Lots of writing, not much blogging

It’s that time of year again.

For many people it is a crazy time, filled with competing work and family demands. For me, there is some of that craziness, but mostly I am feeling the satisfaction of having got through a long period of competing deadlines relatively unscathed.

Over the last three months I’ve completed three book chapters, several conference abstracts, an article for The Conversation, and got to grips with two new software packages that (hopefully, in time) will yield tremendous productivity gains in this PhD adventure! Needless to say, it’s been a lot of screen time. Hence the silence on the blogging front.

I’ve been working on my Bosnia case study. Here’s a bit of a run-down:

For one of the book chapters, I explored an idea that I called “life-space” – the real and imagined boundaries of a quotidian lived experience, and the expansion/contraction of these. The war in Mostar contracted the life-space of many of its young citizens very dramatically. The way they described their experiences of playing and learning music at the Pavarotti Music Centre suggested that it had resulted in expansions of their life-space in a number of dimensions – physical/geographical, personal/emotional, and social. It was an interesting way to analyse the participants’ descriptions of their experiences.

I’ve also developed a framework for understanding the goals and intentions of many music interventions in conflict-affected settings. These kinds of projects are initiated in response to particular needs, such as the need to create dialogue towards conflict resolution or peacebuilding, the need for psychosocial healing, the need for positive and productive activities for young people to supplement limited education and employment opportunities, the need to ensure music education opportunities (either within formal schooling or in addition to it), or the need to address the destruction of cultural knowledge, taking strategic steps to nurture and regenerate it.

The other two chapters laid out this framework, explaining the contexts that lead to these areas becoming priorities, and the ways that music interventions can offer meaningful and purposeful responses. One of the chapters used the Pavarotti Music Centre as a case study, to see how these different goals and intentions are realised through community-based cultural action.

Relevant to my research, although somewhat peripheral, are discussions surrounding the next set of development goals, and so I’ve been following these fairy closely. The Millennium Development Goals have set the global development agenda since 2000, but they expire at the end of 2014, and a new set of what are called Sustainable Development Goals will be adopted by the United Nations Member States in September 2015. There is a lot of discussion and debate about what the SDGs should be (they will basically set the agenda for the next 15 years, and I added my voice to the argument for the inclusion of culture in an article for the online daily, The Conversation. You can read it here.

I was then invited to update the article for publication in the Media Asia Journal, and that print publication will come out in January, I believe.

This week, with the last of the book chapters at the final stages of editing (trying to get the word count down), I’m happily able to return my attention to my raw data. It feels like ages since I’ve been able ‘hang out’ in the transcripts, thinking and exploring, and following lines of thought that arise as I read and make links with the literature that I’m constantly exploring. What a luxury! I am a pig in s**t these days, as the saying goes.

So, lots of writing going on. Not as much playing and singing and just thinking in music as I’d like, so that is a balance I’d like redress next year. But coming up is my annual Christmas carol-singing party, so in the spirit of that, please enjoy this Christmas classic! Not quite a carol, but a number we’ll definitely be including this year.

Not as much blogging going on either. Thanks for hanging in there, subscribers! Back in the saddle now.

6 comments so far

  1. Mandy Carver on

    Hi Gillian, Happy New Year! Glad to hear you have had such a fun time. I have just started a full time PhD so hope to have as much fun with it as you are having. What software were you referring to? And what conferences? I am off to CDIME in Helskinki in June. With a bit of luck might I see you there? I hope to visit Australia again in 2016 for my sister’s 50th. All the best for the year! By the way, my email address has changed, so I have signed up for your blog posts with the new – do you ever delete the dead ones?

    • Gillian Howell on

      HI Mandy – lovely to hear from you! Congrats on starting the PhD too. I am not going to CDIME this year… I prioritised a couple of other conferences but am yet to hear back from them… so we shall see what I end up doing. I’ve been working with Dedoose software for data analysis, as an alternative to NVivo. I’ll write a blog post about my experiences sometime soon I hope. Also Scrivener, which I like. Also MuseScore (a free alternative to Sibelius) which has been good. It has some annoying quirks but overall it is a great product, and very useful to have. Do I ever delete the old blog posts – no! It is quite an archive now. Interestingly, my most popular posts continue to be some of those I wrote in my first year of blogging. It will be great to see you in 2016, hopefully. Let’s aim to meet and have a mini-conference on our PhD work.

  2. Laurie on

    Dear Gillian,

    You’re doing sublime work. I would’ve expected nothing less.

    I just found you after all these years.

    Keep on with the noble work.


    (Budapest, the Ministry of Culture, Erasure, a ladder in the middle of the night, Kecskemét)

    • Gillian Howell on

      Laurie Lee! How awesome to hear from you… your recollections make me smile. Especially the ladder story. Except that it wasn’t in the middle of the night. Remember that couple that were strolling in Naphegy Utca let us stay in their apartment until morning? That was really quite a fine adventure. And I can’t believe you didn’t mention the Jubilating Budapenta Hotel. That use of the word ‘jubilating’ still grabs me. Hope you are well, and writing.

  3. Julie Meier on

    Hello, this is a long shot – but where can we access the chapters analyzing and discussing the Pavarotti Music Center? Would be interested in learning more about its impact in Mostar post-war.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: