Nearly, Nearly AcWriMo! (Academic Writing Month)

I’ve signed up to Academic Writing Month.  I’ve probably seriously overestimated what I can get done, but I might as well try because, like it or not, I have committed to those three encyclopedia articles by the end of November, if nothing else!  Loud Librarian Shift Dress(Maybe I should also commit publicly to some sewing time as my reward every time I manage the AcWriMo target, too?!)

Further to my blogpost the other day, though, I can at least report that the first book review has been filed, and the newsletter article submitted.  So in that respect, I’ve cleared the decks for the bigger, more serious pieces of writing.  I might do a bit of spade-work tomorrow, to start myself off – and that means doing a spreadsheet of what preparation needs to be done for each assignment.

November is Academic Writing Month 2014

I call this fortuitous – I have so many writing commitments for November that I’ve almost scared myself!

Academic Writing Month 2014

I have a newsletter article to write (actually, before the end of October); an article for a librarianship magazine; three encyclopedia articles; two book reviews (I’ve made notes for one, but it still has to be written according to the prescribed format), and another seriously heavy article I’ve promised for January 2015.  At least Christmas will be out of the way by then!  I think I probably should sign up to Academic Writing Month, just to see if I can achieve this mountain of writing on top of everything else I do!

However, after a fortnight entailing two days in London, two in Newcastle, another single day in Newcastle today, a medical appointment and sundry other commitments, I’m somewhat tired.  I’m signing up to nothing until tomorrow, once I’ve had my extra hour’s sleep!

CHOIRS, COMMUNISM AND CONSOLE BLUES

Why have a church choir?  To lead worship; to offer the congregation time to reflect; to allow people to share their talent for the greater good.  Let’s face it, even the Psalms of David exhort us to praise God with music – so you’d think a church choir would be totally uncontroversial, wouldn’t you?

the_church_choirWrong!  The choir, being human, would like the congregation to LISTEN to the anthem or whatever other contribution they’ve spent several evenings practising.  The congregation, on the other hand, would rather chat, or go and have coffee.  It has been suggested to me that some of the congregation resent the choir getting more chances to sing, over and above the hymns that everyone sings.  There is an easy answer: come and join the choir, then you can sing more, too!

But this seems reminiscent of Russia’s most diehard Communist days, when orchestras couldn’t have conductors because that was elitist.  (Fancy!  Waggling a stick to keep time is elitist?)  Next thing we know, churches won’t want choirs because they would rather do all the singing themselves, and any musical talent held by either the choir-members or the hapless organist will be regarded as ‘showing off’, rather than sharing their talent to enhance worship.

I’m all for democracy, but to dismiss musicality in worship is about as daft as telling a tennis-player not to win matches because they’ll draw attention to themselves!

Opportunities are Always There – and They Come in Threes

Another Door Opens …

This week, I’ve offered to write an article about an aspect of our musicology research project, for a librarianship Door opensjournal.  That’s a win-win opportunity, because not only does it benefit the research project and my CV, it also covers both musicology (my research interest) and librarianship (my profession)!

I expressed interest in a librarianship social event – and was invited to write an article for that group, too.

Today I committed the work-life balance cardinal sin of checking my work emails on a Sunday evening.  Well, it’s a good thing I ‘sinned’, as my inbox contained an invitation to contribute to another encyclopedia.  As before, my initial reaction was, ‘Is this me?’  Since it was plainly more ‘me’ than the last encyclopedia, there was no excuse – I had to look at the list of topics still awaiting authors.  In for a penny, in for a pound – I expressed interest in five articles, so I look forward to hearing which, if any, I get asked to do!

So there you are – three unexpected opportunities. There is the risk I may need to take a few days’ holiday to meet my deadlines, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Oh, and I submitted an article to another librarianship journal about a week ago, too.  Well, you never know!

Mutiny at the Manuals: What Goes Through an Organist’s Mind

“Seated one day at the organ, I was weary and ill at ease …”

So begins Adelaine Anne Procter’s poem, “The Lost Chord” of 1858, popularised by Arthur Sullivan’s song of the same name.

The lines came to mind this morning.  With informality key, our congregation sits and chats merrily before morning worship.  Quiet reflection?  Best do that at home before you set out!  The choir does not process in, and neither does the minister: instead, the Bible is brought to the front of the sanctuary with due dignity during the first hymn.  However, this presents a problem.  How, when the organ is being played quietly and reflectively, and there’s no other signal to the congregation that the service is about to start, do you notify the congregation that things are about to start.

Today, before the welcome or the first hymn, we began with a prayer.  As the first word was uttered, “Lord”, I almost wondered if it would be followed by, “Lord, how can we get Your people here to settle down and stop talking?!”  Fortunately, it wasn’t!

Now, the organist has several choices in the twenty minutes before worship commences:-

  1. Play quietly and reflectively.  If you can’t hear yourself play, make sure it’s simple enough that you won’t play mistakes for the acute of hearing to pick up on later!
  2. Start the way you mean to go on.  Loudly, but leaving the very loudest stops for a crescendo in case of emergency. Trouble is, the congregation invariably crescendos with you.
  3. Start quietly and get incrementally louder.  Has the same effect as 2.
  4. A development of 2 and 3.  Once you’re playing quite loud indeed, cut it back to pianissimo.  Embarrassment hushes all but the most hardened chatterboxes.
  5. Think pink, and adopt a beauty-parlour style of music. (No, not the swishy, watery rain-forest soundtrack!)  Slow, fairly quiet, S-L-O-W, s–l–o–w–e–r.  This isn’t as stupid as it seems.  Slow, thoughtful music is definitely calming. The longer the gap between chord changes, the more calming the effect.  So long as people can hear the slow thoughtfulness that you’re sharing with them!
  6. Stop playing.  A non-starter.  (If you take your bat away, no-one will ask you to play.)
  7. There is one last tactic, combining 4 and 5.  Play fairly loud, but the VERY INSTANT someone rises to come forward and begin the service, cut back to a few bars of something quiet and slow.  You have about eight seconds in which to achieve this, including the closing cadence before the speaker begins.  “Lord, …”  Maybe I should compose a series of pieces, eight seconds long, specifically for congregation-calming?  We need a new title for such micro-compositions – I suggest, “Reverences”.  Watch out for future developments.  There could be original Reverences, and arranged ones.  Imagine solemnly playing the closing strains of, “Scots, wha hae” – you might even get people wishing they’d been quieter so they could have heard the rest of the piece!

You Only Have to Offer: How I came to author Two Encyclopedia Articles

When my professional organisation forwarded a call for contributors to a new encyclopedia, I glanced very briefly at the email then closed it. Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences?  Surely I was hardly qualified to write for an encyclopedia in which only one of the subjects meant  anything to me?  But then curiosity got the better of me.  Should I not look to see WHAT they wanted contributors to write about, before ruling myself out?

Well, I’m glad I looked again. In fact, I looked twice – I certainly had plenty to say about bards, including much that I’d researched but not actually used, comparatively recently.  Things were looking up.  I got to the letter Z, found nothing more, and went back to the beginning.  Well, I never!  It had never occurred to me to write about arranging music, but I’ve actually arranged quite a bit – albeit on a small scale – and I’ve probably pondered about song settings and piano arrangements far more than the average punter.  Maybe I would dare to contribute something about that, too.

I offered.  They accepted.  No kidding – in the short space of a few hours, I was contracted to contribute two articles to a new Sage encyclopedia.

As is my usual modus operandi, a bit of time had to pass before I felt the urge to actually write my entries.  I had other projects under way, and I could see I would have to spend quite a bit of time on the encyclopedia entries.  I booked a week’s holiday, gathered a few armfuls of useful textbooks, and locked myself away.  The bards piece wrote itself.  I had a ball!  Then I turned to the arranging one.  With a sinking heart, I began to realise that there was much more to it than I’d expected.  Not to arranging, per se, but to arranging as a subject that I had undertaken to write authoritatively about.  How wide would I cast my net?  Well, there was piano, orchestral, choral … okay, I could handle those.  And then there was jazz.  I wasn’t going to go to work on my holiday, but I am a librarian, and I knew we had more books than I had brought home.  I sallied forth and borrowed a few more.  Eventually, it was time to sit down at the laptop and see what ended up on the page.  I returned to work the next week having uploaded my two encyclopedia entries.  Only one needed editing – and not that heavily, either.  I breathed a sigh of relief and pretty much forgot about the whole experience.

Last week, I was surprised to find that the encylopedia is now available for purchase in two big, fat volumes!  I learned I’d soon be able to logon and see my entries in print, and I’m entitled to books from the Sage catalogue to a reasonable value.  I’m still deciding which!  But there is a moral to all this, which is why I decided to blog about it.  It definitely pays to seize opportunities when they come your way.  If I had just deleted that email, I wouldn’t now have another publication (okay, contribution to a publication) to my name.  What’s more, it’s proof that you shouldn’t automatically decide you’re not cut out to do something.  Me, a social and behavioral science author?  I don’t know about that.  But I proved to myself I could pull the rabbit out of the hat when the need arose!

Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: an Encyclopedia

Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences an Encyclopedia