Thursday, August 07, 2014

Day 30 - Admirable and adorable hobbies

Today, I was sent a link to this article written by Patience Schell from THE entitled 'World less, do more, live better'. It makes a lot of good points, variants of which I have been making gestures at in my posts.

An element that immediately jumped out at me though was to think about how, in music and in other fields where performance plays a part, the time we spend organising and performing in concerts, productions, and other events becomes almost invisible.
I don't just mean the time that we spend going to concerts (although there's an argument for including at least some of that in your workload - it's not an argument I agree with 100% but I can see the logic), even when those concerts are given by your students, but I mean the time when  you are conducting the university orchestra, or stage managing the production of Orfeo, or even examining a final year performance.

The reason it becomes invisible is, I think, two-fold:
  1. We do it because we love it
  2. Music is still frequently viewed as an admirable and adorable hobby - a free-time pursuit
The time we spend at our desk earnestly whittling away at our latest magnum opus regarding the use of double-sharps in Peter Maxwell Davies' earlier Orcadian period (not something I'm planning to do, but it sounds like it could be fun), or even noodling away at a composition, or a teaching plan seems real, tangible, and like 'proper work'; working up a sweat directing a bunch of students making ephemeral music seems less worthy somehow.

And that's not something that is easy to change. It isn't just to do with how we think about our own work, but has a lot to do with how the society around us views work in general. The identity and role of work is determined through use, and so it's something that is in flux, and not something that can be changed by any one person. So we have to stop complaining about it, accept that it's going to happen, and get on with things.

What does this mean for the music academic? I think it means that we have to be sensible. Take care not to take too much invisible time as part of your workload. You can allow some to slip in, but if you take on a considerable amount, it will be assumed that you can do this (no sweat) on top of everything else because you're driven by our admirable adorable dedication to your art.

And it's not enough to blame management for this. Blame management for many things, but having a Machiavellian grasp of your workload is probably not one of them (and indeed, you may wish to blame management for not having more of an idea what is going on with your workload). This is something that you're doing to yourself. It's up to you to stand up and count your hours and be sensible about what you're going to expect yourself to do.

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