Coming Soon to Theaters: A Paper, a Poster, and My Last Year of College

Studying in the music library (before my headphones malfunctioned)
Researching in the music library (before my headphones malfunctioned)

Here we are in August, and this has probably been one of the fastest summers of my life. I can tell because a lot of things that I’ve been mentally logging as “future” are suddenly up close and personal. August means:

  • the end of SURP, which in turn means:
    • a sizable research paper, clumsily starting to take form
    • a presentation poster, which I know will be rectangular but haven’t thought about beyond that
  • moving into my new home for the 2015-2016 school year (Clark III)
  • going home for a short two-week summer (during which I will make cheese with my dad, visit both sets of grandparents, play a lot of MarioKart, and get a new driver’s license picture in which I’m not 16)

and, last but not least,

  • taking the GRE (!!!) and deciding where to apply to graduate school (*!@&@$^*#!)

But that’s a matter for another blog post. For now, I am SURPing, and SURPing I shall write about.

Rough sketches as I figure out my formal analysis methodology
Rough sketches as I figure out my formal analysis methodology

I’ve talked a little in my other two posts this summer about the subject of my research (solo-ensemble relationships and analytical methodologies for formal structure in nineteenth-century violin concertos). All of that’s still coming along nicely, but unfortunately not quite fast enough. I’ve come up with my own conception of formal analysis as the motion of a piece from the future to the past — and a graphing system to go with it — but making each form graph takes several hours. I’m working on integrating some ideas from philosophies of time in music, but I’ve discovered there’s so much material to get through. Needless to say, I’m pretty overwhelmed, but thankfully I have this spring’s independent study as a precedent to suggest that I should be able to produce something interesting. Regardless, the project is as interesting as ever and I’m loving the opportunity to intensely focus on producing my own theories while also getting to know some literature in my field.

However, I’m running into some technical difficulties on top of the time crunch. My laptop’s audio jack and CD drive have ceased working entirely and my headphones’ cable followed suit, leaving me trying in vain for two hours to get Bluetooth to work. Eventually I just gave up and started doing any listening I need to do on my quiet laptop speakers, out loud. Work must go on. None of this is helped by the fact that I’m completely clueless when it comes to graphic design and currently make most of my figures with MS Paint.

One of my noob-y MS Paint diagrams as I sketch out the form of a piece
One of my noob-y MS Paint diagrams, in which I sketch out the form of a piece

Another wrench in the gears is a sudden increase in schedule independence: My advisor has left town for a couple of weeks, leaving me to make as much progress as I can on the project in the meantime. We’re in touch by email, but I’m surprised and embarrassed at how much not having our daily morning meeting has thrown off my schedule. I wake up late, work through part of the lunch break, end up taking a longer lunch break than I mean to, work into the evening, and then chastise myself for not working nearly as much as I meant to. Most likely, I’ll try and grab a couple of weekend workdays before my project is done.

This brings me to an interesting point about summer research at Pomona. The variety of projects happening extends beyond subject matter: Everyone is on really different schedules on both macro and micro levels. Some people go in to work every morning at 8 or 9, take an hour lunch break, and clock out precisely at 5. Others, like a friend of mine who shall remain nameless, prefer to sleep until 1 p.m., start work at 3 p.m., take the evening off, and work from 2 to 5 in the morning. This is what happens if your project is less supervised… Personally, I like my independence, but I’m looking forward to having a fixed routine again. Having something scheduled in the day helps keep me focused and mentally comfortable.

What better way to test a new formal analysis method than on a pop song?
What better way to test a new formal analysis method than on a pop song?

Everyone is also at very different stages of their projects. There are people like me, pushing into the final stages of research. Others are finished and preparing to head home. Some are here all the way until the start of the school year and still have awhile to work. In terms of daily routines, there are people who help out in a lab with constant professor mentorship, there are people on nocturnal schedules for astronomical observation purposes, there are people coordinating focus groups and cognitive studies, and people working on so many other projects. Every time I talk to someone, I find out about some cool project happening in the same square mile as me that I didn’t even know was happening.

A formal analysis of the Beethoven violin concerto (red is future-referencing, blue is past-referencing, and black lines indicate structural links between sections)
A rough formal analysis of the Beethoven violin concerto (red is future-referencing, blue is past-referencing, and black lines indicate structural links between sections)

Outside of the research environment, social life is starting to dwindle slightly, what with people leaving. I’ve been enjoying baking and copying recipes, lifting weights (Rains has limited summer hours, but they’re enough for me to get my biceps back before the fall semester), and occasionally nighttime-running or board gaming with friends.

Senior year is coming at me fast. The GRE is much closer than I’d like it to be, and I’ve made my first map of music theory graduate programs to start narrowing things down. I’ve made an Amazon list of the textbooks I’ll need to buy for my fall courses. And, of course, in just a couple short weeks, some of the returning students will be here to start training for Orientation Adventure, sponsor groups, mentor programs, and sports teams. Then it’ll be time for the new students (the last class I’ll overlap with — hi 2019!) and new classes. Preparing for the end-of-summer rush, I find myself wondering if this crunch period is just for mid-August or if it’s going to be an adrenaline ride all the way to May… Either way, bring it on.