Thursday, March 30, 2006

getting it together

I have let things get on top of me. If you are a student in a similar position to me, reading this, learn from it that, no matter who you are, you can't do everything, and be everything. Life is just too short. I have spent too long misinterpreting the "no regrets" dictum to mean "take every opportunity that comes your way", and now I am discovering that some of the opportunities, no matter how great, are simply not possible to take. I am overtaxed, and letting important things slide as a result. Solution? JUST SAY NO! which I am doing, possibly for the first time ever.

I have begun to get rid of some of the worst stress, but it is terrifying. I am anticipating a massively unpleasant reaction soon, but if I don't do this now, I never will, and I will continue to be taken advantage of by one of the most difficult people I have ever had the misfortune of associating with. Wish me luck. If the tightness across my chest is anything to go by, I need it!

Friday, March 24, 2006

rediscovering music

My dear friend Anthony the Monster (what a misleading name for a really sweet guy) left a comment on my recent post on Muzak and other back-ground sound that reminded me why I love what I'm studying so much. The beauty of ethnomusicology is that it is interdisciplinary, it is real world, and it involves interaction with people who are not ethnomusicologists. They teach us why music is important by showing us how they interact with it. It is so easy to forget from within the discipline why we are doing what we are doing, and to get caught up in the theory. It is easy to start taking the music we are supposed ot be studying for granted, and to stop learning about it as a result. I teach music students who are in love with what they do. Many of them had to struggle financially, and against family and social pressure, to study what they are studying. They can't afford to take music for granted. But at the same time, I study with people who are not musicians. I forget that what I take for granted, many of them are only discovering, and occasionally, in an anthropology or public culture class, I have the privelage of guiding them to these discoveries. The rest of the time, they guide me there. That really is exciting. Thank you, Anthony, for reminding me of that. You don't know what a difference that has made to me.

health annoyances

When I went onto antidepressants, it was with the understanding that I would be on them for aproximately three months, and that they were non-addictive. I did not want to take them, but was convinced by a doctor who has been dealing with my (often rather specialized) health-care for many years, successfully. When I finally reached the three month deadline recently, I asked said doctor whether it would be possible for me to come off the medication, as previously discussed. I had been doing really well on the mood and emotions front, and while my health overall was in less than perfect shape (for reasons that would take too long to explain), I saw no reason to continue with the anti-depressants if they were no longer necessary. I met with great resistance. My doctor suggested that I may just want to stay on the anti-depressants indefinately. I was, understandably, furious. When he finally conceded to letting me come off them over several weeks, he admitted, for the first time, that they are, in fact, addictive, and may have caused some of the other rather unpleasant side-effects I had been blaming on other health issues. The result: I am now off the anti-depressants, feeling like hell, and looking for another health-care practitioner, preferably not a conventional medical doctor. Lesson: trust that little voice when it tells me that something is not right for me. I knew I would regret this. I just knew it.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Recent developments

While I continue to limp along with a borrowed laptop and limited internet access (is it too common to complain about service in this country?), my professional life at least, is not in the same limbo as my blogger life. I am now definately going to New York University! I accepted their offer on Wednesday, and while I'm still making contact with other universities whose offers I need to decline, I am also progressing on the visa, accomodation, and similar tasks, front. It is so exciting to think that by this time next year, I will be an NYU grad student, nearing the end of my first year!
I have also, in light of this development, submitted an abstract for a paper based on my honours research to the Society for Ethnomusicology Congress in Hawaii in November this year. Nothing confirmed yet, but hopefull Hawaii is also not on my horizon of new experiences. Of course, I still need to have that paper accepted, and then find money for that trip, but hopefully these things are on their way. I now still need to come up with a paper for the South African Musicology and Ethnomusicology congress, but there are bits and pieces I am working on that may suffice. Lets see how things progress.

Monday, March 06, 2006

No Muzak

For many years, I surrounded myself with music. It was an active and constant part of my life. I had the radio on in my car, and a CD plaing in my bedroom, and my mother and I both carried little portable radios around the house with us as we walked. I had particular CDs that I used for studying, and others that I used for relaxation, and when I wasn't listening to music, I was making it. I hummed myself to sleep at night, and sang as I went about my more routine daily activities. I even caught myself humming during my matric English final. I sang constantly, and still do. I have, however, become much more sensitive to environmental sound in recent years, and can no longer tolerate constant background music. I struggle to study with music or the television on, something that was never a difficulty when I was in school, and I cannot concentrate on conversation if there is music in the background. Part of it is related to a creeping intollerance of loud volumes (I listen to the radio and television on a much lower volume than do my family), and part of it is that I am now so used to analysing the music I hear, and its socio-cultural significance, that I can no longer tune it out. I no it is a common problem for other students of music, and I wonder what it says about out careers. Are we still capable of understanding music in its real-world uses when we can no longer use it in these ways?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Popular Music and Music Education

I ran across the above post earlier at, and posted a comment relating to my concerns as an academic dealing with incoming music students. The real reason for my concern on the topic is that, as part of my in-process paper on weblogs and music scholarship, I am trying to understand the fear that many so-called non-music specialists have about speaking or writing about music. As my mentor pointed out, hardly anyone would hesitate to express an oppinion about music in casual conversation, and everyone has preferences, but put people in an academic setting, and suddenly a fear of saying the wrong thing kicks in. How do we, as academics, engage with music on terms that evoke less fear and incomprehension in others? and do we even want to? And if not, why do we do what we do?