Friday, October 30, 2009

Number of characters exceeds comment limit.

I tried to just comment on that previous post, but apparently I typed a bit too much for Blogger. Well, these words are in response to comments from Kent Williams and Pipecock of Infinite State Machine on my proposal post.

Thanks for the thoughts, guys. I appreciate your continued interest and support.

Tom: "almost exactly" ?? WTF, you mean it's not totally perfect! ;) And, if you want it, a copy of my completed dissertation is yours to have. I'm planning on sharing it with everyone who participated in my research - like people I interviewed and stuff.

It's tough to write about race and Detroit. I'm trying to not shy away from writing openly and honestly about this city, this music, and the people who are here, making and loving this music. It would be much easier for me to not make these things so public and just write my academic writings and share it with my dissertation committee and be done with it. Then I wouldn't have to pay attention so much to getting it right or getting it wrong, because what does my committee know about techno or Detroit? Writing this blog has been a great tool in preparation for writing something that can potentially reach multiple audiences.

Kent: I know that sentence/idea is jarring, but I think that's okay. You're right, I am referring to Blackness as an academic concept that has been written about by scholars of many diverse disciplines for decades. It's not that I'm trying to tell Black people who they are. No, I sure wouldn't head down to Coney Island at 3AM, or Belle Isle on a warm Sunday afternoon, or Submerge and say "Hey, my 'n-words', let me tell you about yourselves!"

That statement is coming from my academic background in ethnomusicology. Historically, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists would approach ethnography as data collection, "armchair ethnomusicology." Go somewhere far away, collect cultural artifacts, maybe talk to some of the "natives," and then head home to make scholarly assessments about the artifacts. And the assessments were based on the scholar's ideas and opinions and training, not based on indigenous cultural concepts, interpretations, creations, etc. This has not been commonplace in ethnomusicology for at least 25 years now, but some of these tendencies/concepts remain. I don't want my research to look like this: I go to Detroit, collect data about a NEW genre of African American music to add to the academic canon of Black music genres, and call it a day. Since Detroit is way more complex than this approach could ever demonstrate, I'm attempting to contribute a much more nuanced approach to music research and scholarship on race and culture.

As far as communicating this work to people outside of academia, in Detroit and out, that would be fantastic! I think, in answer to your question about whether I'm addressing ethnomusicologists only, or whether I could actually communicate something meaningful to Mike Banks, I would say both. I feel freaked out about reaching a non-academic audience, because I know that there are a lot of people out there who know their shit, and I don't want to look like a doofus. :) But I'm starting to feel more confident that I actually, finally, have something to give back. I want to contribute positive ways of thinking about and dealing with race and Detroit. But there are tons of little cool ass details that I think people should know. Like the first time Erika Sherman introduced me to Brendan Gillen, Brendan told me that I need to talk to Todd Osborn, Anthony Shake Shakir, and Carlos Souffront. He said that those are the guys who have extensive knowledge about Detroit electronic music and would have great things to teach me. I happily told him I had already interviewed all three of them. And Kyle Hall has everything Marcellus Pittman has ever released - that's a cool fact.

Oh, and I finally must say that the proposal was pretty jargon-free and lucid (thank you) because its a grant proposal that will be read by people outside my discipline. I've worked hard to keep it succinct and to the point. And sorry to disappoint, but here's my thoughts on academic writing, and jargon - I love it! I would surround myself in jargon just so I could read through it and struggle to figure it all out and then actually understand the ideas, the terms, phrases, and what that all references. And what better place for super theoretical academic concepts than a dissertation! I suppose I'm in a constant state of being between worlds, attempting something that might be impossible, but I'll get it under control! And let me just say, that being an academic is just another job, another profession, with it's own rules, expectations, customs, no better than any other job. Although, I know academics often come off as being superior, exclusive, arrogant, etc. That's not me, I'm actively trying NOT to be that. I'll do my best to be an awesome ethnomusicologist who can still communicate in meaningful, non-academic ways.

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