Stepping up

I haven’t updated the blog in a long time – not since way back on January 8. It is now the middle of March, and I think I can officially say I’m in my travel season. Last week, I was in Lexington, KY, Hopkinsville, KY, and Nashville, TN; and this week, I’m making what has become my annual trek to Austin for South by Southwest (or “South by” for those in the know).1 I have what seems like an endless amount of Stuff to Accomplish before heading to the airport tomorrow night, which fully explains why I’m choosing RIGHT NOW to blog.2 

In the I-really-did-finish-my-degree news, I received the actual degree in the mail. I’ve signed many an email as “Dr.” or the preferred “, PhD” after my name, not to mention I’ve judged a few pre-college piano events, and have had many opportunities to practice the official signature.

But for the past month of Sundays, I have really, really, really wanted to post a post-Sunday post. Why, you ask? Well, because the week when a bird was flying around inside the building during services seemed like a pretty good story. Or the week the lights went out in the middle of a service. And then there was the week that I had a stereotypically crazy morning, and stumbled up the stairs, kicked the wall, and made loud noises during the sermon. But really, it was the week that our drummer nearly fainted on stage, walked off the stage at the exact moment the timer read 0:00 in the second service, and the band did a whole set without drums… that was the one that I thought belonged on the blog.3 

But then there was the third service hour that day. Drummer was still unable to play by the beginning of this service. We have only one room for this service, so OBVIOUSLY Sanctuary Worship Leader asked Worship Pastor (um, right before the service began) if he could play the drums. And of course, Worship Pastor posed the question to the third-service attendees from the stage as the service was starting, and the attendees were enthusiastically all for it. Thus, Sanctuary Worship Leader sat down and played the drums for the set in that service. Though I’ll admit I was a lot a bit nervous for him (and the rest of the band, for that matter), he stepped up and did a fantastic job.

It all worked out and certainly made for a very memorable Sunday, but I’d prefer to keep everyone healthy on stage going forward.

 


1. I have written about my first trip here and here. Unfortunately, last year, I was a complete slacker too busy writing the dissertation to do a full-blown post-South by post. Maybe this year…


2. Not that I need any excuse to procrastinate, but I have written most of this post whilst waiting for items to upload, update, etc. My computer likes to be nice and slow in its relative old age (aka 2009). One day, when I have a bunch of free time, I plan to do something about that. One day.


3. Eh… after I stopped panicking, and yelling at no one in particular over the headset about what was going on. I *did* go check on Drummer. He wasn’t dying, but he definitely wasn’t great.

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Old News

I have a hole, er, square hole, in the ceiling of my dining room/desk area. This square hole was cut some time in November – I don’t exactly remember the date as the end of the year was a little crazy, what with getting a PhD and all. Yes, I finally graduated from college. I passed the defense, made revisions like crazy (including en- vs. em-dashes and re-worked musical examples), and got the paperwork to the grad school on time. After many, many years, I am no longer a graduate student.

More about that later – for now back to the square hole in the ceiling.

The square hole was made by plumbers who fixed a leak. I was told by the plumbers to leave the square hole open for a week or so after they fixed the leak, just to make sure the leak was, indeed, fixed. But this timeline meant I needed to schedule the Ceiling Fixer Guy after my trip to Puerto Rico. The Ceiling Fixer Guy could not come the week after Puerto Rico, and then I was out of town for Thanksgiving. Add the snake fight/defense/final revisions of the dissertation into the mix, graduation, plus traveling for Christmas, and today, I still have a square hole in my ceiling.

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The week after the plumbers cut into the ceiling and fixed the leak, my piano students were all very curious as to why the ceiling now had a square hole in it. In fact, several students asked many, many questions about the ceiling and plumbers repeatedly.

Nearly two months later, I resumed piano lessons this week, and you know what? Not one of my kiddos mentioned the square hole at any point in their lesson. The square hole is officially Old News to them. In fact, instead of being alarmed, I myself have grown rather fond of gazing up into the plumbing and duct work of my drop ceiling.1 

Considering this is the first blog post of 2015 and my first post as a PhD, I feel obligated to make a brief commentary of the Old-News-ness of the square hole and having attained the (quite long-awaited) PhD. As you might know, for many years, I have been focused on completing this danged degree. At some point toward the end, completing the degree meant working diligently to do all that the Advisor and Committee requested (OK, nearly all they requested).

I have heard PhD’s talk about the post-dissertation slump or depression after graduation. Before I finished, I sort of understood, but was pretty sure it would not happen to me (I just wanted to be done with it, after all). Now that I’m a whopping twenty days from graduation, I can see how such a thing might happen. Slowly but surely, being focused on the dissertation and the Committee becomes Old News – the square hole in the ceiling that just is – and when the Committee is no longer the Boss of me, and the Dissertation rests comfortably in unopened files on the hard drive – things are a little strange, uncomfortable even. You know, change is hard and all that.

There are NO WORDS to describe how happy/relieved I am to actually have a PhD (and a completed dissertation).2  Really, none. And while I’m not quite used to having a PhD just yet, I’m pretty sure I like it – ahem, that’s DOCTOR, thankyouverymuch. In any event, here’s to a new year, kicking the Old News to the curb, and um, getting my ceiling fixed.

 


1. I mean you didn’t expect me to get it fixed promptly, now did you?
2. The piece of paper still hasn’t arrived in the mail, so it’s still entirely possible my PhD is all a hoax. A sad, mean, sorry hoax.

One more time…

I did not get around to posting on this year’s compsiversary… partly because the game was just awful (like REALLY awful), but also because I found it slightly depressing that we’re at the FOURTH freaking compsiversary and I STILL DON’T HAVE A PHD. Yes, I know. It’s all very close and all that. BUT REALLY. It’s been FOUR YEARS since I completed comps… and I don’t have a PHD. You get the idea.

In happier news, I’m heading to Puerto Rico (again) on Tuesday for NWSA. I intend to be a part of a roundtable on women and/in music, attend the keynote address featuring bell hooks, and spend the rest of the time on the beach & hopefully taking an official tour of something or other.1 

In less happier but very necessary news, my defense is scheduled for the following Monday morning… at 8 a.m.2  You have no idea how happy I will be when this is over. Unless I fail, and then I will just be very sad… like way more sad than this:

But let’s not think of such things right now. I should probably go write things for the conference next week, and/or work on my presentation for the defense. And think happy thoughts about scenes like this one 🙂

View from the Malecon Esperanza

View from the Malecon Esperanza


1. To the great surprise of no one, I have not finished my paper/presentation for this conference. We present on Thursday, so there’s plenty of time!

2. I will never not link to the McSweeney’s “Snake Fight” essay when discussing my defense. I find it hilarious, and frighteningly apropos of many aspects of grad school. Also, if you know me at all, I clearly, clearly did not choose the time for this snake fight.

I’d like to thank the Academy (and you)…

The short version of this post is that I submitted hard copies of the dissertation to the committee ten days ago, and I’m incredibly grateful for the love and support of friends and family who helped make it all possible. The longer version is, of course, below.

The printing took over two hours at Kinko’s and way too much money, but the task was accomplished. Certainly, this was a Great Relief, but I think I was too tired to really appreciate what was happening.

Part of what was printed (and what took a ridiculous amount of time to complete) was the Front Matter. This was very involved and tedious to compile, except for the Acknowledgements section, described as “You may write whatever you would like to on this page.” I like to read the acknowledgements, and I’ve thought about (dreamt about?) writing my own acknowledgements many times. I posted on Facebook that this process made me cry — to think of the many kindnesses and the great amounts of love from friends and loved ones that have helped me get to this point… and I’m sure I will revise it slightly, but I thought I would post it here (with a few notes).

It appears that a defense is scheduled. So while we wait for that, I give you the Annotated (and slightly abridged) Acknowledgements (notes in italic, along with footnotes when needed; typically I avoid using names on the blog just because, and I have adjusted accordingly):

The kindness of numerous friends, acquaintances, and colleagues has made this project (and its completion) possible. Advisor has offered endless amounts of advice and support, and asked difficult questions at every step of this process; her involvement has made this a much better project. The same can be said of the other members of my committee.1  Gender and Music Video (with Advisor) was one of the first classes I took as a doctoral student. I wrote a paper on Bon Jovi for this class, and it opened my eyes to popular music studies. Also, the so-called Proseminar (also with Advisor) was where I wrote my very first paper on country music (Loretta Lynn & Jack White to be exact).

History Professor provided feedback and guidance in the early stages of the research, for which I am grateful.2 I had the pleasure of working with My Academic Role Model and the Writing Intensive Program for many years, which greatly increased my understanding of writing and the writing process.3  Financial support from the University of Georgia Graduate School and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts made fieldwork possible, while a Dissertation Completion Award from the Graduate School allowed me to actually finish this document and (finally) graduate. They gave me money. Seriously, I still can’t believe they gave me money. 

The entire Bloodshot crew has been kind and accommodating, even when I wouldn’t stop asking questions or took over large areas of their office space. Radio Guy has been especially helpful, beginning with his response to my very first email inquiry and phone call. The members of the Chicago musical community were immeasurably helpful, not only in sharing a wealth of information, but also providing good company, directions, rides, and even restaurant recommendations. At this point, I listed all of the Chicago folks I interviewed. As most of these folks are musicians who have recorded with Bloodshot, this part is basically extensive and glorified name-dropping!4 

If College Pastor had not introduced me to Talented Chicago Friends, a dissertation examining Chicago music would not have been possible. I left out friends’ names below, but I felt pretty justified in including the names of these three people here, because seriously, this project could NOT have happened without these providential connections. I am forever indebted to them for their repeated hospitality and grace. I crashed on their sofa more times than they likely wanted, and I am honored to now call them friends. Similarly, I owe a debt of gratitude to numerous Chicago acquaintances and friends for being genuinely nice to me over the past few years. If you’ve read my blog in the past few years, surely you’ve read recaps of my Chicago adventures. It really blows my mind to think about how much fun my research was (challenging at times, yes, but also lots of fun), and how nice and helpful so many people were to me.

In the category of friends and loved ones, I boast an embarrassment of riches. I’m not even exaggerating here. And seriously, maybe this is a #humblebrag, but I have a lot of friends – friends that I know from lots of different places & times in my life, friends that I love and who love me. I knew I couldn’t list names here, if only because I would leave someone out… but you should know who you are. 

The musicology/ethnomusicology students at UGA, past and present, have provided solidarity, stimulating discussion, gossip, and plenty of dorky jokes (particularly on Friday afternoons). This includes but is not limited to classes, seminars, Youtube Fridays in the WIP office, Hildegard Happy Hours, Friday lunches in all their many forms and locations, Friday happy, er, afternoons, date nights, and conference trips… I also wanted to include the many other students from other schools that I’ve met along the way… but wasn’t sure how to include them. Again, hopefully, you know who you are.5 Kentucky friends, Transy friends, Athens friends, UGA friends, and my church family at Watkinsville: your prayers, kind words, calls, texts, meals, drinks, love, and general awesomeness have kept me going on this long, winding, and at times, difficult journey. I am eternally grateful to you all. See? An embarrassment of riches. 

I must also mention Sarah at CAPS, who helped me through the most challenging year of my life. I started seeing a therapist one year ago. I was having a really difficult time… with life. I admit I was skeptical at first, but I’ve found the process to be incredibly helpful.6 Finally, to Mom, Sister, Brother-in-law, Nephews, & family, I love you all more than words can say. Thank you for your enduring support and love. I so wish Dad could have been with us to see the completed project, but I like to think he would be proud. Cue tears.

1. These statements are true. Of course, one’s relationship with his/her Dissertation Advisor is complicated. But… there were many, many times where I’m certain Advisor was convinced I was a complete idiot and/or could not believe that I did or did not do something “obvious,” and I, in turn, wanted to kick her. I’m glad I never did that.

2. She also made it possible for me to visit Puerto Rico that one time, so there’s that. Needless to say, I’m REALLY grateful for that, too.

3. No kidding. I really want to be like her if/when I ever grow up and get a Real Academic Job.

4. Speaking of name dropping, remember how I’ve gone to SXSW these past couple of years?!

5. Especially folks from FSU, and especially for letting me crash with them in the DR for SEMSEC that one time, but also the many friends I’ve made at ICMC, too.

6. Mostly, I was angry (I’m not exactly an angry person, maybe you’ve noticed). I was approaching Hulk-level rage on a regular basis, which was disconcerting, to say the least. Of course, it was grief & stress related. Of course. But it sure has been nice and helpful to hear someone tell me I’m not completely crazy on a regular basis. I’m certain it would help you too. Just sayin’.

Still writing…

Well, it’s been such a long time since my last blog post that WordPress has changed its editor, and things looks a little differently on the inside of this here bloggy place. I have a good excuse for not blogging, though. Really, I do. I’ve been Doing All the Things, including teaching two Music Appreciation classes at the technical college (one of which is a “short session” class, which means we meet for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday, which also means the final for that class is very soon, which necessarily means the class will be over soon), running around at the church/doing church-y work things, and teaching the children how to play piano.

I have also been Writing a Dissertation. Yes, I know I have been doing this activity in one form or another for 800 a few years, and yes, I know that I have lied said here several times that I might be close to finishing. BUT WAIT, this time, I like, sorta, really mean it. Seriously.

The chapters in their nearly completed form. The files are titled following a naming practice developed approximately four years ago, and i decided to be consistent. Don't judge.

The first five chapters in their (mostly) completed form. The files are titled following a naming practice developed approximately four years ago, and I decided to be consistent. Don’t judge.

I’m working on a conclusion/last chapter. I have been working on this conclusion for a couple of weeks now, and have made very little progress in actually finishing it. But I at least have five other chapters that are ready to go. When/if the conclusion is finished, all the many pages and chapters will head off to Advisor, and then off to Committee-land. Apparently, after that, I have to schedule my required snake fight/defense. And then, maybe then, if I survive, I will be Finished.1 

I know lots of people are Busy. I know other people have to deal with much harder things in life than I do. I know many of my friends have much more challenging issues to address on a daily basis. But I also know that my brain has been full these past few weeks; and I know that I feel like I’ve been doing most of the things in my life just barely good enough. Maybe that’s part of being an Old Lady, but I can only hope that getting these danged last pages written will change some of that in the very near future!


1. OK, so there’s a few appendices that I need to work on, the bibliography to compile and format, and then the general grad school formatting stuff, too. But after THAT, really, I think I’ll be finished.

Back to Chicago (plus, a random guy discounts my research!)

I went to Chicago last week. It had been over a year since I visited the city, so I was very glad to be back. The purpose of this trip was to attend the American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn. I’ve been before, and it’s a really great festival – and this year, several Bloodshot bands played to celebrate the record label’s 20th anniversary. It wasn’t the only 20th anniversary event, and it won’t be the last, but it was certainly a great excuse to get back to the city.

I got to see friends (thanks as always to the wonderful folks who let me stay with them–and their ridiculously cute one-year-old), and I managed to spend some time wandering around downtown. I ate at a couple of my favorite vegetarian restaurants – Pick Me Up Cafe and Handlebar. Even though I had a definite plan to eat lunch at the Chicago Diner, I planned rather poorly and ended up not making it (which only means I can’t wait a full year before I visit Chicago again!). Oh, and I also did some research/follow up work at the Chicago Public Library.

The trip was fun, productive, and tiring, but I have to share one particular story, if only because of its absurdity. The short version is that I had a complete stranger (older, male) discount my dissertation and research after hearing approximately five sentences about it. His general take on my work was, “That’s not gonna cut it. That’s just not gonna work for you.”

As I was in Chicago at a music festival devoted to American music when this conversation took place, I initially thought for a moment that I was being schooled by a senior scholar in musicology or ethnomusicology from a Chicago institution. As this person continued to speak, I realized he was not in my field, but was likely in a related academic field, such as history or anthropology. But then he kept talking. And then I asked him point blank, and he told me, no, he was not a PhD, nor was he in academia. After I told him Advisor was in disagreement with him about my work “cutting it,” as it were, not to mention my committee, he said, “That’s just one person’s opinion – or just a few people… it’s really not gonna cut it. You’ve really got to do more.” At this point, I replied, “It seems you don’t know how folks go about getting PhD’s. I really would like to pay attention to this band now.”

So, basically, I had my dissertation mansplained to me by a person who was not an academic AT ALL. He was not a musician, nor was he really familiar with Bloodshot, alt.country, or country music, or even academia. After I walked away, I had at least 80,000 other wonderful and witty and clever things that came to mind that I wish I had said to him. And of course, I wondered why in heavens I even spoke with him for as along as I did.

In any event, I’m glad that guy’s not on my committee.

 

A second blog post in the month of May!

It’s a procrastinating miracle – this is the second post for the month of May! I returned home from the best conference ever (that happens in one of the best towns ever) on Saturday night. I had entertained the thought of not attending the International Country Music Conference in Nashville because, well, because I’m lazy, and I didn’t want to write the paper (which just so happened to be a section from a dissertation chapter that *really* needed to be written). The thought of seeing some of my favorite people was a strong motivator, and I made the good (and good-for-me decision) to suck it up, write the section/put together a presentation, and I headed up to Nashville last Wednesday.

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The conference was (as usual) a great experience: I got to see and catch up with some of my academic idols, favorite scholars, and smart friends; I was inspired by some really great research and presentations; I met new, interesting, smart folks; and I got some feedback on my presentation that was helpful and encouraging. I’m very, very, very glad I went.

I have a (terrible? lazy?) habit of not really paying attention to the lyrics of songs when I’m listening for pleasure, which is only made worse, of course, if I’m doing something else AND listening to music. I had a list of bands/albums to check out from recommendations and/or presentations at ICMC, so as I was washing dishes tonight, I had pulled up a few albums on Spotify. I was thoroughly enjoying the new Sturgill Simpson album, and in my (slightly) mindless listening, I caught the phrase “I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say,” and of course, it sounded really familiar.

The song is called “The Promise,” and was originally recorded in 1988 by the British band and one-hit-wonder, When in Rome. Considering that my presentation at ICMC addressed covers, the concept is still swirling about in my head, and I could say lots about this cross-genre cover version by Sturgill Simpson… but I should probably be thinking about my dissertation instead. In any event, I will say that Simpson’s approach to the song is languid and subdued (obviously lacking the insistent dance beat of the original), but it falls into its own little groove once it gets going.

What really sold me on the song, though, are the final two choruses of the song after the guitar solo/instrumental (3:16): Simpson sings the second of these choruses up an octave (3:40). I am a total sucker for this technique pretty much whenever it happens.1  I think it’s especially satisfying on this recording due to the fact that the vocal delivery for the bulk of the song is so understated. The added intensity of the delivery in this chorus, the upper range of Simpson’s voice, and the slight melodic alterations provide a great payoff, in my opinion, and also recall the original version of the song’s chorus. I have had this song on repeat most of the evening.2 

Sturgill Simpson – The Promise

And here’s the original…


1. I’m sure this happens in songs from all genres, but I am most familiar with it in contemporary Christian praise and worship music. It’s very common in these songs, and it happens at least once pretty much every Sunday at my church. And I still think it’s awesome every single time. Not as awesome as guitar slides, but pretty darn close.


2. Also, randomly, there’s a little motive in the strings (do-ti-re-do) in the second half of the second verse (1:59) that is the primary instrumental hook for the Cranberries song, “I Will Always,” off their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? from 1993. I seriously doubt there’s an intentional quotation here, mainly because the motive is relatively simple and likely common; nevertheless, the two songs have the same feel, and are not too far apart in terms of narrative.