Putting the ‘Phil’ in Ph.D

It's Good!

It’s Good! It’s Brahms Raising Raisin Brahms.

GUTEN TAG! (Enjoying your Raisin-Brahms?)

I have just emerged from a rather trippy and viciously-cyclic period of PhD proposal development, hence the lack of posts in the last couple of months. It is in many ways a huge leap of faith finding an interesting and relevant topic (especially in a music-world heavily populated by scholarly types) that hasn’t yet been written about for no good reason.

Whenever I got close to narrowing a field and finding there was little existing research previously, I felt like being in the proverbial room of replaced-monkeys with the banana up a ladder that no-one is touching from second generation fear of the cold water spray but no-one actually knows why. If you don’t know that story I won’t go into it, but I just did.

In any case, my frustrations lurched between “Damn, this is a good topic but someone’s already written about it” and “Damn, no-one has written about this topic – there must be a reason why it’s not valid.” So in the end a leap of faith was required and I am presently in mid-leap… hoping there will be solid ground with no natural predators or environmental hazards on the other side. Just lots of fruit and chocolate.

Along the way I encountered some interesting PhD stereotypes. It is often tempting for ‘pure musicologists’ (aka people who write about music but have no/little musical experience) to end up with an absurdly specific and useless topic only tangentially concerned with music. Topics like:

Not much it turns out.

Not much it turns out.

“The histrionic effects of Franz Joseph Haydn’s brother Michael’s slow sonata movements for harpsichord on the emotional development of hatching red swamp crayfish.”

“Variations on the double constrictor knot formed in ipod headphones by accident in adolescent male coat pockets from 2005 to 2008”

“Why I like Bolognese”

Another recurring PhD type is from composers and more-aged-than-I performers who are lucky enough to draw on their experience and/or folio work to write about themselves. While this would indeed be a fascinating exercise my own effort would most likely turn into:

“Writing a PhD dissertation: An auto-ethnographical and self-aware study on itself”

Perhaps though the most frustrating variety tends to come from those undergoing PhD programs around the beginning of the modern scholarship era – around 1970. Those fortunate ones were at liberty to take advantage of a generally unexplored musical world, often with such reckless abandon as to propel themselves at entire fields in a single sitting, or able to simply just present very basic and fundamental facts as ground-breaking research, leaving future scholars to scavenge feebly in the muddied waters, eking out a merge existence on whatever niche topics can be found. Truly 1970’s scholars are the carp of the musical world, with dissertations such as:

“How to play the pianoforte well”

“I got here first! An analysis of everything ever by George Gershwin with specific focus on 90 other important American composers. Acknowledge me”

“Music: A summary”

All of it.

All of it.

I’m just am glad it’s over now. Many apologies (to those who accidentally stumble upon this website looking for marmot photos – you know who you are) for the delay and hopefully I’ll have a little more time and inspiration soon.

A Non-Post on Three Precious Fluids

So I have some scotch… Quite good scotch too, of the Signet variety (Glenmorangie) and from a much beloved birthday present-er. In the past I’d encountered the Blue Label of Johnny Walker though was not really ready for it and with this bottle I have become accustomed to drinking it what they call ‘neat,’ that is, straight up with no ice.

edmund barton.JPG

That’s right it’s Edmund Barton!
Australian Prime Minister 1901-1903-ish
No-one really knew what they were doing back then.

Happy New Year to all readers! By the way.

It draws close to midnight and amidst a bundle of other more-productive things I think there is some correlation between writing on this blog and my positive mental state. I don’t know why exactly, though it could probably be to do with being a source of tangible creative output and a thinly veiled outlet of frustration in all things music. It has been an odd sort of past 20 days full of lots of sub-standard writing ideas and pondering fascinated-ly over overly topical stories. But each voice should be its own, and if I may quote the much-loved Ives:

…[one should break away] , when necessary, from easy first sounds, or afraid of admitting that those half-truths the come to him at rare intervals, are half-true; for instance, that all art galleries contain masterpieces, which are nothing more than a history of art’s beautiful mistakes (Essays 97).

Bleak. But go on, give him a clap.

Dame Edna Everage

Dame Edna Everage

So we’ve discussed whisky and Ives (are people not mostly liquids?), I also wanted to cover bleach. Bleach is a fascinating substance we are all taught to fear from birth, like a wrathful deity able to drain the very colour from our lives. It must be pacified with abundant offerings of diluting water before it deigns to use its powers on our mould/staining issues without retribution. The bleach currently in my storage cupboard makes different demands however. It refuses to do anything in the presence of water, which makes me slightly apprehensive, but we have a jolly old time, my bleach-god and I; painting the house and furniture in concentrated goodness, hand-in-hand from room to room until the coughing fits start. Bleach is magical.

Furthermore! We can all look deeply forward to the first ever Semantic Marmot Guest Post in the coming days.

Thank-you for bearing with this outburst.


It's Bob Hawke everyone! Australian Prime Minister from 1983-1991

It’s Bob Hawke everyone! Australian Prime Minister from 1983-1991

Well. That was a poor effort. I’m going to bed.