Monday, May 15, 2006

End of the semester

I've reached the end of the semester and my first year as a graduate student in ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The semester was a good one, although things were intense at the end, writing four papers for my different seminars: Research Methods in Women's Studies, Music and Culture Workshop, Research Methods and Materials in Music, and Nietzsche and Schopenhauer's Ethical Responses to Suffering. My paper topics were all over the board: one paper on Johnny Cash and femicidal violence in American Recordings, a significant rewrite of my Max Roach's Politics of Sound, a paper on Nietzsche and music, and a final paper on music and violence. The last will hopefully function as the basis for my M.A. thesis; the paper on Johnny Cash will also be part of it.

I'm currently working on a separate self-reflexive project in which I am attempting to determine what music most resonates with me and why. Having listened to music intensely for almost all my life, I'm finally going to turn my gaze inward a bit to figure out exactly what music makes me tick. Solipsism, to be sure, but I think it worthwhile nonetheless, especially if I'm to write about music in others' lives. So I'm looking at this as a sort of musical autobiography more than anything else. I am attempting, ultimately, to be ruthlessly self-aware about my musical tastes, taking into account notions of Bourdieuian taste, the ideology of the aesthetic, and so forth. Anyway, perhaps nothing will come of it, but it will be fun nonetheless.


Jerry said...

From an outsider's perspective - you seem to have the what and why don't pat when it comes to your personal music tastes. What may be of more interest to you and others is figuring out the WHY. You know what you like to listen to - but why do you like it?

Matthew Sumera said...

That's certainly the next step, but this process has been interesting, as I have tried to be pretty ruthless in asking myself if I really like recording XXX or if I just think I should, or if it's just particularily hip to do so, or if . . . My end list has turned out to be much more punk heavy than I would have thought, suggesting that those formative years really, really do matter--or at least did so to me. As of yet, though, I don't know what ties together Black Flag, Debussy's Preludes, and late-era Coltrane. But I'm getting there.

B said...

If you are considering Bourdieuian theory in conjunction with a particular ideology of the aesthetic, consider the cultural features of language and the linguistic competence of the lyricist. Bourdieu seemed to believe that language was the expression of the class habitus realized through the linguistic habitus. Language is a form of capital, and a form of access. That might lead you to the "why" you yearn for.

Regarding Solipsism, it sounds like you need to define your position first before ascribing to this theory.

Then again, sometimes thinking less, and feeling more leads you to the answers you want. :)

Matthew Sumera said...

OK, there are two obvious followups to B's comments: an essay about musical meaning in terms of language and linguistics versus non-verbal components and an essay defining my usage of solipsism, particularly as I make distinctions in relation to narcissism, egoism, snobbery, or conceptions of arrogance (whether religious or secular). More to come on both fronts. Getting all analytical on me here.