Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"here I go again on my own..."

Well, not on my own, actually. I received feedback on my 3 chapters from my adWiser and one other member of my committee. So that was a mutual relationship between they and I. Now, however, I'm back in The Chair after a brief hiatus (which was a weeeeee bit longer than I had anticipated, but....) and I'm ready to tackle my next step. Coffee's brewing, books are in neat stacks, desktop cleared and poised. Game on.

What has added an extra week of non-writing and heavy-gardening to my calendar is figuring out WHAT THE HOLY HELL MY NEXT STEP IS! *sigh*

I have said numerous times, to myself and many others, that, "I have finally found the REAL focus of my Dissertation." Please allow me to say it again. A-hem. I have finally found the real focus of my Dissertation...which is a different focus than it was two months ago (these things happen) but one more baby step closer to the finish line. And I have my two Diss readers and the busy antics of my son (who forced me to shift my "Momertator" status to more of "Mom" in order to play with him for 3 weeks, and was worth every second) to thank for that. Hiatus over.

I've always been interested in the elusive ways that music works in society, in the minds of individuals, in the performance of our identities. Those elements of music's cultural work spurred my first subscription of Rolling Stone when I was 12, drove me into libraries and historical texts for decades, pushed me to experiment with sociology, education, American history and academia. How I ended up in musicology is still a mystery (and one to ponder at a later date). Anyway, something was revealed to me just the other morning as I woke to a sleepy, soggy, soaker of a weather forecast. My friendly wake-up call, my voice in my head that hits me like a freight-train sometimes, simply informed me that those interests, the unanswerable but nagging questions of music's role in society, SHOULD lead my Diss as well!!! Of course!!!!! If not, these past two years will end up being a silly stack of crap that reveals little of the silly girl behind it all, me thinks.

If I was younger, wealthier and braver, I'd jump ship from this Buffalo Diss topic and head into different waters. But, I need to get this fucker DONE. For real. I've got a ton of historical research, fascinating nuggets and worthless/useful data about the musical activity in a city that I truly love, and my conscience keeps me on that path. So be it. My work at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the grant money that supported it, the people who helped me get there and work there.....they keep this ol' gal on the Buffalo party train as well. My archival work focused on the interactions of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Federal Music Project during the Great Depression. THAT topic has never been explored, written or published by ANYONE, and that accomplishment is mine. And it's a great story (I'm a sucker for juicy controversy, and my current Chapter 5 re-creates that tale from all those documents housed in that nation's capital. Gotta keep on it). Hopefully, someday you'll agree.

So, in light of the above babble, my fascination has shifted a bit. I'm going to try to write a cultural history of the symphony orchestra as it worked in Buffalo relative to "the nation"---WHY it began, what it did and for whom, how it related to bigger, more affluent/cosmpolitan cities, what it did for Buffalo. Why, why, why rather than just how and when. Another caveat that I want to include is the notion of a cultivation of musical "taste" in America and the love/hate relationship to popular trends, different demographical populations, and immigration. That will be the philosophy/sociology/cultural theory angle that I enjoy wading through more often than not. I will end my project's chronology at 1940 as I have planned in the past and leave the following decades for "other projects."

What I've determined is:
  • Chapter 5 (BPO/FMP) has the most organized text but some holes that now need to be filled due to this shift.
  • Chapter 2 has good data about the events in Buffalo, but the organization needs to be revised, some stuff taken out/condensced, more newspaper info from archives in the downtown library, and heavier emphasis of cultural theory and anlaysis of those events. Gulp.
  • Chapter 3--which I am supposed to start, like, now--needs the most background historical info about the rise/role of the American symphony orchestra in general. But, I have good (but not enough, yet) data to add Buffalo to that picture.
  • Chapter 4--some stuff, not much, know where I'm going, written last.
  • Chapter 1--the Introduction---will be written after Chapter 4, a revision of my focus, and Lit Review (which I haven't done).
Which leads me to my opening question: where to start? I have a plan. Every time I sit to write, I'm going to keep a running Lit Review going in order to organize it at the end (a Lit Review lets my readers know that I know what is already known about my topic due to previous research. Fun, fun, fun.) Even if I only summarize one scholar or one argument, I'm just going to keep it rolling. Baby steps.

Next, I'm going to make a simple and uncreative chronology of events in Buffalo as I know them for Chapter 3 (1861--1919). Already started on that.
Next, the books I'm pouring through for my Lit Review will only deal with the stuff needed for Chapter 3. Then I can double-dip and start adding narrative text and analysis to my data.
Also, instead of writing an "Introduction," I'm opening a new file for thoughts pertaining to my Intro. Organization will come later, but by the time that happens, it should be all there.

As long as this muse stays with me, that is.

Say a prayer, send a vibe, wish me luck. Here goes nothin'......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Send me an email at meredithwrites at yahoo and let's chat about your new focus. I did a (bad) paper on the early Buffalo orchestra once upon a time. And by early, I mean the incarnations during the late 19th century. The paper is lousy, but it would let you check some of the sources. Have you looked at the Lund scrapbooks at BECPL? John Lund was the director of the orchestra in the 1880s. So if that's helpful for your history chapter, let me know.
Hope all is well with you. I am the busiest unemployed person I've ever met :)
Sarah (who is actually writing more now that I'm not teaching - go figure)