Saturday, 3 January 2015

I have a hankering to write, which is a good thing, because it's time to start thinking about the big "D" word: "Dissertation." Last year—a barren wasteland as far as blog posts go—I conquered "Comps" or "comprehensive exams." And yes, we do refer to it as the "C" word, from time to time.

I should have been delighted to finish the coursework part of my studies and plunge into dissertation-land, but apart from the basic exhaustion to be expected after absorbing information on 6 topics (actually 8, but I took a risk and abandoned two before reaching "expert" level), there was something about comps which took a while to get over, i.e., becoming so involved in something that I didn't have any time for myself.

Those of you with kids can stop snickering.

With music-making it's more comfortable: you try to become immersed in your rehearsal, concert, practice session etc. for concentrated stints. In comps preparation, you get the feeling that if you step back for a moment, you'll never recover your momentum. Thinking about stuff starts early in the morning and continues into the night, and any time not reading or reviewing is laced with anxiety. I think a lot of academics feel this way, and am glad I became a musician first. I find the idea of being enthralled by anything rather terrifying, and at least with music it comes with an end-time and a lot of dopamine along the way. After a resistance I did not imagine I possessed, I finally let myself get sucked into my comps for the last two and a half weeks or so, when I finally decided not to treat it as a loop I had to jump through, but as an immersion in the study of writings on music that actually, when I stepped back for a moment, I loved.

If the lack of posts over the past years missed documenting anything, it would have been the slow transition to accepting that I can be a scholar as well as a musician. There is still a lot of BS in academia—a lot of politics, navel-gazing, buzzwords, and sadly a lot of dashing to publish material when it is still too green to know how it may ripen—but there is also a lot of honest delight in scholarship. I am trying to remind myself that this is what has to carry me through—and to a certain extent it's working, I think.

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