Category Archives: ethnomusicology

Writing, Like Grieving, Is A Process



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Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro starred in a pair of insipid yet entertaining comedies, with Crystal portraying a psychoanalyst and DeNiro the underworld kingpin he was treating. One of the sub-plots in one of the films was the death of the famous father of Crystal’s character. Whenever he was offered condolences regarding his father’s passing, Crystal would reply, “I’m grieving; it’s a process.” I’m learning that writing is also a process, not a product, and that like grieving, it can take a long time to get over, or get it over with. In shorter papers that I’ve written, the process was fairly straightforward, and the end product not much different than I envisioned when I first began typing.

When I first arrived at Otago and began my meetings with my Ph.d. supervisors, they had me write a series of papers on a variety of topics involving Hawaiian music as well as ethnomusicological and anthropological theories and concepts I’d been exploring. Done. I was then instructed to draft my research topic proposal, and referred heavily to those earlier writings. Done. Once that was finalized and accepted, I was instructed to take all of those documents and merge them into a single document, and then begin to organize them into coherent sections, without deleting anything. The last part was strongly emphasized: nothing was to be deleted, no matter how bad or irrelevant it seemed.

I began work on this past weekend, and the merged document contained nearly 25,000 words. Since then I’ve slowly been organizing sections, putting small headings above each paragraph or two which summarize them and help me organize them in a logical manner. Paragraphs are moving between sections, and finding logical homes within the text of other essays. Less relevant and irrelevant material is slowly drifting toward the bottom of the document after having been mined for the few gems hidden within them. The document has actually grown in size a bit as I’ve added some text to smooth transitions from one section to another. I’ve also filled holes in content and logic which I hadn’t realized existed. What a process!

Guess, what? It’s actually starting to read like an academic paper. The field of ethnomusicology itself is really a study of processes as well, but that’s for a separate post.

Enjoying Our Last Five Weeks…

Our family met on Friday evening to discuss our various return options, and we decided to catch a flight out of Dunedin on Saturday, June 28. We’ll spend two days in Sydney, Australia, then head back home to Hawai‘i on June 30. June 29 is my birthday and June 30 is Marie’s, so it will be a nice last present for us before we return home and deal with all of the things that we were able to put off until our return. M?lia wanted us to leave on the 27th so that she didn’t have to perform a hula for her schoolmates on International day, but I reminded her that it was not an option – it was her responsibility as a representative for her school back home and for Hawai‘i to share what she has learned.

Music Dept CrewMy supervisors in the music department had been trying to organize an outing for us on Otago Peninsula since we arrived, and it finally materialized yesterday. I’ll be eternally grateful to Dan Bendrups (far left) and Henry Johnson (second from left) for taking me under their wings this semester, and also to Shelley Brunt (far right), who I assisted in her Ethnomusicology class. The ethnomusicology program here is excellent, growing, and reflecting a wide variety of research interests throughout the Pacific. Dan and one MA student focus on Rapanui (Easter Island), Shelley with Japanese popular forms, one Ph.D. student in Papua New Guinea, an M.A. student studying Sāmoan music festivals, another the bag-piping tradition here in New Zealand, and myself doing Ph.d. research in Hawaiian music. I’m very happy to be a part of such a diverse and dynamic group, and apparently they are very happy with my progress in our short time here. We’re all confident that I will be able to hit the ground running upon our return to Hawai‘i and begin research.

While we have no travels or adventures planned before leaving Dunedin, Mālia has one last trip with her Māori language class to Ngaa Manu Koorero, a Māori speech competition in Invercargill at the southern-most tip of Aotearoa this week.
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University of Sheffield Looking For A Lecturer

The Department of Music, University of Sheffield wishes to appoint a full-time, fixed term lecturer in ethnomusicology for the period 18 August 2008 to 18 May 2009. The programme in ethnomusicology at Sheffield is one of the largest in Britain, with three full-time lecturing staff.

I visited Sheffield and met the staff their at the International Council for Traditional Music conference back in summer 2004, and seriously considered enrolling in their Ph.d. program at one point. The exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and British pound was an insurmountable obstacle.