Thursday, April 05, 2012

Masterful notes

The greatest gift of the sabbatical is the freedom to spend long hours immersed in reading without interruptions from students, committees, or piles of grading. This week isn't even over yet but I have  already read 34 academic journal articles (some more carefully than others) and one book related to my research project, not to mention my usual quota of articles in magazines and newspapers and a truly silly novel by Richard Walter called Escape from Film School, which is what Nathanael West would have written instead of The Day of the Locust if he'd landed in Hollywood 50 years later.

But by far my favorite bit of reading this week bears no relationship to my research. Why am I reading the draft of a Master's thesis about a composer whose name means nothing to me?

Because my daughter wrote it, that's why. And I may be a wee bit biased, but I think it's pretty darn good.

I can't comment on content, of course--it's too far outside my area of expertise. (Ostinato figures, plagal half cadences, and ascending octave leaps? Anything you say, sweetheart!) But the writing! It's very musical, full of phrases that effectively but unobtrusively employ the sounds and rhythms of the English language: "free from the bonds of specificity," "these gestures convey tired sighs," "the accompanimental texture beneath this tune is tempestuous." I hear that!

I don't hear much of that musical phrasing in the articles I'm reading for my research project, but after immersing myself in a big pile of articles this week, I'm ready to stick a fork in it and call it done. Done with the reading, that is. Time to move on to writing. I just hope my finished product will be as polished and musical as my daughter's, even if I don't know an ostinato from an ostrich.

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