Reading the other summer blog posts so far is a bit surreal. Boston? New York? Queensland? Well, that sounds exciting. Meanwhile, this summer I’ll be repping Pomona from… well, Pomona. I’m one of a couple hundred students staying on campus. Some are here as volunteers for PAYS, some are working for various offices and departments, and some (like me!) applied through the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) to stay on campus and get paid a pretty nice chunk of money to do cool research projects. Kidding aside about my peers in fun faraway locations: The campus is pretty quiet, but I have an awesome research project underway, a good number of friends around, and a nice housing setup! I guess I’ll talk about those for a bit.
There are two kinds of SURPs — research assistantships and independent projects. For research assistantships, you work with a professor on research they’re already doing. For independent projects, you design your own project and a professor mentors you through the process. My work falls into the latter category, so I’m spending June through August on my self-designed project, “Modeling Form and Romantic Narrative in the Nineteenth-Century Concerto.” I’m looking particularly at violin concerti spanning the century, hoping to come up with a way to model the variety of formal structures in these pieces in terms of soloist-orchestra relationships, “translation” of thematic material between parts, and how all of it relates to the fuzzily defined Romantic period. It’s an enormous project, and I won’t get to answer all of my questions, but it’ll likely become part of my senior project for the music major (a thesis on musical transcription between instruments conceived in terms of translation between languages… stay tuned). I’m extremely excited about this project, but you’re here to get an idea of Pomona, not to listen to me ramble about concerto form and narrative theory. So let’s walk through my daily routine and what an independent project looks like!
I meet with my faculty advisor (Joti Rockwell) approximately every morning to talk about research ideas, possible sources, and what I’m working on. After that, I go up to the music library to work for the morning. Since I’m still in the beginning stages of my project (just finished my first complete week!), I’m mostly reading background material about Romanticism, musical narrative, and the history of the concerto. I have a loose plan of readings, so I spend the morning reading and making notes. Somewhere around noon, I go back to my dorm for lunch and then head to Honnold for the afternoon. I’ve been starting off my afternoons by listening intently to some of the pieces I’m looking at (this week: Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Schumann, Brahms violin concerti) with a score. Then I do some more reading, and I finish off the day by reflecting on the larval central questions of my paper-to-be and writing down thoughts about my readings. The introductory phase of the project has a lot of slogging through material, but starting next week I’ll be looking at shorter scholarly articles and pulling some more concepts together. I know you’re excited to read about it.
But what happens when I clock out for the day?
Summer housing operates on a different system from regular room draw. I’m living in a suite in Pomona Hall this summer with three other lovely people. One of them is a research assistant on time perception for the cognitive science department, one of them is designing a program for the physics department, and one of them is helping the Communications office build Pomona’s new website. I hope I got that right. At any rate, we live in an awesome air-conditioned four-person suite with a nice common room and full beds. It’s a sweet deal. We’ll live here until August, when we’ll move into our housing for the fall.
Our suite this past year was thoroughly spoiled by having a full kitchen in the common room (Harwood 223-7, probably one of the most desirable suites on South Campus), so I complain a little about having to walk all the way down the hall to use the kitchen this summer. But we do have a microwave and a full-sized fridge and better cabinet space! The air conditioning is also not to be scoffed at. And the dorm is LEED [impressive precious metal]-certified, so we have cool features like an extra lightswitch that shuts off power to the outlets in your room (don’t have to unplug anything, just flip the switch). Also, when you open the windows it automatically turns off the A/C or heating. Pretty fun stuff.
As cool as our eco-friendly spacious residential environment is, the activities that happen in it are probably more interesting.
I was worried about living on campus this summer, since there are so few people. Thankfully, I’ve gotten lucky and many friends and friendly acquaintances are staying as well. In the evenings, we chat, plan weekend trips, marathon Season 3 of Orange is the New Black (okay, that was really just me), and put together social games. Dungeons and Dragons is flourishing among these happily homeworkless students (myself included) and there are movie nights and other such shenanigans.
Pomona’s summer residence staff also put on events like free fresh fruit, ice cream socials, and trips to go play laser tag for free. Did I mention free? Like, how cool is that (yeah baby, second overall score *PEW PEW*). This coming week I’ll be eating at a professor’s house with some friends and going to discount bowling night. There are also rumors of orch dorks potentially getting together for chamber music…
You can see that I’m suffering greatly. This has the makings of an awesome summer, and I don’t even have to go through jetlag!