Apr 23, 2010

Update + Kitsch

In honor of Riva's new blog post, I shall update mine as well.*

Life is kind of bordering on chaotic at the moment. I chose two equally ambitious topics for my final research projects in my classes, and though I have been dutifully chipping away at them, my deadline to have everything finished and handed in is in one month. That doesn't include required drafts and presentations, which all happen in the next two weeks. I am trying not to panic too badly about all of this, but am having scant success.

This week I did a few things that are completely out of the ordinary for me, though hopefully not for long. I spent Wednesay, my non-Starbucks day of work, at the New York Public Library's main branch in Midtown. Therein lies the Dorot Jewish Studies division, an archival collection of ... Jewish studies. And they had some literature and sheet music on my New York Yiddish theater project (Rumshinsky research, as I call it). I spent five straight hours sitting in the most opulent reading room of any library ever, poring through elusive books and sheet music, and more or less oblivious to the passing of time and tourists. I had also been in touch with a music archivist from the Center for Jewish History, a conglomeration of five private Jewish foundations, about my research topic. As it turned out, she was available to meet with me yesterday, as I was already at work, so at the last minute, I found myself hastening the five blocks to CJS to do some research. Fortunately I had my materials from the previous day on hand, so I wasn't at a complete loss.

The music archivist turned out to be an older Jewish woman, and I felt a bit badass as she led me (slowly) out of the reading room through a staff door, down a very long hallway, up a short flight of stairs, and through a locked door to the YIVO offices and archives. We sat and discussed my research. She had already looked up a bit of information on Rumshinsky before our meeting, and showed me what she had found. YIVO, you see, has a sheet music collection over seven feet long which, if you think about how little space sheet music occupies, is a pretty substantial collection indeed. As I sat at a table in the middle of the office, poring through the catalog of the sheet music holdings, I couldn't help but be slightly envious of the lucky archivist who got to compile the catalog in the first place.

Anyway. After finding the correct numbers, I had to go back down to the reading room (a truly impressive library) in order to request to see the sheet music. Which I obviously did. Best part, though, is that the YIVO archivist on duty let me go back up to the offices to photocopy things myself! Again, I felt pretty badass.

My other research project is turning out to be not nearly as glamorous: tracing the spread of tango from Argentina to Europe and America. Finland has a pretty impressive tango tradition, and it has been interesting to ponder the global appeal of tango and how Finnish tango developed in concurrence with, and diverged from, Argentine tango.

Next weekend I am participating in a musicological discussion for a conference happening at the Graduate Center: Graduate Studies in Music Symposium, GSIMS for short. The abstract I had sent to them was not accepted to the conference proper, but along with a handful of other graduate students, I was invited to take place in a morning discussion. I accepted, of course. Doing so means several hours' worth of reading and listening to required books and scores in preparation, as if I didn't have enough to keep me busy already. Still, it's something for the resume.

To keep from going crazy, I've been doing a bit of stitching. The other night I finished this tea towel for Nick's dad. I made it entirely myself, from buying the fabric, to cutting and squaring and hemming it, to stamping that awesomely anthropomorphic pattern, to sewing it, to painstakingly adding the rick rack at the bottom. And it's easily the kitschiest thing I've made thusfar in my crafting endeavors, although now that Mamamia has sent me my sewing machine, that might change altogether.

 In other, non-academic/crafty news, I booked a ticket back to Iowa for the end of next month. It's going to be kind of a short trip, but I am looking forward to seeing everyone!