Friday, February 12, 2016

Another Way to be Productive

Here's something else.

1. Don't measure productivity in terms of hours worked. (In the industrial sense, if you permit my crassness, productivity is not hours worked, but how much is produced per worker per hour. It is efficiency. To measure your output by how much you've worked is opposite of how you should be thinking.) Rather, what you should be looking at is getting things done.

2. The basic unit of time you should think about is the day. You want to increase the number of days per week in which you do something significant on a major project. Doing something significant might be starting a chapter, writing a substantial number of words on it (500-1000), having a single lightbulb type idea that represents a significant breakthrough, submitting an article, finishing something, giving it its definitive form.

So if all you do on your major project on any given day is one of the above, then you are making efficient progress. Today, for example, I began a chapter, and it is only 9:30.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Old Dogs

If I can learn harmony at 55, then surely it is possible for anyone to learn new things at any age. Most people don't; aren't interested in really changing anything. Stagnation is the enemy.
Via language hat:

There are three good reasons for studying metre. First and most important, the study of metre increases our appreciation of the poem as a work of art; without it, we cannot read a poem adequately, even to ourselves, and all its musical qualities will be lost to us. Secondly, and understanding of the subtleties of metre adds to our aesthetic pleasure an intellectual pleasure; the skill of a great poet in handling a difficult and complicated metre can be an object of admiration in itself. Thirdly, a knowledge of metre is of the greatest use in textual criticism; the fact that a line has been corrupted in transmission may be revealed by a defect in scansion which in itself may be an invaluable guide to the true reading.


I was reading an article by Benveniste of the system of French verbs. The reason was because I found great material for my theoretical chapter in a few other articles of his so curiosity led me to see what else he had to say.

We all know from high school French that there are two ways of talking about a past event (what you would use the preterit for in Spanish.) The passé composé is a perfect tense using a compound form, like "Je suis allé." The passé simple is a simple tense. The former is used almost exclusively in speech, the latter almost exclusively in writing. But Benveniste says that this is not a distinction between speech and writing, but between two systems, which he calls histoire and discours.

Histoire is an impersonal mode, forbidding first and second person pronouns and verbal forms as well as deictics like here, now, tomorrow, there. The passé simple is used in this (largely written) mode. Discours is a largely spoken mode, but of course it can be written, as a written transcription or representation of speech. In this mode, the relation between the I and the you is primary. You never use the passé simple in this mode, only the passé composé.

So the French verb can be marked not just for aspect (perfective vs. imperfect), but also for its discursive mode. I read this very article in French very quickly but its lucidity was such that I grasped the point with no effort.

So the lyric is interesting, because it is a fictive representation of discours. Here, the relation between the speaker and the addressee is primary, and deictics are extremely important. Even the impersonal lyric is discours, I would think.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
petals on a wet, black bough.

The word these is key here. With the red wheelbarrow, even, with its absence of deictics? Or certain poems of Lorca that don't have a first or second person?

It would follow that the first and second persons are intimately linked, in opposition to the third. Perhaps the lyric is a third mode, one that seems to be discours but is really not.

Completing the circle

I'm half way through the circle of fourths. So I've composed in C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db. Six out of twelve keys. It is important to complete the circle, not because I need to compose in every single key, but because that will complete my understanding of every note in relation to every other note and achieve more harmonic fluidity. I'm finding now that I put in chords that I'm not sure about. They don't belong to the key I'm working in, but they seem still to fit in somehow. At some point I'll understand, but there is something to be said for intuition as well.

Now when I analyze my first efforts, I see that I was working with a limited palette. Yet one of those early tunes is one I find quite beautiful.

Something will always lag behind. Harmonic knowledge, playing ability, melodic or structural construction. I can play what I write, but that is because I write by playing. I am unable to play the chords in a truly jazzy way, rhythmically. I find my typing is stronger, faster, and more confident on the computer keyboard because of an hour a day on the musical keyboard.

Warmth, sweetness, and beauty are available to me. They are there on the keyboard waiting to be discovered. Every flavor and color is there. For example, a dominant chord is tangy. Major sevenths taste smokey. The interval of the major third is sweet. These are available to anyone, the same way that a raspberry will be tart to anyone.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Exchange

Here's how I responded to comment on CHE, objecting to a professor who made her students show up and turn their assignments in on time:

"As I often tell my students, "only fools need rules." A rules-based approach, as suggested by the author of this piece, removes the need for much thought about causes and effects, autonomy and mastery, and self-direction, giving primacy to rules to follow. It's a plausible approach for meeting social expectations but a lousy way to question and understand their value to the social order."


Let's free up our thoughts for more important issues and not over-think things that are basic, like showing up prepared and on time. The function of rules is to make certain actions habitual so you don't have to meditate profoundly on the reasons why.

Some Ways to be Productive

1. Put your own work first. Write the monograph and half of the second one before you even think about doing the edited collection.

2. Prioritize the large project over small ones, and small ones over insignificant ones. So be working on the major project at all times, not peripheral ones. Articles take precedence over book reviews. Articles that put forward your main research agenda take precedence over those that don't.

3. Don't wait until you have large blocks of time to resume work on your major project. Since you only need 1-3 hours a day for writing, and it is actually harder to find those hours when you don't have other structure in your life, you are likely to do better if you already have the rhythm of work established before that summer break or sabbatical.