This post was written for my Bibliography & Research in Music (MUTH 65200) course at Ithaca College. I will be posting eight reflections from the class here throughout the course of the semester. You can find the other posts under the category Bib Class Reflections.
I found “The Prime Difficulty: What Is My Subject” to be the most provoking of the three readings we were assigned. Jacques Barzun suggests that the “subject exists only when the object is finished,” but also that the final object can’t be completed without first visualizing, in detail, the subject. His writing speaks to the paradoxical, messy job of writing, which requires a plan but is also a process of discovery. I’ve personally experienced this messiness many times, but have been frustrated in the past with guides to research that are purely formulaic. Their step by step process doesn’t account for the rabbit trails, the necessary detours, the complete re-writes that I think Barzun would agree is part of quality research.
Most effective in the reading for me was Barzun’s illustrative likening of a researcher-reporter to a clay sculptor who sculpts only from memory. The clearer the image (the subject) in his mind’s eye, the clearer the final result. The work of sculpting, as in writing, is to get align the physical and mental through trial and error. I am extrapolating a little here, but I think he also implies that the clearer the image, the faster the process. Is it also possible that the image sharpens *as* the physical shaping happens? This would match the experience I’ve had many times of my writing actually clarifying my thoughts–not the other way around.
The research guides on annotated biblographies from University of Toledo and Deborah Knott, were, for the most part, in the style of those step by step approaches I mentioned above. But I don’t mean to outright dismiss them as non-valuable. I found the definitive answer to what an annotated bibliography is (“an account of the research that has been done on a given topic”), the guiding question, “What *problem* am I investigating?”, and the examples of both successful and unsuccessful annotations to be illuminating.
The resource guides on writing an annotated bibliography will give me a starting point and will, at the end of the day, help me check to proper boxes to make sure the assignment is complete. But it is the Barzun article that will give me reassurance when I– which I surely will– stray into the tangled web of research complexity. Burzun’s piece will remind me that overwhelming complexity is part of the work of the researcher on the way toward a true, reliable, and orderly piece.
What questions am I interested in? What problems am I interested in solving?
I have so many questions that I sometimes feel just as overwhelmed as I do excited by the idea of research. My interests, of course, stem from music education, which is where my primary professional focus is. I’ve found over time, though, that almost any train of thought can be tied back to learning and education.
Here is a list of my interests…
- Generally I’m fascinated by pedagogical methods and the philosophy of education, including the work of Maria Montessori, Paolo Friere, Lev Vygotsky, Schinichi Suzuki, Clifford Madsen, Robert Duke, and many others.
- I also love musicology and music history, and am most drawn to contemporary music and modern musical practices.
- I’ve studied rhetoric and peace studies, so I regularly study the individual, institutional, and cultural forms of violence and peace present in various fields.
- Furthermore, I’ve spent the past year slowly learning about Japanese Zen Buddhism and its affects on Japanese cultural, especially the forms zazen, kihnin, kyudo, chado, shodo, and Aikido.
- Because of my time spent participating in housing and food cooperatives, I’ve also delved into writing on cooperative business models, sustainable practices (E. F. Schumacher, Rachel Carson, Rabindranath Tagore, etc.).
- Another topic which I’ve spent less time researching, but strongly believe in is fair representation and opportunity for women and non cis-gendered persons, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
- And finally, I love gardening, veganism, minimalism, poetry, bicycle mechanics, architecture, and travel.
I’m interested in such a variety of fields that the processing of narrowing down to a single, specific topic seems daunting. I want to relate my topic to my work here at Ithaca College — in violin performance and Suzuki Pedagogy — but also want to delve into an area that I haven’t yet done too much academic research.
One idea that I am particularly excited about right now is studying the impact of Japanese Zen Buddhism on Dr. Shinichi Suzuki’s pedagogy. I’ve extensively studied Suzuki’s life and philosophy through his own books and in Suzuki teacher training, but I haven’t read any research on how his theories on “Life Force” and mastery relate to Japanese Zen arts and philosophy. As someone who both practices Zen and teaches the Suzuki Method, I think it would be in my best interest to study this connection, as well as to the benefit of the Suzuki community to present this research.
Some other questions I would be interested in pursuing related to the Suzuki Method…
- How could the co-operative model be applied to the private violin studio or music classroom?
- How does the representation of women (or lack thereof) as composers, performers, and pedagogues in the Suzuki Method affect students of the Suzuki Method?
- What contemporary pieces does a responsible, modern Suzuki teacher use to prepare their students for the extended techniques and new harmonies of this modern and post-modern music landscape in 2017?
- What are the “radical” ways private teachers offer affordable access to lessons and cultivate an inclusive, diverse studio environment?
I look forward to settling on a topic and really diving into it!