Thursday, July 8, 2010

Writing with words.

So I'm heavily entrenched in writing this dissertation. I've got two versions of chapter one almost complete. The dissertation version is not totally done, but the other version is for the second edition of an anthology on African American music titled African American Music: An Introduction edited by Portia K. Maultsby and Mellonee V. Burnim, published by Routledge. The first edition is dated 2006. I'm not sure how long until the second edition is available, but definitely not until next year some time. I'll let you know!

I'm so excited to be working on an essay for this anthology. The second edition will have some updated essays and will be formatted a bit differently with two volumes instead of one; and there will be a listening portion as well, but I'm not sure what format it will be. My approach with the chapter is to move away from the typical history of Detroit techno. You will see the Bellville Three, but only briefly. There is so much to discuss about Detroit, that I decided to cover lots of what gets passed over. I have had the luxury of living in southeast Michigan for 2 1/2 years now and there's so much happening here that's worthy of being written about. And I'm not choosing to write about different stuff just because it's not covered in depth very much. I think all the people I have talked with in Detroit, all the music I have learned about, and the rich musical culture that makes Detroit special, are all equally important and significant when held next to Juan Atkins, Derrick May, or Kevin Saunderson, or other frequently mentioned names. I also left behind the chronological history approach; you will see almost no mention of "waves" - Detroit techno is often written about in waves, an idea initiated from Alvin Toffler's books The Third Wave (1970) and Future Shock (1980). This is certainly a valuable approach to discussing Detroit techno. The connection was made by local artists like Juan Atkins and Derrick May in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I just chose to go about it my own way based on what I have heard from all the fantastic interviews I have been able to do. The concept of waves of techno did not come up more than once my whole time here doing this research. So my approach, which is generally an ethnomusicological/anthropological approach, privileges indigenous concepts and ways of formulating and negotiating culture.

I would LOVE to be able to post a pdf of my chapter for you all to have; make it open access for all. But I suspect that would go against my contractual agreement! So, once it is published and available, if it is out of your price range but you want to read it, go to your university library or public library and request that they purchase it. I have had lots of success requesting books this way. (I certainly can't afford to buy all the books I want to read, plus, over the past few years, I have begun to prefer not to waste the paper and other resources of new books, so I normally go used or library anyway.) I will say that once my dissertation is completed (hopefully next May!!), I plan to make it available online for anyone to access. There is an online database of academic theses and dissertations that most university libraries subscribe to (in the US at least, sorry, but my knowledge and experience with libraries outside of the US is zero) called ProQuest. Typically, to be able to access full text versions of dissertations, you need to either subscribe for a large fee or be able to access it though a university that you are somehow affiliated with. It is possible, however, to have your own dissertation made openly available to all readers, no matter how they access ProQuest. I've been told it costs a small fee for the author. I'm not exactly sure of all the details, but I definitely plan to do this. There should not be so many boundaries separating academic writing and research from people outside of higher education systems.

Finally, I want to share with fellow writers who may be struggling with their dissertations or whatever you may be writing.

Here's a great site: http://dissertationdiva.typepad.com/ She's got some lovely supportive suggestions and ideas.

Also, this book: Writing Your Dissertation In Fifteen Minutes A Day by Joan Bolker. Helpful and encouraging. While you might not really need to read it cover to cover, it is helpful to get to you to think about how YOU can best approach YOUR dissertation.

I also would like to encourage you all to remember that even if your path does not fit some typical model of research and writing, it's really going to be alright. I spend two full days a week writing. Sometimes a bit more. But my primary responsibilities are being a full time mother and homeschooler to my three boys. So when I am able to get a few hours to write, no matter what time of day, I take it. Although, daytime, non-exhausted writing is way easier than nighttime tired head writing. Whatever you've got going on in your life, just take it as it comes, embrace that reality, and take care of your shit. And, I'll add smugly that having limited amounts of time usually makes your use of that time way more efficient! That's been my experience and the experience of lots of other parents doing all kinds of great things.

As far as the specifics of getting the writing done, I have relearned that I am able to best get my ideas to flow if I have pen in hand and paper in front of me, not keyboard and computer screen in front of me. For me, this means that I handwrite most of my ideas first, and then type it up after - this becomes a second draft because inevitably as I type what I have written on paper, editing and shifting gets accomplished. Choose a nice space to write in. I don't write at home during the day because the rest of my family is around and that just doesn't work. Luckily I have two wonderful coffee shops in the area with very special espresso: Comet in Ann Arbor, and Ugly Mug in Ypsi. I also use computer labs in some of the University of Michigan buildings on both North Campus and Central Campus. My favorite spot is in the School of Natural Resources on Central Campus. At the east entrance, there is a garden of flowers and plants native to Michigan. Butterflies almost fly into my head every time I use this entrance! This garden also means no grass, no mowing, no fertilizer, and no watering. You can see where I'm going with this...all this energy conservation gets me happy. The lighting is low throughout the building, air conditioning is kept reasonably efficient as well. There is a column of natural light extending down from the roof to the ground floor, providing light to all the inner rooms and offices. The computer lab has large windows letting this light in. There is a display of "Cones of American Conifers" on the same floor as the computer lab. And, while I hesitate to discuss bathroom habits in any public way, there is a composting restroom on every floor!

So I hope this helps some. There are some other things I have been wanting to tell you about, but I just haven't taken the time. I want to review the film Tresor Berlin: The Vault and The Electronic Frontier that I saw in Detroit recently. I also want to write a bit about Arthur Russell - I'm reading Hold On To Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992 by Tim Lawrence. It's really great.

1 comment:

alienatlien said...

sounds like you're in a really great place!

i love writing your dissertation 15 minutes a day and i also love "how to write a lot"

i'm going to check out that blog.

glad you're well!

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