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The Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna decided to give Avior Byron the Avenir Foundation Research Grant for a one month research trip in Vienna in order to work on two books that he is writing.  
 

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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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How to choose a PhD, MA or DMA subject for a thesis

Finding a thesis subject

Choosing a subject for a PhD, MA, DMA or whatever thesis you are doing, can be a tricky issue. Many people start there research degree saying “I have no subject” or they speak about what they are doing in very general term. This is perhaps normal for most research students. Yet, it is expected that you will gradually find a focused and interesting subject for your research. Finding a research subject can be a painful process. If it is hard for you to explain to other (I have I mind people who know very little about music) what your research is about, then you are probably in the early stages of finding your subject. I remember that it was a very stressful period for me. I hope that some of the things that I will write here will help you make the process easier for yourself.

I remember that I spent a year of my life reading lots of articles and books trying to find my way in the world of writing about music. After a year my supervisor, Prof. John Rink, told me that it is about time that I find a real subject for my thesis. During that year I knew that I was interested in interpretation and performance studies. My thesis proposal during that year was about ‘music communication’ in very broad terms. I was fascinated about how musical communication happens between composers, performers and listeners. My supervisor felt that my proposal was too broad and he tried to encourage me to focus it. One of the things that I did during the first year was that I read books and then wrote a ‘reading report’ of a few pages which included a critical response to what I have read. This gave me some experience in writing and reacting to what I read.

A good thesis subject definition, like a good PhD proposal is essential for a successful dissertation. Yet a good research proposal depends on a good dissertation subject. It is worth while to spend much time on finding and developing you subject. In this post I will suggests some things that might help you arrive to a successful dissertation subject.

Explore what other people do

My supervisor is not the only one that gives his research students to read much literature during the early phase of research. Actually, it is a very common method of teaching in the USA (although I did my PhD in Royal Holloway, University of London). Apart of the experience it gives one with writing and criticizing, it is supposed to open the student to a vast number of authors, methods of doing research and styles of writing. It is good to see what people are interested in since it may give you ideas. It is good to keep a small diary where one keeps short notes about what one reads. Another way to get to know what people are doing is to attend conferences.

Be novel

Once you get to know what people write you may find ‘holes’ in their research. You may discover that they did not cover all aspect of a phenomenon or that there are other angels to treat an issue. I remember that in one of my ‘reading reports’ I wrote to my supervisor that it could be interesting to see how composers themselves perform their own music. I mentioned Schoenberg and Bartok. My supervisor said that indeed this could be an interesting path to take and that I should now explore what was written about Bartok, Schoenberg or any other composer that performed his or her music. The idea is to find a subject that nothing or very little was written about. Once you finish a PhD that is noval, this makes you an expert in your subject. 

Be in touch with your feelings

I told John that very little was written about both Bartok and Schoenberg. His reaction was that he feels that perhaps it would be wise to choose Schoenberg since he was a Jew and I am interested in Judaism. He said that although I will probably write now on performance, in could extend my research in the future so that it will relate to other issues such as religion.

Choose a subject that you love

Moreover, Schoenberg’s history is very much connected to the faith of Jewish people in Europe and USA, and this is connected to the history of my own family. The subject if European Jewish history was always something that fascinated me. Choosing a subject that you love is very important, since that are moments in your research which might be boring are hard. If you love your subject, it could compensate on this and help you finish you degree. Furthermore, you will probably invest more energy, emotion and time in something that you love.

Ask for advice from people that you appreciate

Another thing that might help you find a good subject is to ask Scholars about possibilities. You can ask you supervisor and other members of you department. You can also write to scholars in other places via emails. You will be surprised how people might help you. Yet, one should keep in mind that it is also good to struggle on your own. If you develop mechanisms to find things you are interested to write about, it will definitely help you in you future career as an author. It is interesting to examine the breath of writing or various authors. Some are focused. Others write about almost everything.

See how your supervisor feels about your subject

Once you have found one or more possibilities, show them to your supervisor and ask what he or she think. It is very important to choose a subject that your supervisor will agree to help you with. My supervisor told me that he does not like most of the music of Schoenberg. Yet he made it clear that what is important that I will like my subject, and that he will support whatever I choose. I am not sure that all supervisors are so generous. You have to be sure that your supervisor agrees that you will do research on your subject so that you can receive his or her support during the studying phase, when you defend your thesis and thereafter.

Keep developing and focusing your thesis as time passes

The normal thing that happens when you find a subject is that you need to focus it. When I new that I want to do research on Schoenberg and performance, I have to decide which recordings and pieces I will explore. I had some idea during my first PhD year, yet the PhD plan kept changing as time passed. Keep an open mind and take into consideration that things usually change once you advance in your research.

There are people who do reasearch of subject that they do not like. They were lucky to find something novel but unlucky that the subject was not close to their hearts. I strongly feel that a good subject must be novel, somthing that you love and something that your supervisor can support. Keep this in mind when you search for a thesis subject and you have more chances to turn into a good scholar.

Related posts

How to write a research proposal

6 tips for finding a good PhD supervisor

How to write a book review

How to give a successful conference paper

מסלול מוסיקה בקשת מזכרת בתיה Music course in Mazkeret Batya

מסלול "מוסיקה" בבית המדרש של קהילת קשת במזכרת בתיה יתחיל את פעילותו ב-4.11, בהנחיית אביאור ביירון.
 
פרטים נוספים בהמשך…
 

קצת על המסלול:
 
פרשנות של טקסטים היא עניין משותף לתחום היהדות-ישראליות, לתחום המוסיקה ולתחומים ביצועיים אחרים. בעוד הנושא האידיאולוגי הוא בולט בתחום היהדות והציונות, בתחום המוסיקה ההקשרים התרבותיים והחברתיים לעתים נסתרים. במסלול המוסיקה של בית המדרש נאזין ונצפה בוידיאו ביצירות קלאסיות בביצועים שונים, ונקרא כתבים של מבצעים המתייחסים למטרות ולאסתטיקת הביצוע שלהם. מטרת הדיונים לחוות ולדון כיצד ביצועים מוזיקאליים יכולים לשרת ערכים שונים (כגון "נאמנות" למלחין, ביטוי עצמי של המבצע כיוצר, לאומיות ומיניות) ולהשפיע באופן משמעותי על החוויה המוזיקאלית. אין צורך בידע או ניסיון מוזיקאלי מוקדמים.
אביאור ביירון, אבא לילדה בקשת, ינחה את המפגשים. ביירון הוא בעל תואר דוקטור למוסיקה מאוניברסיטת לונדון. הוא לימד ארבע שנים באוניברסיטת בר-אילן. כעת הוא שוקד על כתיבת ספר בהוצאת אוניברסיטת אוקספורד. פרטים נוספים ובלוג ניתן למצוא באתר www.bymusic.org

Problem: should I study music in an academic institution?

Should I study in a music department?

One of the dilemmas that young people have is whether or not to study in an academic institution. There could be several thoughts against the idea of doing so: (1) ‘Learning academic stuff will ruin inspiration. Music should come from the heart and too much theory is problematic in this aspect.’ (2) The music field is a hard one and the academic career is even harder. Mama says: ‘go and learn to be a computer programmer and make a living.’ (3) ‘Will the studies help me at all? Why not study only what I feel that I need privately or from books?’ In this post I will try to challenge these negative thoughts and argue that for some people it is indeed worth while to study in certain academic musical institutions.

Heart vs. Brain in music

I do not believe that music should come only from the heart. Composers and performers work considerably with their eyes and hands. It is true that there are cases of people who do not know to read notes or studied only from hearing and playing. However, there are also many examples of great musicians who attended music schools and learned much in order to do what they did. I guess that it actually depends on what kind of music you want to do and which connections you wish to establish. Try to check where the musicians that you admire studied and see if you can study there too. Another practical advice would be to seek information about the teachers teach in the institute that you wish to study in, and see whether you like what you find. If you have a teacher who you wish to study with see if he or she are still there. A person told me that he once moved from Israel to London in order to study with a certain professor which he believed to be part of a certain department. Only after he arrived there he discovered that the professor was an emeritus professor – he already retired.

Learning academic stuff will ruin inspiration

Schools can destroy inspiration and one should be aware of it. If you have teachers that have a negative or too critical attitude, or if the institution does not encourage creativity, than this atmosphere might stick also to you. Try to choose the teachers and courses that inspire you and avoid (or visit less) the ones that do not. It is good to keep in mind that there is no perfect music department. If you have 60% of good teachers than you are very lucky. On the other hand, I remember that when I did my PhD in Royal Holloway, University of London, I had a discussion with a student from the Czech Republic who moved to London to do his MA in this department. He said that while in Brno he had both good and bad teachers, in RHUL’s music department the teachers where all excellent. Yet, this is perhaps true for only the top music department in the world.     

Keep a positive attitude

I think that if you come with a positive attitude to study music than you will learn a lot. I had a terrible teacher in my BA who taught me several theory lessons. I truly suffered from his lessons since he had a tendency to repeat everything he said about 600 times. The problem that he said the same things in ALL lessons! Two years after I finished my BA I was living in Prague and one day, while walking on the beautiful streets of this city, I suddenly thought about something that he said (I cannot recall just now what it was). And I said to myself: ‘this is one thing that he said that is really interesting!’. A positive attitude that I would like to advocate is one that argues that you can learn from anyone. Come to every lesson with the knowledge that you will learn something valuable from it, even if you are not crazy about the teacher.

Why not learn from books?

The idea of going to a music school is that you meet interesting people. Yes, you can learn all this through the web or from books. However, it is much more fun to learn from people. Enjoyment is one of the things that make learning more effective. I would suggest combining an autodidactic approach with the normal learning process. Spend lots of your time in the library and be active in search of information and musical experiences. Scan thorough books, learn to know where the different books in the library are, listen to CDs and records, and watch videos. Do this from your first day in the music department. Time passes fast and you will soon discover that you finished your studies there. Simultaneously, spend time with people: perform with them; eat with them; and talk with people about music. This will shape your world, give you access to valuable information and establish connections that will help you in the future.

How to choose a music department?

Talk to teachers and talk to students. Ask whether they are happy there and whether it is a good place to study in. Ask about both positive and negative things that are in the music department (there are always also negative aspects in each and every place). Try to learn as much as possible about the stuff and program.

Learn music and lose money

So your mother is worried that you will have no serious job after you graduate. She is right. Consider this carefully. When I taught in an academic music institute I told my students that life is far from being simple after one graduates. People who study music are sometime rich, but usually quite crazy. They know that life will be hard, but they do it anyway. They simply love music and want to learn everything about it. This is why I did it, and this is why I still do it today.

It will help you in the future – wherever you’ll be

At the end of the day it is really your feeling that should guide you. Examine all positive and negative considerations and then let your mother decide from you (just kidding). If you are talented and love music, you will probably find you way. Moreover, you can always do something else after you finish you studies. At the moment I live from managing a translation company and language school. I love my job. It is hard but it inspires me. I still do research on music and write in this blog. Actually, since I worked in this company I have more money to spend on music then if I were a music teacher. Moreover, I worked in the past in computers and also as an academic music teacher. So it is very possible that I will teach also in the future somewhere. It is clear to me that my life is not going in one clear path. I think that this enriches my life and makes it more interesting. I have different perspectives than most musicians when I write about music; and I use my academic training to learn things, analyze and make decision as a general manager of my company. I also use my knowledge in computer programming in order to build and promote this website. This is perhaps the best argument for going to learn in a music institute: learn whatever you can, be focused and look, criticize and value what you study. You can be sure that it will help you in the future – wherever you’ll be.

For people who are able to fit in institutions – at least partly, for those who are curious, it is possible a good idea to go and study in a music department in an academic institution. Remember that when you are in an academic institution there are many other department and libraries that can be visited. Use this opportunity. Whatever you decide, remember that it is not irreversible. You could always go to another department in the middle of your studies. I started learning composition, switched to orchestral conducting at my second year and add also musicology to my curriculum at the fourth year (I already had many courses in musicology in my program). This turned out to be an important decision since at the end I did a PhD in musicology. The decision was simple. After I took several courses in the musicology department in Tel-Aviv I say that I am learning there more and that I am enjoying there more than in the composition and conducting class. On the other hand, one should keep in mind that if you change an institute in the middle of your studies, you might find out that they are demanding you to learn many courses or even a whole academic year that you would not have to do otherwise. This is there way of arguing that they are better than your previous university, and this is their way of making more money.

I hope that you found this post interesting and perhaps even helpful. Feel free to comment in the form below.

Music University on the web

Being a young music scholar in Israel is almost impossible. In other counties it is also very hard. A few words about the situation in Israel, which could serve as a case study. There are only five small universities: Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv University, Haifa University, Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. There is only one musicological department in Jerusalem which has only four scholars who are there on a permanent basis and there is something almost non existent in Bar-Ilan. In Tel-Aviv the department was closed about two years ago because some, of I have heard, played with the University’s money and lost it in the stock exchange! Haifa and Ben-Gurion have no department of musicology. Moreover, the tendency to cut budgets in social sciences makes the future not very optimistic.

How young scholars react

The reaction of young music scholars is one of the three: (1) build (usually false) hopes that one day they will be part of one on the few Israeli music departments. Some of them even agree to teach for free (I know this as a fact in the Bar-Ilan music department)! (2) They leave Israel and go to work in America or Europe; (3) They give up the profession all together and keep it as a hobby.
 
This is a grave situation since it casts doubts on the future of Israeli’s music culture. I have written in a post Some thoughts on the Israel Musicological Society’s website  that without people writing quality books and article on music, our music culture will slowly die.
 

Teach and write on the web

What can one do about this situation? Here is one idea that might work. Imagine that you could make a course on the web. Let say, a course about Harmony or the history of music. You would sit down once a week for several hours and prepare your course/s. Then you will write down the main ideas of your lesson in a text that will about be 500 – 1500 words long (or longer if you like). As time will pass you will find that instead of 5 or 10 people sitting in you class, as one can find in real universities in Israel, you will have 30 people reading your lesson every week and commenting and asking questions. As time will pass (let say two years) there will be 300 people every week reading and reacting to your each of your lessons.
 

Teach music for Money

Moreover, you will receive some money from the advertisements on the pages of your lessons. So from the long-term perspective, the web will pay you more than most universities pay these days.
 

The problems

Music scholars are usually not technical people. They find it hard to open websites like my own and some even fear technology. They are also not educated with relation to the internet world. Most of them are not aware that people spend more and more time on the web while music departments in universities are growing smaller and smaller.
 
Some scholars feel that the web is only for common people. They feel that high level writing and good ideas can be found only in scholarly music journals. My personal experience is that there is lots of rubbish on the web and in music journals. One can occasionally find very interesting things in music journals, and equally – on the web. The fact that leading music department are opening online music journals is telling. You can find also intersting music links to website for scholars and search engines like google scholar and google books.
 

A possible solution

If you want to try to open a course on the web you are welcome to receive free advice from me on how to open your own website. You are also welcome to do it on my website, if your course subject is somehow related to performance, composition or theory of classical music. I welcome other fields like popular music, jazz, ethnomusicology, etc. If you decide to publish your course on my site you will receive all of the money from clicks on advertisements on your pages. You will receive detailed monthly information concerning how many people read your course pages, how long they stayed on the page and in what city in the world they live. Think about it: when you prepare one lesson in a class you receive a one time payment which is very poor. On the web you will receive monthly payments for years.
 
I am aware that blogging and courses on the web is not a perfect solution. However, I truly believe that the world of scholarship is going to change drastically during the next fifty years due to the web. Be one of the first people to join this revolution.

 

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Hans Eisler, Good listening and the isolation of composers and musicologists from public

In 1957 Hans Eisler wrote an essay titled ‘On Good Listening’. He claimed that there ‘could be no musical culture without good listening and without ear training.’ (Hans Eisler, *A Rebel in Music: Selected Writings*, ed. Mafred Grabs (Berlin: Seven Seas, 1978), p. 175) He claims that despite of the great musical tradition there is a lack of musical knowledge in Germany ‘due to fatal heritage of class privilege in the musical life of capitalist society’.
 
What Eisler means by knowledge is not completely clear. Does he have in mind the score-obsessed academic ear training that aims that the student will recognize certain chords, intervals and learn to sing notes? No. It seems that he merely wants the masses to be acquainted with ‘high culture’. In other words, what he has in mind is the so called ‘listening appreciation’. Yet Eisler is not naïve. He admits that it will be impossible to change the contemporary peasant or worker. He aims ‘educating the grandchild of this worker’!
 
The problem that bothers him is the gab between the public and the composers: the almost empty concert halls. It seems that this was a life long concert, since in 1928 he wrote another essay called ‘On the Situation in Modern Music’ where he complained against art that is ‘frightfully isolated’ and composers who work ‘merely for the sake of writing’ (Ibid., p. 27). At that year he suggested a solution: ‘Choose texts and subjects that concern as many people as possible. Try to understand your own time and do not get caught up in mere formalities. Discover the people, the real people, discover day-to-day life for your art, and then perhaps you will be re-discovered’.
 
Whether the workers are the ‘real people’ as Eisler seems to suggest, I do not know. Nevertheless, it is clear to me that the problem of isolation between composers and the public is true not only in the 1920s and 1950s, but also in our times. Communism did not solve this problem. Classical music, so it is claimed, seems to be in a decline (at least in America).
 
I must admit that as a musicologist and composer I am concerned by the same problem. What is the solution? This website is perhaps one solution. Yet I have no illusions that my academic writings or my music will suddenly compete with popular music. Nevertheless, the internet has the ability to connect people of similar interests from around the globe.
 
What do you think? Comment on this post in the form below. 
 
Eisler wrote in a variety of musical geners. Here are two videos that manifest this variety:  
 
    

 

06 Hanns Eisler — Elegie 1939, poem by Bertolt Brecht


 

 

Hanns Eisler - Nonett nr.1, Variationen


How to give a successful conference paper

Giving a successful conference paper is not an easy task. I have seen more people fail communicating during conferences than people who presented their arguments in an affective manner. In my Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music I promised to write about how to give a conference paper. In this post I will give several tips that might help improving a conference paper thus achieving better communication and a stronger effect.

Practice make perfect: read your paper before the conference and measure
Most papers are limited to twenty minutes (with additional time for questions). It is not uncommon to see scholars who do not finish their paper reading on time (I am speaking now about conferences that one reads from a paper). A simple way to avoid this embarrassing situation is to read the paper you plan to give a few days before the conference takes place, and measure the duration. If you measure the time it takes to read the paper you can decide to make changes accordingly. Take into consideration that the pace of reading during a conference is usually different than when you are more relaxed at home. It is better to leave two-three minute spare so that you do not feel in a rush during the reading. This will also give a more relaxed impression during your reading and motive more people to listen to you. I saw some experienced scholars to write on their papers instructions what to leave out in case that the time will run out.

Present your paper before family and friends and record it
It is very effective to gather a few people that you trust their opinion and read the paper before them. This could be an excellent way to prepare to the conference. Ask these people to tell you what they understood from your paper. Try that the audience will include people who have a potential to understand your paper and others who are not from the field of your study (perhaps even not scholars at all). Receiving feedback can help you understand how you look and what is actually being communicated to others. Recording the session can help you see how you are talking and this will surely help you improve.

Body language
Some people argue that eighty percent of what one communicates is body language. When you prepare your paper you can add performance signs that will refer to body movements that you would like to use in order to underline, illuminate or express the things you say. Take into consideration that movements are an excellent way to keep your listeners listening to you. With one an unexpected movement you might gain the attention of people many people who are otherwise lost, dreaming, or asleep. Yet it is important not to be rude or too sudden – you do not want to achieve listening, yet cause a bad effect on your lecture!

Using power point
If you decide to use power point or any other visual presentation of text, make sure that the text size is greater than 18 and that there are a relatively little number of words that are presented. The power point presentation (unlike the hand-out) is useful for two reasons: (1) it gives the listeners an orientation in case that they get lost during your lecture (trust me, this happens all the time); (2) it gives you structure to your lecture. Do not present table with lots of data that no one will see. In other words, keep your power point text very short.

Check that everything is working before the lecture
Make sure that you will have time before the paper giving to come to the place and check if everything is working. Check whether people can hear you. Check whether the person at the last row can read your power point presentation. Check whether people can hear your sound examples. Make sure that you feel at home (as much as possible).

Keep your ideas simple
Take into consideration that when one reads a text, one can stop and think about it, change the pace of reading, return to the text, etc. During the paper you give, people will not have the possibility to do so. This is why keeping the ideas simple and even repeating them (something that you would like to avoid in an article or a book) is important.

After you give the paper
Do not forget to speak to people that heard your paper in the conference. You will learn an important lesson on what you actualy managed to communicate and what not. Ask more than one person so that you will be able to receive more than one perspective.

Relevant posts:
The difference between a poor critic and a good scholar
How to write good texts about music

Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music

Please believe me when I write that it was one of the best conferences that I have attended. Due to traffic jams I missed the first hour of so of the IMS conference. I heard two papers: one by Shulamit Marom and the other by Alona Sagi. Both were very interesting. They made me think, and this is something that I cannot say about many of the papers that I heard in other conferences. Moreover, they both presented sound recordings, and this is something that is often absent from discussions about music. You probably all know the lectures that speak about music in a highly detailed manner, assuming that everybody knows about what performance you one is speaking about, and neglecting the act of listening to the recording with the audience.

Shulamit Marom made a distinction between “Mandate songs” that were written in Tel-Aviv and other that were written in the “Yeshuv” (elsewhere). David Halperin suggested that making a distinction between the two categories will not stand scrutiny in many cases. I have little knowledge about Zemer to know whether Halperin is right. I did wonder whether our contemporary thinking of Tel-Aviv as a “bubble” that is disconnected from the rest of Israel, especially in relation to the territories and the second war in Lebanon, affected the categorization that Shulamit Maron suggested to us in her research. Anyway, Shulamit Marom’s presentation was very clear and enjoyable. It is possible to see that she is a very gifted lecturer.

Alona Sagi examined the improvisation of Miles Davies in “Walkin’” during the 50s and 60s. She observed that as time passed there was a change from “vertical thinking” to “linar thinking” on the one hand, and a tendency towards “free jazz”, on the other hand. She mentioned the presence of young and experimental musicians in the 60s as something that stimulated this change. Sagi’s transcriptions were impressive and it was fun reading them while listening to the music and hearing her comments. I am using the word “fun” on purpose, since enjoying a paper is something that should be taken for granted. It was a pity that she did not manage to finish her paper due to time limit. Although she blamed it on technical issues of handing the CD, I think that a well prepared paper would predict such problems and avoid them. In the next few days I plan to write a post on “How to give a paper in conferences: useful tips”. I wondered whether there are more social and cultural issues that affected the technical change that Sagi described in the performance of Miles Davis. I enjoyed listening to this music after so many years.

After that session, there was a general meeting of the society. It was sad to see how much money was spent on the internet site of the society. Prof. Edwin Seroussi rightly argued that three years ago it was reasonable to pay such sums for buliding a website, while today websites (at least ones on the level that was presented) are constructed almost for free. I plan to write a post about the IMS website and what I see as possibilities for the future.

The second part of the conference was devoted to “what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music”. I could not stay until the end of the conference. I had to leave an hour earlier so I did not manage to hear the paper given by Prof. Judith Cohen and people that spoke thereafter. This session was simulations very interesting and disappointing. It was fascinating to see how people deeply care about the miserable situation that there are almost no books to read in Hebrew (most of them are not updated and out of print). Some of the comments were truly illuminating (I will come back to them in a moment).

The “paper” given by Gila Flamm was disappointing. It was mainly an improvisation that amounted to a presentation of “facts” by browsing through items in the National Libraries catalog. There was little information given on the nature of the books that were mentioned, and of the frequency that people read them. There was no attempt to categorize the types of readers and the various manners that people read Hebrew books on music. There was no discussion on the history of institutions approaching the library for such books. Is this information not available?

The paper given by Elisheva Rigby had few interesting points. She said that we must be able to explain to ourselves why writing about music is essential to Israeli culture if we wish to convince others. Her argument was based on the idea that any knowledge and culture are based on discourse. She mentioned the myth of the composer at the top of the creative musicians, the performers as those who could not compose, the conductors as those who could not play an instrument, and the musicologists and critics at the bottom of the hierarchy, the perfect impotents, as those who could not do anything but talk. This myth, as Rigby said, is based on the idea of “originality” that is initiated from one source. Postmodern views demonstrate how the construction of meaning is done in a social network. In other words, the hierarchy is different and every cultural agent contributes in potentially significant ways. It seems to me that the myth of the “genius composer” is, unfortunately, sustained also among many musicologists in Israel and the world. This is why performance is regarded by many as a marginal and unimportant activity in relation to composing. The composer Zippi Fleisher said in the conference something like “what can one do, it all starts with the composer, and then one performs it, and then one writes about it”. This is an old fashioned and anachronistic view of what is happening in musical culture. Beethoven would never be famous if it would not be for music critics and musicologists who wrote about him and elevated him as a Romantic icon. We would not hear Beethoven the way we do, and he would not symbolize what he does, without the words that were written on him.

In my blog there is a poll asking why there are almost no books on music in Hebrew. Many people blamed it on the academy who demands that books will be written in English. Prof. Don Haran speculated in the conference why is it possible that the French and the Italians would never think writing in a language different than their own, and we seem to find it natural to write in English. This comment was thought provoking.

Prof. Yoash Hirshberg explained how disappointing it was to find that his book on Paul Ben-Haim is not available anymore. He was especially disappointed that his publisher Am-Oved did not find it important enough to keep a few copies of the book. He compared the Israeli publisher with Oxford University Press that published one of his books in two prints and then kept an electronic copy for anyone who might be interested. There was bitterness in his voice from the attitude of Am-Oved, whom he called “a commercial publication house” and he ended his comment by saying that in the present situation he has no motivation for writing anything more in Hebrew.

As mentioned about, I could not stay for the last session. The first session of the second part, which I just described, was not well organized. The speakers were not well-prepared (in England it is considered not serious to give a paper without reading from a text that was prepared in advance). Elisheva Rigbi gave herself too much liberty in commenting on the comments of others, something that took too much time of the session.

This session, was however, successful. It was interesting for me to hear the comments that some of them I have mentioned above. One of the fascinating comments in this session and the one before, were made my Prof. Ruth Katz. She stressed again and again that we must define our goals before we take action. It is useless to speak about low attendance of members and that fact that there are almost no students who find it important to attend the IMS conference (I agree that they must be forced to attend by making their presence obligatory for finishing their studies), if the IMS in general and Min-Ad in particular do not define their goals. With goals well-defined much can be achieved with limited energy. Without it, one is lost. It was wonderful to hear that an evening is organized in honor of her 80th birthday.

The conference, it seems to me, was successful. I wounder if any practical points for action were defined during the last session. It would be useful that in future conference smaller groups will be organized in round tables so that there will be more space for interaction. In any case, it is wonderful that Elisheva Rigbi, Rivka Elkushi and others initiated and organized this conference on around this important theme.

I will be glad if anyone who attended the conference will comment on it or on what I have written above. I am especially interested in knowing what happened in the last part that I could not attend. One of the reasons that I opened this blog is to attribute to the Israeli discourse on music. My assumption is that if we want a discourse to occur we must actively contribute to it. So please take a few minutes and comment by filling the form below or by sending me your comment for publication in this forum.

Related posts:
Here it comes מה יש ומה אין לקרוא על מוסיקה בעברית
Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”
Response to Dr Elisheva Rigbi’s second comment: are we normal?
Why my Blog is in English: an answer to Dr. Elisheva Rigbi
We seem to fail doing the very same thing in music

See also
Article on the conference published in Achbar Ha-Ir

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Postgraduate scholarships for music students

One of the purposes of this site is to collect useful links for music (and other) scholars in Israel and the world. I have recently added a category to my research links page. The new category is called: “Postgraduate scholarships“. This page contains links to many very useful postgraduate scholarships. As usual, I tried not to make a list of everything, but to collect only the most interesting and helpful links. You can find in this site information about how to write a research proposal that may enhance the chances that you will receive one of these scholarships.

How to become an excellent scholar

I think that anyone who cares about his work should strive to be an excellent scholar. Here are some thoughts of how one might achieve it.

Keep your contacts
I read somewhere (a few years ago) that I well known musicologist (I forgot his or her name) one suggested that a scholar should keep his contact book well organized. This piece of advice is worth gold. If I have achieved a few things in the past few years, it was a lot due to contacts that I kept. Yes, you must know to do the work. However, keep in good contact with people that are aware of your work, can recommend your work to others and might offer you things when they turn up

Think about your goals
Know what is interesting for you, what is important in your eyes and to where you are heading. Excellent scholars are long run swimmers. All your work should be structured around your goals. It is good here and there to reexamine your goals and to let yourself do things that are completely unexpected or unrelated to your goals. This might help your creativity and it might help you benefit from new discoveries. However, a scholar without clear goals is like a ship without a captain. Keep this in mind when you prepare a research proposal.

Methodology
When you read the works of others think not only about what they say but also about the methods they use to do research and to present it. Methodology is a big issue. Good methodologies are the key for major discoveries and achievements.

Pray to God
It is true that one needs to work hard to be an excellent scholar. Luck however is also very important. You should be in the right place and in the right time, and speak to the right people. Go to conferences. Be friendly. But most important, pray to God.

The difference between a poor critic and a good scholar

In my post “Musicology, Science and Postmodernism” I asked:

So what is the difference between a poor musical critic, who may speak about food when writing about music, and a musicologist who is supposed to transcend personal subjective metaphors and speak with slightly more authority?

This post is an attempt to answer this question.

Solid Evidence
Scholars are supposed to support their arguments with solid evidence. The more solid it is the better job you do. Try to attack the problem from various angles and show that your arguments is working well from all (or most) of them.

Usually, an argument is built from several sub-arguments. Try to show that authoritative scholars around the world support various part of your argument. Authoritative scholars are those who are famous and usually are being quoted by many other people.

Making the extra mile
It is hard work to find solid evidence to your claim. You might need to contact archives and libraries on the other side of the planet. You probably need so spend much time in libraries and archives. You will need to write research and grant proposals in order to obtain scholarships for traveling to distant places (archives, libraries or field work). A good scholar makes the extra mile. Most people usually give up too early and do not know how close they were to success.

Dealing with criticism
A scholar is supposed to predict criticism and welcome it. Criticism is something that most people find hard to listen to. Yet, criticism is something that may help you support your argument or change it so that it will be more solid. One should find ways to overcome one’s defense mechanisms and learn from criticism.

Writing with authority
Make it clear from the outset of your document what you plan to deal with in this work and what is out of the game. Declaring the frame around your work his helpful in order to make your arguments solider and defense them from criticism.

Write with authority. Use less words that show doubt like “possible”, “I think”, “perhaps”; use more sentences that claim to say something very clear about how things actually are, according to your argument.

Having said this, do not present things as fact when they are not. It is completely fine to present things as partial of as issues that need further research. If you write with too much authority about issues that are not clear, you can be sure that other people will attack your conclusions.

Writing style
Constantly pay attention to the way experienced scholars write. They usually pay great attention to small details. Some people suggest to convert passive voice to an active one, or to eliminate redundancy. It is also useful to break up excessively long sentences. All this is true. However, there are many other tips that you can learn concerning your writing style. Read not only what people write but how they present it.

Have fun
Different people define “fun” is different ways. Nevertheless, if your readers will not enjoy reading what you have to say, that means that you have less chances to gain authority in their eyes. Be kind to your readers. Take into consideration their time and respect it. I do not suggest that you should write jokes in your research. On the contrary, non-formality is usually interpreted in a negative way. Yet you would prefer that people will enjoy reading what you write. If people enjoy doing things they usually learn from it more and interact with it in a more productive manner. This is why it is always good to choose a subject that you love for your research.

Critic vs. Scholar
I opened the post with the question concerning the difference between a poor critic and a good scholar. The truth is that it is not black or white. A good scholar is also a critic. Scholars say their opinion about what they write. They do not pretend to be scientists in an age where humanities are understood as something that must transcend “objective” inquiry. Moreover, a good critic is not just a person who spreads his or her subjective view. A good critic knows how to write well and how to build an argument. The best critics also know the scholarship related to their criticism. In other words, a good critic must also be something of a scholar, and a good scholar must be a critic.

Copyright Avior Byron 2020 .