellen. Excerpt from “The Avatar.” In Performing Science and the Virtual. New York: Routledge, 2007. Pp. 185-196.

April 21
Eshun, Kodwo. “Transmaterializing the Breakbeat” and “Sampladelia of the Breakbeat,” More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction. London: Quartet Books, 1999. Pp. 13-61.
Stone, Alluquéré Rosanne. “Sex, Death and Machinery, or How I Fell in Love with My Prosthesis.” In The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995. pp. 1-32.
A/V: Sun-Ra and His Arkestra, Space is the Place (1974); Thrill The World on YouTube

Week 12 Music Video Games and Music Production Populism
April 26
Demers, Joanna. “Dancing Machines: ‘Dance Dance Revolution,’ Cybernetic Dance, and Musical Taste.” Popular Music 25 (2006): 401-414.
Miller, Kiri. “Jacking the Dial: Race, Radio and Place in Grand Theft Auto.” Ethnomusicology 51.3 (2007): 402-438.

April 28
Miller, Kiri. “Schizophonic Performance: Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Virtual Virtuosity.” Journal of the Society for American Music 3.4 (November 2009): 395-429.
Case. Sue-Ellen. Excerpt from “The Avatar.” In Performing Science and the Virtual. New York: Routledge, 2007. Pp. 198-206.
Writing Assignment 3: Paper Rough Draft (20%) Due in the Music Office by Friday, 5PM.

Week 13 Mobile Music and Web 2.0 Musical Communities
May 3
Bahng Boyer, Bill. “The Curious Circumstance of the iPod Shuffle, or Confessions of a Recovering Liberal Humanist”. Mediascapes (Spring 2007).
Gopinath, Sumanth. “Ringtones and the Auditory Logic of Globalization”. First Monday 10.15 (5 December 2005).

May 5
Lysloff, René T. A. “Musical Life in a Soft City: An Internet Ethnography.” In Music and Technoculture. Edited by René T.A. Lysloff and Leslie C. Gay Jr.. Middletown, CT: Weseleyan University Press, 2003. Pp. 23-63.
Weheliye, Alexander. “Feenin’: Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Music,” Social Text 20.2 (Summer 2002): 21-47.

*** Final Papers (30%) Due Last Day of Exam Week (Monday, May 17) via email by 5PM, EST.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Expanding the Musicology Ph.D.

Here's a topic for discussion, my fellow blogging or blog-reading musicologists:

What are some ways in which a Ph.D. program in musicology could be adjusted so that a student could potentially find a career outside of academia?

Never fear, I ask not for myself (at least not yet; give me a few more years!) but because over at Tenured Radical, the illustrious Prof. Potter pointed out that her own doctoral experience, in NYU's History Department, produced scholars who "work in film, archives, libraries, labor organizing, museums and administration as well as in full-time tenure track lines." And she goes on to suggest that one way to facilitate this would be to create certificate programs that accompany the Ph.D. in history, in such things as public policy, museum studies, journalism, etc.

So, again: any thoughts on what a musicological equivalent would be? A certificate in music criticism? (Probably not the best field to latch onto!) Arts administration? Critical Rastrum Studies?

I'd be curious to know your thoughts. I (hopefully obviously) don't mean this to say that any of this alone would solve employment issues, or our field's relative invisibility in the public sphere, or our inability to throw a good discipline-wide party. But it seems worth thinking about.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fieldwork and Archival Research in the Age of Terror

One of the toughest hurdles we must surmount as young academics is the extended trip. Ethnomusicologists generally spend between 6 months to 2 years in some place outside of their comfort zone, ranging from foreign countries to a field site on the other end of the city. Musicologists may do this as well, or they might spend months on end in an archive. As many Americanists know, international travel grants are among the most highly prized funding sources out there for our fields of study while domestic travel grants are difficult to obtain. It looks like the Americanists now have a new advantage of not having to worry about the TSA rummaging through their research notes.

In recent years, we've been hearing an endless stream of headlines about how our endless War on Terror influences what we do: if you wish to study Arabic or Farsi, odds are there is a government grant out there for you; if you happen to be a non-resident of the U.S. employed by a U.S. institution, you will probably have new troubles with your visa (we all know of the infamous case of the musicologist denied re-entry by the Department of Homeland Security). There is now a new hurdle for young traveling scholars that I don't think anyone adequately anticipated: the search and seizure of written documents upon re-entry into the U.S. after a lengthy research trip. The AAUP reports that as of 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has directed customs and border control agents to seize electronic and printed materials upon re-entry into the U.S. without individualized suspicion. The TSA has been able to search and/or confiscate computers for some time now, but it is only getting news now due to a high profile subpeana and seizure that the TSA later withdrew. The Obama administration is keeping this policy. This morning I heard that many returning Fulbright fellows have had their boxes of research materials opened and returned in disarray – sometimes with the wrong contents, sometimes missing large quantities of research materials – without warning. The message came out over SEM-L that young scholars should be careful when returning from a research trip. Needless to say the AAUP and the ACLU are fighting this.

People, this is huge and terrifying. Speaking from personal experience, we all have enough hurdles to jump through when it comes to international travel and research. Visas on their own can be tough to get. Now we have to worry that our data might be seized without individualized suspicion?! I know we have plenty to be upset about these days (budget cuts, pay cuts, ballooning class sizes), but this particular policy will have a directly negative affect on all international research.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Escaping Disaster in Higher Ed

Musicology and ethnomusicology blogs rarely discuss money matters. However, over the last month or so, as many of my former colleagues and students have been protesting the disastrous state of affairs at the University of California system, the silence has been deafening. At a recent meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology which happened at the height of protests UC-wide, I only heard of one scholar mentioning the situation during official business. From merely a musicological and ethnomusicological perspective, the long-term effects on our fields are something that many of us cannot possibly know. The two flagship universities, Berkeley and UCLA, have some of the most celebrated scholars in their respective fields of study. Now take a broader look at the scholarly contributions of the entire UC system and the effects are exponential. Imagine, if you will, what the fields of music study would be like without the scholarly giants at the UC and their academic offspring? It would not be imaginable without the investment of California taxpayers. From a personal perspective, I always felt that I had stumbled onto something special when I learned of the academic powerhouses that resided in Schoenberg Hall (before it was renamed Schoenberg Music Building) during my undergraduate years. I am sure that many of us young and seasoned academics would not exist without the California taxpayer's investment in superior music scholarship even if we never stepped foot on a UC campus. UC faculty permeate our proseminars and undergraduate surveys. What would we be without them?

As news of fee hikes, ballooning class sizes, faculty furloughs and pay cuts, protests, and arrests (numbering over 220 as of this writing) reached me in my small town in Maine, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. I escaped institutional disaster. I attended UCLA as an undergrad when resident fees ranged between $1200 and $1700 per academic quarter and when (shocker!) summer fees were subsidized by the state to help students graduate in a timely manner. My academic loans totals are less than the price of a mid-size sedan. That figure is unimaginable now. As a graduate student, I was a teaching assistant when student tutoring was one of the most tapped resources in undergraduate education. Tutoring centers all across the UC have laid off employees to half their desirable size. Tutors, like TAs, are teaching to larger groups where a typical tutoring session can have one tutor teaching to a full classroom. How much learning do you think happens in those settings? I can't imagine grading papers without undergraduate writing support. This is not the quality of education that made California's system the envy of the world. Imagine what California would be like without broad access to quality higher education. How can UC compete for the best students? What if a diverse group of high quality students just stopped attending the UC?

Plenty has been written about UC President Mark Yudof's failed public relations and flat out dishonesty. As a former TA union activist, I have far too much experience with the UC behaving badly when it comes to its relations with the state legislature and the public. (For a recent example, news of UC's record high research income in comparison to postdoc and staff researcher wages come as no surprise. Just yesterday, there was a protest for that: Postdoctoral Researchers Union and staff researchers demonstrated over stalled contract negotiations.) What shocks me is the complete lack of public outrage over these policies. When will the California taxpayers do something? Just last year a staff researcher died over inadequate safety precautions in a lab. What would happen to the state of research if it became too detrimental to one's health and too financially unfeasible a profession to pursue? What would happen if it all just stopped?

Music scholars on the job market like to moan about our dwindling job prospects as public and private institutions alike continue painful hiring freezes (for the record: last year there were 3 tenure-track musicology / ethnomusicology positions in the UC; this year there are none). I am concerned about the other side of the problem: the students public universities are supposed to serve. This last semester, my students have been extremely smart, but they have had far from the diversity of perspectives that the students I taught during my time at UCSD and UCLA had. As educators, we learn from our students. Pricing many of these students out of higher education will have as adverse an effect on the state of our field(s) as cutting jobs or entire departments. What will we do when our students become homogenous? What kind of action will musicology and ethnomusicology take to keep this from happening?