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Thursday, February 28, 2008
I LOVE my thesis topic
Go on over to the Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation's MySpace site and listen to the MP3's, specifically Little Sally Walker. That's my THESIS topic. Since when is life cool enough that you can do scholarly work on music this awesome?!?!?!?

On another note, the music building is having a serious sewage problem that caused most major ensembles to be canceled today, and put a serious damper on most of the classes. Thankfully I didn't find this out until after lunch......I decided that leisurely reading through more research and drinking coffee was more important than yoga this morning. I always think it's bizarre when I get up in time to go to an 8am class, decide not to go, and then don't go back to sleep. I think it's the difference between life as an undergrad and a grad student. Bad Mac for skipping, I know, but sometimes your mental health is more important......and taking even just a leisurely half a day is sometimes all it takes to put you back into the fight that is grad school.

Planning fieldwork for over Spring Break, which is rapidly coming up. I'm also going home for a day or two to give an hour-long lecture on Medieval Music to my Dad's upper level undergrad Medieval History course. The hard part? Trying to hit all of the major points about Medieval music in an hour to a bunch of non-music majors. I'm trying to structure this sprint through history by asking myself, "What do I want them to walk away knowing?" I think that way I can decide what to concentrate on, and then how to communicate to a non musician audience. Since in my teaching I deal almost exclusively with musicians, it should be interesting to see how it is with the non-majors. I know I need to correct some basic misconceptions about all medieval music being only monodic, or only liturgical, but other than that I feel like I'm tackling way too much information in such a small period of time.

Anyway, go listen to the Jessie Mae Hemphill tunes!

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.
 
posted by Mac Tíre at 2:30 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sometimes I have the WEIRDEST dreams.
Sorry for the absence this weekend.

The world music ensemble at FPU had an intensive English Contra Dance Weekend with a fabulous teacher. I've always liked social dancing, as it doesn't require quite as much prior knowledge or athletic prowess. So I ended up dancing the majority of the time, even though normally I feel a bit odd dancing instead of playing.

A running injury I got about a week ago is finally starting to relax....however note to self: Exhaustion + massive amounts of aleve + stress about school = weird dreams involving characters from the school of music doing a capoeira battle to the death. I'm not sure I could make that up consciously if I tried.....

Hoping for a "Books" post sometime later today, but look for one tomorrow if I don't get around to it.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.
 
posted by Mac Tíre at 1:00 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 2 comments
Friday, February 22, 2008
Since when am I the expert?
Sometimes I just don't get it.

My proposal to present at the regional SEM conference got accepted, so I'm off (with Ethnomusicology Cohort) to present at another, although radically different, scholarly conference.

I understand that part of Grad School is learning how to transition from student to teacher/scholar, but every single time one of these proposals gets accepted or I get asked to do a presentation for a colleague either here at FPU or at a neighboring institution I want to ask, "Really??? Are you sure you didn't email the wrong person?"

To a certain extent I feel like that when I play any type of mentoring/teaching role to the undergrads here. Not so much in my discussion section, but when undergrads treat me with any type deference because they perceive me to be an unlimited source of knowledge or particularly musically distinguished, or when they use words like "role model," I tend to get a little freaked. I mean, I am well aware that there are large gaps in my knowledge, that I have a long way to go to be the type of Irish Traditional Musician I want to be, and that sometimes I'm just as lazy and dim-witted as you can imagine.

But they don't see that.

And I guess that's a model for the artistry we all aspire to. You never got to see Andy Irvine screw up 34 times before he got it right the 35th time. You see the product of the process, not the process itself.

I find Coyotebanjo's most recent words particularly true of myself, and most of my other grad student colleagues:

    Mostly, they're scared.

    They're scared they can't cut it;

    They're scared that other students have expertise or skills they themselves lack;


    They're scared that getting into
    [the] Music School [Grad Program] was either a fluke or a bad idea;

    They're scared, most of all, deep down in their heart of hearts, no matter how popular they were in
    [undergrad] or how high they could play or how many first-chair assignments they got or how far they could throw a tight spiral or how many guys bought them how many worthless trinkets (or illegal beers)......

    that they're dumb.
When I got here, I was convinced I didn't belong, as a musician or a scholar. But the longer I stay here, and get pushed and prodded into situations I'm not sure I'm ready for, the more I'm mentored and driven past my own limiting, self-imposed boundaries.......the more the above thoughts and self-conceptions crumble.

Which I guess is the point.

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?....Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.....We were born to make manifest the glory of God [which I take to be the divine....namaste] that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

And even though I occasionally get a flash of Happy Texas in my head:
    WAYNE: If you ever leave me with a kid again, I will make sure that you never have one! You have no idea what it is like to have these screamin' little booger eaters lookin' up at you, expecting you to know stuff.
Even though I constantly want to ask someone, "Since when am I an expert on anything?"

I am learning to "show up for the impossible."

Because the world has been proven to be bigger and full of more possibilities than I ever imagined.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.

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posted by Mac Tíre at 12:59 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Books that Changed My Life (#1)
In an effort to start a new series that will help me to keep posting on an almost daily basis, I thought I would introduce you to the books that affected me deeply.

I've always been a reader. Both of my parents have always been readers. While my friends were put in front of a television to be entertained, I was taken to the library and the bookstore. Reading has always been a comforting thing. It's always been a safe place. After my mom died, I spent a lot of time locked in my room reading and writing, trying to figure out how this powerful, traumatic event would factor into who I was going to become. When I was a kid, the characters that I read about became role models and heroes. The Lioness Quartet, a four book series by Tamora Pierce, introduced me to the character that proved to be my hero for most of my childhood.

I have always been crazy about all things medieval. In the summer my mom would take me to the library and I would head straight to the history portion of the kid's section. Every week I would pull every medieval history book they had, and beg the librarians to let me check out more than number allowed. Invariably, my mom would end up checking out the other books I couldn't. I remember around the end of 5th grade, when she pointed out that I could look at the adult's history section and check out those books as well. I must have wandered the stacks for a good hour, and finally settled on some incredibly pedantic about medieval warfare. While all of the other southern belles that I knew wanted to be a princess I knew I wanted to be the knight. So when I tell you that one Friday night at my family's bookstore excursion I found the first in a series about a girl disguising her identity and becoming a knight, you'll understand that I thought I had found the Holy Grail of young adult books.

Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant are books that chronicle the story of Alanna of Trebond.

From the author's website:
    This story, all four books, is about the making of a hero. It's also about a very stubborn girl. Alanna of Trebond wants to be a knight of the realm of Tortall, in a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors. Rather than give up her dream, she and her brother--who wants to be a mage, not a knight--switch places. She becomes Alan; Thom becomes a student wizard in the school where she would have learned to be a lady. The quartet is about her struggle to achieve her goals and to master weapons, combat, polite behavior, her magic, her temper, and even her own heart. It is about friendships--with the heir to the throne, the King of Thieves, a wise and kindly knight--and her long struggle against a powerful enemy mage. She sees battle as a squire and as a knight, lives among desert people and tries to rescue an independent princess. Singled out by a goddess, accompanied by a semi-divine cat with firm opinions, somehow she survives her many adventures to become a most unlikely legend.
What the description doesn't tell you is that even though she holds a legendary place in the books, she's created with flaws. She has a horrible temper, is afraid of falling in love, and sometimes alienates her friends because of her lack of social skills. Above all, she creates her own path for her life.

Mostly, these books taught me about hard work and perseverance. Alanna's not a naturally talented swordsman. She gets up before dawn and practices, practices during every free minute she has, and practices late at night. Through years of work she becomes one of the best swordsmen around.

Embarrassingly enough, whenever I'm about to wimp out in favor of sleep or momentary comforts, all I have to do is think about the books and generally the thought of my childhood hero is enough to pull me out of bed and start to work.



"Ah," Gary said dreamily. "'Free time.' I've heard about that. Don't fool yourself, Fire-Top. What with extra hours of lessons for punishments, and the work you get every day, free time is an illusion. It's what you get when you die and the gods reward you for a life spent working from dawn until midnight. We all face up to it sooner or later."




These books are old friends. Safe. And even though I'm 24, I still go back to them whenever I'm stressed or overwhelmed, depressed or lonely. These books represent who I really wanted to be when I was 9/10, and to a certain extent who I am now.

Wishing you memories of childhood books.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.

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posted by Mac Tíre at 2:11 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Learning to Wait
Not really much to blog about since I got back. Basically it's been trying to catch up and get ahead at the same time.

I'm trying to wait patiently to see if the regional SEM conference will or won't accept my paper to present in a little over a month. I don't wait very well, especially when I need to figure out travel, accommodations, and apply for grad school funding......and soon if it works out. I'm also in the process of trying to get everything squared away for the NFA conference, fieldwork opportunities, and Zoukfest this summer. On the fieldwork front, I found a great hostel that's less than an hour away from my fieldwork site and is basically $10-$15 a day. I'm hoping to try it out when I travel over Spring Break. On the NFA front, I've discovered that one of the other people slated to play with me on the program is having issues with his/her guitarist, so evidently I'm on deck to play backup for 15 min worth of trad tunes. Unfortunately, he/she is also having issues actually telling me which tunes to work on. So I'm trying to wait (again patiently) to hear what I need to learn on guitar. I'm hoping my Flute Co-presenter realizes that if she wants backup, I need the tunes soon so I can work out what I'm going to play.

We're having guest artists both in the Flute Studio and the World Music Ensemble this week and next, and I'm playing host/chauffeur to both of them at some point in their trip. I volunteered for both because I think that's part of a grad student's responsibilities/perks. As a grad student you owe it to your professors to help lighten the load for guest artists. That means offering to pick them up from the airport, taking them to a meal, arranging for their harpsichord/piano/accompaniment needs, and basically anything else that needs to be done. Consequently, your professors owe you extra contact time with guest artists. Generally helping and getting to know the guest artists happens at the same time.

As my Soo Bahk Do instructor said: "Your answer should always be, 'It's already done sir.'


Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.

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posted by Mac Tíre at 1:40 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 2 comments
Monday, February 18, 2008
Back to the Grind
I am convinced it is impossible to go away for 5 days and come back feeling anything but behind.

This past weekend was my first experience chairing (in Coyotebanjo's stead) at a professional conference. It was an invaluable experience because I and my good friend (Musicology Cohort, and while she still thinks of herself as an undergrad, everyone else knows she operates at a higher level than most of us) who also chaired were lead through the entire process step by step. Even though the technological west is all about newer, shinier pedagogical models, I still find the traditional "Demonstrate, Imitate, Critique" model to be just about the best out there. So we got lead through the process of getting submissions, reading the abstracts, putting together the panels, and were talked through the chairing responsibilities and left to our own devices at the conference.

Wednesday:
So we both took individual cars, as I was planning on trying to find a session on Friday night and MC was planning on driving home for the rest of the weekend. A fairly nice drive, except for the fact that I missed my turnoff for the real highway and ended up adding about 45 minutes of driving out in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, we both got to the hotel, dropped our stuff, and headed out for real food. Unfortunately.....for the life of me I can't remember where we went. It's been a long time since Wednesday night.

Thursday:
Woke up at 7:30am and didn't have a panel until 12:45. Both MC and I are used to having every second of every day spoken for, and it threw us a bit to not have to be anywhere. Had free breakfast at our hotel and basically just hung around until we needed to leave to check-in. MC had minor issues at the registration desk with one of administrators who got more than a little possessive about her "Chair" ribbons. Coffee in the Starbucks in the building the convention was located in, and had a great discussion with MC about life choices, grad school, and deciding to change the "plan" we each had for our lives before we got to Flat Place U. I offer to have conversations in dark alleys with anyone who is discouraging or jerky to MC about said decision.
Aside: The inside joke with my friends is "Low, low price of free." My first year here, one of my good friends broke up with her then boyfriend of 5/6 years. He was acting like a jackass, being antagonistic and slightly stalkerish........and to cheer her up, I said I would "make him an offer he couldn't refuse for the low, low price of free." So now, whenever one of my friends runs into someone (usually male) who is acting threatening, antagonistic, or in any other way behaving like a jackass, all I have to say to cheer them up is, "Low, low price of free."

Off to MC's panel which started at 12:45, where all of the presenters were cordial, professional, and on-time. Three good presentations, with some interesting questions from the peanut gallery (namely MC and myself, since no one else seemed inclined to talk).

Break from 2:30-4:15, so we headed off to find lunch. MC shows us a great little Mediterranean food place, and I get a veggie plate. We see a chocolate shop on the way back to the conference, and stop and buy dark chocolate covered strawberries (a severe weakness for a kid from the deep south who has an affinity for dark chocolate :) ).

Get to my panel early, and have to almost throw out the panel right before ours......they decided they would camp out until the last possible second. Two of my panelists were on time and prepared, including the poor guy from Southern State who had almost completely lost his voice and was basically screaming at the top of his lungs to deliver his paper.

The third panelist arrives about 30 seconds before the panel is supposed to start and makes a big deal about technology issues. As I am in the process of trying to get her to back off and let me fix them for her, she sends one of her entourage to get one of the tech guys to come and fix it, but by the time the guy gets back I have fixed said technology issue and we are starting. Panelist gives paper......and gives paper......and gives paper, until I have to tell her we're moving on.......at which point she looks at me as if I've done something horrible to her, as does the rest of her entourage. We take questions for about two minutes, and her entourage is offended when I cut them off to move to the next panelist.

As Dharmonia points out, there's probably nothing that brings out my inner Angry Redneck more than a pretentious, blue-blooded, counter-culture wannabe of a yankee (no offense to reasonable people above the Mason-Dixon).


The middle panelist is by far the best of the three. Timed perfectly, when we give her the x minutes left card, she starts to edit her paper on the fly. Methodologically sound, well written, and expressed in a language that wasn't her primary language. She's a PhD candidate in the middle of fieldwork in the US. It's great to get to see what other grad students at other institutions are doing, because you can measure where you are, and how far you need to go to get where you want to professionally.

End panel, and MC and I head back to the hotel to change into comfortable clothing. Off to awesome sushi restaurant, where we order our weight in sushi including a super spicy roll with yellow fin and tuna. Back to the hotel where I do some thesis reading until about 12am (which feels like 1 am because of the time difference).

Friday:

Wake up at 7:30am.....again. I remark to MC that waking up before we have to is a Grad School induced sickness. Get up and out of the hotel......have a remarkable breakfast at one of the local places. Massive breakfast burrito smothered in green chili sauce. Back to the hotel for MC to pack up her stuff and head home. I wait around the hotel and free wifi to see if a session forms up.....about 1:30 get a call from Regional Banjo Player, and unfortunately nothing is forming (the more you play vernacular music, the more you realize that you just have to play things by ear.....sometimes sessions happen and sometimes they don't........musical karma, it'll just come at a later date). RBP does however, give me the lead on several fabulous used bookstores. So I set out to find them and the local Borders Bookstore.

Have food at a great place with pastries, coffee, and food. Stay and read thesis stuff for an hour or so....and then head out to my car. Find a note on my car that says: Flat tire on other side. Walk over to front right side, and sure enough, the tire is dead flat. Ok.....no problem. I can change a tire, and if I call AAA it'll take them 45 min to get there whereas it'll take me all of 15 min to change the darn thing. Get spare out of trunk and realize that even though every other Saturn I've ever bought came with a jack and a tire iron, my current one evidently didn't (my mechanic of a grandfather would not have been impressed that I hadn't checked it for one). Well, no matter how much I can wing-it....I can't change a tire without a jack or a tire iron. Call AAA, read in the car while waiting for the guy to change it. Stroke of luck: I didn't drive on the tire at all, caught a nail in the tread, so the tire only has to be repaired, not replaced. Get tire fixed......head off to bookstore!

I should never ever be allowed in another Borders again. You see, with my bibliophilia I have somehow missed the Borders experience. So I browsed, and bought......I bought a lot of books. Mostly history/fiction/poetry, but all books that I couldn't get at home without paying shipping fees. I then proceed to sit with my purchases in the bookstore until it closes.......and then go back to the hotel, eat my Pain du Chocolate and read until 3am.

Saturday:

Wake up at 8:30am and prepare to leave for FPU, until I check the weather and realize that one of the roads I take is closed due to snow. Get the room for another night and grumble to my Dad on the phone about having to stay and pay for another night at the hotel. Go get another breakfast burrito and bottomless cup of coffee and read for 4 hours. Get up and go to mall, where one of the stores is having a serious sale on dress clothing. Leave for Whole Foods and Borders. Pizza and Tiramisu, and then more books. Back to hotel.....read some more.

Sunday:

Wake up, check out. Bagels and coffee and start to drive back. I manage to find the right roads this time, so no 45 minute detour. Home for Roomie's belated b-day party and then small ensemble coaching with Coyotebanjo. Home and Dorothy L Sayers BBC mysteries with Roomie until we both collapse around midnight.


Overall, good, but hectic week(end). For your playlist viewing pleasure, my 2.5 hour playlist for the drive this weekend:

Three Dog Night:
  • Joy to the World
Gary Allan:
  • Learning how to Bend
  • Watching Airplanes
Rodney Atkins:
  • Cleaning this Gun
Sugar Ray:
  • Into Yesterday
Carrie Underwood:
  • All-American Girl
Puddle of Mudd:
  • She F***ing Hate Me
Franz Ferdinand:
  • 40'
  • The Dark of the Matinee
  • Jacqueline
Spring Awakening:
  • All That's Known
  • The Bitch of Living
  • Touch Me
  • Totally F***ed
Sugarland:
  • Settling
  • One Blue Sky
David Wilcox:
  • Show the Way
  • Someday Soon
Indigo Girls:
  • She's Saving Me
Joni Mitchell:
  • You Turn Me On I'm A Radio
  • California
Prince:
  • Musicology
Goo Goo Dolls:
  • Broadway
  • Iris
Idina Menzel:
  • Fool Out of Me
  • Heart on my Sleeve
John Mayer:
  • Love Song for No One
Melissa Etheridge:
  • California
  • Heroes and Friends
  • I've Loved you Before
  • I Wanna Be in Love
  • I'm the Only One
  • This Moment
  • Mercy
  • Kiss Me
  • Meet me in the Dark
Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.
 
posted by Mac Tíre at 12:20 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Saturday, February 09, 2008
On the Run (#2)
Miles logged: 2.5

Finally feeling up to running again, which is always a good sign, and actually got to run out side because of the gorgeous weather we're having. It worries me a little that I can run in a tank top and shorts at the beginning of February, but hey, global warming rears its ugly head yet again. I made a new playlist for this run, but completely hated it, so I won't post it here. I ended up skipping half of the tracks, so I had no clue how long I had been running (I refuse to take a watch when I run, unless I'm working on speed and need a stopwatch).

A good running playlist is a hard thing to make. Why? Well first off, the tempos can't be too slow. Slow music tempo = Slow running tempo. Add that to the fact, that I can't run that fast, and the tempos also can't be too fast. There are also different running moods. Generally these fall into four different categories for me:
  1. Angry Run: Also known as the screw the world run. This playlist has to be up tempo. Generally rock/punk/hard core trad music. Which means I tend to mix Franz Ferdinand, the Ramones, the White Stripes, Green Day, Melissa Etheridge, and Planxty/Bothy Band.
  2. Sad/Introspective Run (Which incidentally usually turns into #1): Also known as the I need to get away from everyone run. This playlist mixes medium tempo and slower tempo tracks. There's a lot of country, broadway, slower trad tunes, acoustic, and down tempo rock in these playlists. Some tracks: Down Where the Drunkards Roll, Learning How to Bend, Lunasa Slow Flute Tracks, You've Got to Show, Sleep, All the Roots Grow Deeper, No One is Alone, etc.
  3. Happy Run: Also known as the I can't believe I get to do what I love everyday run. This is usually composed of whatever I'm listening to at the time, so I've got about 4 or 5 basic running playlists or I run to Green Day's "American Idiot" album.
  4. Forced Run: Also known as the Get off your butt and put some miles down run. This has no set playlist, and generally I switch between any of the above mentioned playlists or run on shuffle.
For me, running always involves music, and I actually spend a decent amount of time trying to plan my playlists.

Ok......so this is my soap box about running: anyone can do it. Screw the stupid Gym teachers of the world who make fun of kids who run slowly, or tell them that pain is a good thing. I weighed 200 lbs in middle school and couldn't run more than a few feet without wanting to throw up. I actually lost weight when I went to college......basically because I was so busy. I moved out to Flat Place U, and didn't study martial arts, so I was building up a lot of tension. I had been thoroughly convinced by every jackass of a gym teacher that I had, that I wasn't "built" for running. Whatever the hell that means. Now I'm not talking about people who have bad knees, because that's a different story entirely, but just because you have a few extra pounds doesn't mean you're not "built" for running. Running isn't a pace thing.....you're running if at some point both feet are off of the ground. Pace is something you build up to. Running is just like every other big project I've ever done. Small steps and frequent steady effort.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.

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posted by Mac Tíre at 6:00 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Friday, February 08, 2008
Finally Recovered
So after running the first of two extra-curricular study sessions for the Freshmen, I went home and crashed last night. For some reason, I haven't been sleeping really well lately, but last night made up for it. I'm finally a little more coherent than I have been, which means I get to make up for the lack of thesis reading I've done in the past few days.
Book on Deck:



Singing the Master: The Emergence of African-American Culture in the Plantation South










Basically this is one of those that I wanted to check out, and see if it would serve as a model for research. I'm a little into it now, and I'm not liking the writing as much as I do from




Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made









I really liked the depth Genovese went into about the system of slavery (and the culture that was created from it), as well as the academic writing style. As far as an academic model goes, the Genovese wins right now......things could change, but I really liked the book and I'm not liking the Abrahams right now.

I'm still scheduled to do some primary fieldwork over Spring Break. The closer I get to fieldwork the more excited I get. On the other hand, I also get more nervous. Ethnomusicological (or really any type of anthropological) fieldwork is tricky. You want to meet your informants. You want to build strong lasting relationships. And in a field of music where outsiders have been typically either exploitative or only interested in the barest facts (tell why your music's cool so I can go home), you want to communicate that you have more than just a passing interest and that you respect their expertise. And on top of all of that, you want to communicate this to your informants without verbally saying it or acting like a complete blundering moron.

Here's what I have figured out. You're going to screw up. You don't know all of the rules, that's why you're doing fieldwork. You can, however, limit the expansiveness of your screw ups by 1) keeping your mouth shut as much as possible, and letting your informants do the talking/teaching/playing, 2) observe before acting, 3) doing your scholarly homework beforehand, and 4) coming to the situation with a beginner's mind (you don't know anything yet, don't pretend you do, or as my Soo Bahk instructor used to say: Empty your cup).

It's a process I guess, just like everything else we do. And we take it one step at a time. If grad school has taught me anything, it's that you can pretty much do anything you set your mind to, if you take it one step at a time.

Geek-out of the day (If you're not a harry potter fan, just skip the following ;) ):

Ravenclaw!

Sort me!


I'm usually either sorted by these quizzes in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. Usually I sort myself into Ravenclaw. Coincidentally, on of my favorite scenes in Deathly Hallows was when the reader finds out that to enter the common room, you have to answer a riddle. Consequently, if you get it wrong, you have to wait until someone comes along who can actually answer the question.

"... Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind ..."

"Wit beyond measure is Man's greatest treasure."

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.
 
posted by Mac Tíre at 12:37 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Ten Things You Have A Weakness For
So, not a lot of time to blog, but I did find this meme on one of the blogs I read. I have loosely interpreted this as things you love/have a weakness for/keep you sane. So here goes:

10 Things You Have a Weakness For:

  1. Dark chocolate--seriously, we have several different types around the apartment. And it's good for you, right?
  2. Coffee--I am completely.......totally........and utterly addicted. But I think it's more about the ability to sip and enjoy something that's warm slowly, even though my life tends to lean toward the insane.
  3. Books--Reading + the two above = happiness. I'm seriously obsessed with my book collection. At one of the local used bookstores, the owner always asks me if I have trade credit, and I always respond that I would if I would ever give the books back.
  4. Musical instruments--a couple of my friends helped me move into my current apartment, and they noticed that whenever they'd move a box, they'd find another instrument. I can at least make passable sounds on all of them too........except for the uilleann pipes.
  5. Furry, fuzzy, cuddly animals--I house sit a lot for people who have animals, just so I can get some "fuzz therapy." Once I get relatively settled in my life, I'm going to get a pet, until then, I have to mooch off of other people's pets.
  6. Driving around by myself at night--Yeah.....I know, weird one. I have a lot of contact with people, and most of it is indoors. I really like grabbing a cup of coffee/tea and driving in circles just thinking about things, usually blasting music from my iPod really really loudly. I know it wastes gas, and it isn't great for the environment, but I like the moving and the being alone, and that generally means a car when it's at night. Usually happens after a late night at the library/of practicing, and I just can't make the car steer home.
  7. Journals--I journal a lot, and because of that, I have a lot of different notebooks. Small, big, simple, ornate. I tend to buy them and hoard them for when I inevitably run out. My favorite though, are the large moleskine ruled notebooks.
  8. Running--I haven't gotten to run lately, but I'm getting back to the point where I can run again. What's the deal with running? I do it by myself, for myself, with no thought at how fast I'm going/how far I'm running/how well I'm doing. It relieves stress/anger like you wouldn't believe, and also has the plus of letting you think about things and dealing with emotions in a fairly private constructive way.
  9. Gilmore Girls--My roommate and I speak almost entirely in Gilmore girls quotes. We keep it running in the background while we study/cook/live.
  10. Playing music--If it were up to me, I'd play music all day long.........after all, you can sleep when you're dead, right?
Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.

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posted by Mac Tíre at 2:49 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar
It's done. I played my first unaccompanied solo traditional Irish music recital last night. I don't have the recording back yet, but I feel really good about it. It's not that it was the most incredible thing I've ever played. It's more of being surprised by how right it felt. That and being completely flabbergasted by the fact that I did it. A group of us went out afterward, and I couldn't stop smiling. Why? Because somewhere deep inside my subconscious was the idea that I wasn't capable of playing an hour's worth of music with only me on stage. I can't stop smiling, because I was wrong.

Two things said to me las night that stuck in my head:

To my statement that I would never have done that if it hadn't been suggested: "It's about breaking down obstacles."

and
From a conversation shared by two of my teachers: "It's amazing what happens when you do what your heart wants."
I've been trying to be something I'm not because I was convinced that I wasn't capable of doing the one thing I really wanted to. For once, it's great to be wrong.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.
 
posted by Mac Tíre at 2:22 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Friday, February 01, 2008
If you're gonna be in a new phase of your life, then BE THERE
So I wasn't gonna blog today, but I'm in the library waiting endlessly for PDF's of Blues thesis research to download, and I thought doing something semi-productive would make the waiting go faster.

I had the last trad flute lesson before the Feb. 5 recital, and in response to the statement that I was going to play completely solo (no special guest musicians to back me up on one or two tunes), and the title of the post was said to me.

I've had a lot of different thoughts about who I am and where I'm going with my music over the last two and a half years here. I've played music for as long as I can remember, and I've been obsessed with music just as long. As a kid, there were very few activities I was required to try (although ballet was one and I've got pictures from dance recitals to prove it.......don't get me started on the evils of purple tu-tu's and tiaras), so I went from activity to activity without too much hassle from my parents. I think they knew that kids needed freedom and time to find out who they were and what they liked, and because of that I've had a lot of experiences that my peers didn't necessarily have. I've spent endless summers and weekends romping through the woods near my house, climbing trees, picking blackberries, getting dirty, figuring out which plants not to touch. I've read books and plays and poetry, and been encouraged to write to pass the time. I've traveled and met people incredibly diverse and interesting. And most importantly, I've tried lots of different musical instruments: violin when I was 6 (less than a year), flute-o-phone in 3rd grade, voice always, piano, guitar, and finally flute.

I think it's important to know that I never really wanted to play the classical flute. And when I started playing flute I had never shown and interest in classical music. When I went out for band as a 10 year old entering sixth grader, I wanted to play the clarinet. I wanted to play the clarinet for two specific reasons: 1) my dad had played the clarinet, and 2) I had heard Dixieland Jazz and Benny Goodman recordings, and was convinced that those sounds were infinitely cooler than anything classical music could produce (consequently, I realize now that I was missing something about the breadth of classical music repertoire, but there you are). And yet, here goes Mac......playing the flute......the classical flute.

But I was good at it.

And in this age of competition, my Band directors convinced my parents that I should stay on the classical flute. I wasn't all that opposed because my friends were in band, and I was first chair (hey.....I was thirteen at the time being the best was important to me), so life was good. But I was a little subversive, in that every year that I was in high school, I would use Marching season as a means to try and get the Band Director to let me play something else. "We have 15 flute players but no mellophone players.....I'll learn mellophone, I'll learn saxophone, I'll carry a Bass Drum! I just don't want to play piccolo another year." Instead, I was bored to death, and spent most of the season standing outside playing all state music from memory while everyone else tried to learn the marching music I had sightread.

Fast forward to senior year, and my classical flute teacher asks me if there's any specific piece I want to work on. And the precise words out of my mouth were: How about something Irish? Classicized piece.....BUT I borrowed my first Matt Molloy album that semester........and it made me want to play the flute. The Christmas after I moved away to undergrad in Miss. I got the Woodenflute Obsession album as a gift. I must have played those two CD's until they died, because eventually I had to buy myself a new copy. And I knew, "There! That! Those sounds! I wanna make those sounds." I just didn't know how. And because I had studied classical music for so long, it never occurred to me that I could learn instrumental music the same way I learned vocal music: listen and imitate.

So I transfered back to my hometown's university Spring of my Sophmore year of college (for various personal reasons) and met Skip Healy. Two years after I figured out what type of music I wanted to play (not that I had constructed my thoughts that way yet) I found someone who could teach me how to play it. Six months later, I had my first Healy flute, and I started down the rabbit hole.

When I auditioned at Flat Place U, I remember talking to Coyotebanjo and mentioning Joanie Madden. I started to explain who she was, and he cut me off saying, "I know who she is." And I thought, "Thank God! There are people out here who know things I want to learn." That and I was shocked as hell that all of the woodwind faculty in my audition were positive and supportive about playing traditional music. That had never happened to me before.

I've only just realized it, but my undergrad experiences messed my head up a little. I moved here, and was suddenly confronted with literally dozens of people telling me that I could and should try new things; that I was talented, intelligent, and did good work, and that my teachers wanted to teach; that it was necessary to take professional and artistic risks and that falling down wasn't the end of the world; and that wanting to be an ethnomusicologist and traditional Irish musician was ok. In the past year, people from my past who held incredibly important places in my life have told me hurtful, destructive things: that Irish traditional flute was an awfully small corner to back yourself into, implications that it was an easier alternative for classically trained flutists who couldn't cut it, that musicologists/ethnomusicologists were people who had realized that they couldn't make it as performers and so they took to academics as a backup, that I should hurry up and finish by combining two master's degrees in two years--and implying that not doing so would mean I was somehow lazy or incompetent.

I know I come back to this a lot, but I'm incredibly thankful that my professors, my friends and mentors, have my back.

And because I trust them implicitly, last semester when my classical flute professor suggested that I needed to take a look at who I wanted to be, even though all of those negative thoughts were banging around in my head, I looked. It freaked me out, but I looked. I talked to Dharmonia, and I remember her saying, "You can do all of these things at a fairly high level, but never reach virtuosity. But I don't think you want that. I think you want to be a virtuoso musician, which doesn't mean you have to give up these other things in your life. It means you have to figure out where you want to live musically. Whichever idiom it is, you know that you need to spend some years focusing on just that particular musical idiom. And if it's Irish trad flute, then we'll have some tunes."

"We'll have some tunes." That. I wanted that.

How long had I been bribing myself to practice classical flute with traditional flute? How often did I work on ethno projects when I should have been practicing classical flute? Why was I listening to Jack Cohen recordings when I should have been listening to Pahud recordings? And I finally admitted to myself that I wanted to be an ethnomusicologist and a traditional Irish musician. It took me thirteen/fourteen years to get there, and the permission to move on with my life from someone who cared about me, but right now that's who I want to be.

On Tuesday, I'll play a completely solo Irish Traditional Flute recital, and I'm not going to apologize for it. No more apologizing, because there's nothing to apologize for. The Music is beautiful, and complex, and profound.

And I'm a part of it.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

Mac.
 
posted by Mac Tíre at 1:43 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments