Posts Tagged ‘dissertation’

Everly Brothers Fan Survey

October 14, 2009

I have created a survey for Everly Brothers fans, hoping to capture some interesting viewpoints and data to use in my dissertation. I was restricted to 10 questions, but I think that will be enough. If any of my fellow musicologists are listening, let me know if the questions seem reasonable or what tweaks need to be made.


Transparent Barriers

March 30, 2009

I’m currently working on the biography chapter of my dissertation. I’ve been making notes from each of the three published biographies then trying to verify the information (some truly blatant errors in those books, by the way). In my search for “correct” information, I have found that the Country Music Hall of Fame has an impressive collection of oral histories, including recordings of Margaret Everly, as well as other informants who played with or knew Ike Everly. There are also recordings of key figures in the story such as Wesley Rose. I’m now waiting to hear from the historian at CMHF about access to those histories.

I have also discovered that the Kentucky State Library and Archives has collected newspaper and magazine clippings concerning the Everly Brothers. It is more than they are willing to photocopy and mail, so I’m currently trying to find a local researcher who can do it for me (for pay, of course).

Ideally I would talk to Don and/or Phil in a sort of ethnographic interview. I found a phone number for one of them today (thank you, oh great internet gods), but I can’t imagine what I would say in a phone call to convince him that I am a legitimate researcher and not some kooky fan stalking him. Bruno Nettl and Helen Meyers are silent on this topic. I’m going to sit and contemplate this for a few days. Maybe ask my advisor. But I keep looking at that number and thinking this is too good to be true. Only People magazine has phone numbers like this, right?

And therein lies one of the strange problems with doing musicological research in the area of popular music. If your subject is alive and famous, your access will probably be restricted or heavily mediated, assuming you can get any access. If you can’t, then whatever you can learn through secondary sources is, again, heavily mediated. This is, of course, a common dilemma for the historical musicologist, who deals exclusively with artifacts and descriptions that have been processed by both humans and time. The ethnomusicologist, on the other hand, can interact directly with the music-making subjects and objects, reporting her findings with or without critique. I feel caught between the two worlds and know that most of what gather from secondary sources (newspapers, magazines, fan biographies, websites, liner notes, etc.) has been “spun” to meet a marketing need; in other words, the information is presented as a transparent barrier. None of the writers on methodology for popular music studies seem to address this and many of the works I’ve read maintain a distance with the actual subject, as if they were dead. I am not satisfied with taking that approach, but I’m not certain yet how to negotiate this new territory.

The Bottomless Pit

January 13, 2009

I have a horoscope gadget on my iGoogle home page, along with the weather report from Maui, my to-do list, the top items on Digg, Things to Ponder, and a set of eyeballs that follows my cursor.

While I don’t put much stock in cosmic star alignments and crystal power, I had to laugh when I saw today’s horoscope:


It’s hard to know if you have gone deep enough, for the more you dig, the more you learn. At some point, however, you must finish your research and actually put what you’ve learned to practical use. Once you accept that your investigation has uncovered a bottomless pit, you’ll be more likely to stop spinning your intellectual wheels and get to work, applying your wealth of knowledge.

And there you have it. I have fallen in a bottomless pit and have to claw my way out of it.


December 9, 2008

William Zinsser once wrote that “writing is thinking on paper.” His argument is that once you can organize your thoughts and knowledge well enough to write about them, you will truly understand your material. He advocates writing as part of the learning process rather than just a product of it.

Working on my proposal has certainly clarified my thoughts on my topic. Now that I am writing a chapter, I have identified areas for which I lack clarity and consequently can’t form a coherent sentence, much less a paragraph. I am being forced to step back and look at the big picture then zoom in and ferret out the small details. I need forests and trees, but the result must be as compelling as the Ansel Adams photograph shown here.

If writing is thinking on paper, then creating a website to complement your writing is…well, I’m not sure. Thinking in air? Thinking on screen? I am finding that organizing my information in a thoughtful and useful way makes me, again, look at the trees and then at the forest and then at the trees and so on. Ultimately it’s a different way to organize the information from the way I must approach it for my dissertation. It’s good exercise and I encourage everyone to do it. You can see my effort at It’s still a work in progress, but I’ll post updates here.

A new frontier

December 4, 2008

I have been using EndNote for a couple of years now to handle citations in my papers. I have finally hit the wall with the bug and the way that the with every release (which costs another $90-100), the performance degrades. Right now I have a 25-page proposal in Word 2004 for Mac OS X with less than 100 bibliographic references (cited in 24 footnotes and collected in a bibliography at the end) that has bizarre scrolling problems. If I remove the field codes, the document behaves correctly. I always have to remove the field codes at the end anyway in order to change the straight quotes to smart quotes, fix the references EndNote can’t handle, and improve the readability of the footnotes.

Now that I am at a crossroads of sort (proposal hopefully heading towards the approval process, only a portion of one chapter written yet), I am going to try a new citation program. I’m going to start with Sente, but I’m keeping my eye on Bookends, too. If anyone has experience with either of these, let me know.

I’m also going to ponder how to manage the chapters: one giant monolithic document? individual chapter documents? a master document? I tried the latter with my masters thesis and it was a bit of a nightmare. I can’t stand the thought of a 200 or 300 page document so option 1 is out, too. The individual chapter documents will become problematic towards the end when I have to create continuous page numbering. 

Maybe I should think about Pages? Nah. It’s too dangerous to try to many new things at once.

Goodbye, Nibbler

October 15, 2008
Nibbler 2007-2008. He was a good little laptop.

Nibbler 2007-2008. He was a good little laptop.

My backpack was stolen from my car yesterday in Boston. I threw it in the car before heading off for coffee with a friend. Apparently I forgot to lock the car as I walked off. While driving home later, I reached over to get a snack and realized it wasn’t there.


My laptop was in the backpack. That’s really not as bad as it seems (other than the cost of replacing it). The laptop (who was affectionately known as Nibbler) was not my main computer but rather the one I used when not working in my office. Though I took a few notes in the library yesterday, the result was that I didn’t really lose any major files as far as my dissertation and qualifying exams go. I feel really really bad, though, that some of the photographs my son has been taking were only stored on the laptop. I don’t back up the laptop and I had erased most of the pictures from the memory card to make room for a job I have to do Friday night. So those photos are lost.

What really hurts is that my spiral notebook that I take dissertation notes in when I don’t feel like typing was in that backpack. I usually transcribe written notes into a file on my computer every few weeks but hadn’t done it in a while. I’m not sure how much I lost in that respect. I was terribly depressed all night about it, thinking about how I was going to have to re-read books and articles and take notes again. During my run this morning, I realized that another 2 or 3 weeks added onto an interminably long project isn’t really going to matter. But I continue to feel just a little down about it because there may have been some terribly brilliant insight written on one of the pages!

For all you PhD’ers out there–back up your laptops, lock your cars and doors, and never let your spiral notebook out of your sight! And perhaps it’s not a good idea to name your computers because it hurts worse when they’re gone.

I’m Stuck

September 15, 2008

I am writing my dissertation proposal. I know boat loads about my topic. When I go out for my run every day, I practically write chapters in my head. But I can’t seem to get my proposal done. I have a lot on paper, but I am convinced it’s all in the wrong order or it’s not clever enough or convincing enough or it lacks clarity. I read what I have and think what exquisite crap I have committed to the page. And all of this self-loathing has given me the proverbial writer’s block. I am frozen in place. I’ve tried my usual tricks: do housework, re-organize my office, torture my family with endless moaning about my lack of writing skill, go running, do yoga, listen to loud music, soft music, classical, rap, country, sit in silence. Nothing is working. Lest I spend the remainder of my days searching the internet for funny Sarah Palin videos with glassy eyes and drool leaking out the side of my mouth, I have to find a solution quick.

Then I read this blog by Jonathan Bellman, The Writer in the Mirror and another one by Phil Ford, Adventures in Bad Writing. And I was reminded that, even though I think me and my problems are pretty darn special, I am not unusual. I am not even in an unusual spot. I am not the only with the hair shirt and I won’t be the last. 

So I kind of feel better. Still wish I could make a lit. review flow and that my thoughts would magically reorganize themselves on paper and sound “wicked smaht.” In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing laundry and know that I have company.