I’m a bit late acknowledging Burt Bacharach’s passing last week. However, one of my earliest memories, along with watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV, was hearing B. J. Thomas’s recording of Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” on the radio. I did eventually see the movie for which it was written: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Unfortunately, I somehow eventually became a musicologist. Happiness did not step up to greet me.
Author Archives: Durrell Bowman
New Job for FedEx
I’m now working full-time as a delivery agent for a FedEx Ground contractor. It’s for a largely rural route about 1.5 hours south/southwest of Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, but including very scenic stretches along Lake Erie. I get to drive a fancy, almost-new Mercedes Benz Sprinter cargo van and use an excellent package route phone app. I also get benefits (including retirement savings) and a raise after a three-month probationary period. Thanks to Ryan and to Gerry (who put me in touch).
After over a year of getting nowhere, I got tired of working for Canada Post as an on-call relief (OCRE) rural and suburban mail carrier (RSMC). I had only occasional full-time work, no guarantee of continuing part-time work (which they told me I’d have until the end of August), no benefits, no pension, and no way to pay off the used mini-van I needed to do the job much of the time. Other times, I had to drive 20-30 year old, corporate-provided right-hand drive vehicles: Grumman LLV step-vans (which I called “ice-cream trucks”) and a rusty old Honda CRV. That FedEx can be run so much better makes me seriously question a bunch of socio-economic and political issues.
Postal Carrying Update
I’m in the middle of a two-week vacation fill-in on a nearby rural route. It pays for 5.5 hours per day, but there are so many flyers (which have to be collated with the letter mail) that it’s averaging 7.5 hours, which also includes parcels. Then, I found out yesterday that I won’t be back on my usual 4-hour suburban route next week, and I was supposed to be on that one until August. They apparently want me to “reach out” to other post offices to find more assignments. I have no idea what they’re doing, have been doing this for about ten months, and still have no permanent status, benefits, pension, or route of my own.
Graduate School and Alternative Career Paths
I find it amazing that academia abandons tens of thousands of people every year and that some fields have almost no contexts for other types of career paths. I wish I had pursued an alternative career path as much as twenty years ago. In addition, if I had never pursued graduate school at all, I could have started working as a Customer Service Representative for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, an Order Support Agent for a call centre, or a Rural & Suburban Mail Carrier for Canada Post in my twenties and been approaching early retirement by now. I also wish I had continued composing music to a much greater extent after my twenties. I’m 56, have a Ph.D., and have accomplished a great deal, but I have never had any kind of continuing full-time job that pays a living wage.
Alternative-academic and non-academic career paths—and ways to collaborate both with other scholars and with those outside academia—should be discussed and enabled. Those considerations should begin during the time-frame when doctoral candidates have traditionally worked on remarkably narrow concerns in their doctoral seminars, research and teaching assistantships, exams, and dissertations. Fewer people should complete doctorates and attempt to become professors. Post-secondary education usefully establishes and consolidates one’s interests, as well as the ability for critical thinking. However, pursuing it beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree is unnecessary. I wish I had realized that a long time ago.
A Reflective Canada Day
I’m glad that many Canadians are finding Canada Day to be a reflective moment about truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. Mass graves of what will probably end up being thousands of residential school children have been discovered. These children were not only stolen from their families, but considered savages and allowed to die (possibly sometimes even directly killed) by members of the Christian denominations running these schools. These things were done with the knowledge and support of various Canadian governments, and the last such school closed in 1996.
The Catholic Church was the worst offender, and it should own up to it and use its considerable financial resources to do something about it. Meanwhile, Canada should at least immediately make sure that every indigenous community has access to clean drinking water and to other things that the rest of us take for granted.
My own Swiss-American ancestors settled about two hundred years ago on part of the Haldimand Tract, land that was granted to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River, within the territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples. 60,000 acres of Block 2 in what is now the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario area was purchased in 1805 by Mennonite settlers who had moved there from Pennsylvania, but the area was supposed to be granted in perpetuity to the Anishinaabe people. So, these issues have been around for a very long time.
Conference Paper – Rush’s “Hemispheres” – Progect 2021
Here’s a link to my online conference paper bio, abstract, and video for “Rush’s ‘Hemispheres’: Uniting Heard and Mind (and Progressive Rock with Heavy Metal)”. May 2021 Progect Conference, hosted by the University of Ottawa.
If progressive rock and heavy metal sometimes appropriate ideas from classical music—instead of, say, the blues—would that be enough to explain their appeal? Of course not. If they’re often musically and lyrically “complex,” are these complexities straightforwardly more so than the underlying grooves and vocal practices of funk and hip hop? Well … no. On the other hand, even though they may not reach a particularly diverse audience, progressive rock and heavy metal actually espoused eclecticism right from the start.
The Canadian rock band Rush (1968-2018)—one of the godfathers of progressive metal—would not have developed an eccentric, eclectic progressive/hard style without the example of musicianly progressive rock from 1969-77. However, the band’s music also relates to the influence of blues-oriented hard rock and power-oriented heavy metal from the same period. Rush’s 1978 album Hemispheres begins with its title-track, and with it the band provided its last of three album-side-length compositions. “Hemispheres” establishes a conflict between the left (thought or “reason-oriented”) and right (emotion or “feelings-oriented”) halves of the human brain. The band anthropomorphizes these according to classical/mythological references to the gods Apollo and Dionysus, respectively.
The paper explores the large-scale design of Rush’s “Hemispheres,” including its sections, form, metrical construction (including 12/8 and 7/8), lyrical features, and tonal complexities. The latter include extended chords, inversions, cross-relations, chromaticism, modes, ambiguous progressions, and various solutions to a particular cadential figure. Among other things, Rush uses nearly identical music to equate a pair of extended lyrical frames as equally inadequate ideologically. The band then converges on additional musical and lyrical frames that themselves become a reconciliation. In this manner, Rush mythologizes the post-counterculture of needing to unite heart and mind into something new.
Academic Work for Free
Spending hundreds of hours every year doing academic work on book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers when I don’t even have an academic job — and am thus doing it all for free — is highly exploitative. So, after my current projects wrap up in the next couple of months, I’m not going to do these things anymore. I want to do more academic research and writing, but the system is not set up to pay anyone directly. That needs to change.
Vaccines and Politicians
People with certain pre-existing medical conditions are three or more times as likely as the general public to die from COVID-19 once infected. (Don’t worry: I’m not infected.) All levels of government in Canada are doing terribly at dealing with the vaccines.
I get that seniors need to be the priority after frontline health-care workers and long-term care residents. However, Pfizer and Moderna have flagrantly reneged on signed agreements for delivery schedules, and things are now being delayed by weeks or months, especially for the rest of us.
So, politicians need to do something about the unexpected changes to the vaccine roll-out. I’ve been led to believe that some of them were even trained as lawyers, but I’m now guessing they became politicians because they were actually pretty bad at it.
Follow-up: It took until April 20, 2021 to get a vaccine, which was dose 1 of AstraZeneca.
“Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons” (journal article)
My journal article, “Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons,” appears in the 2020 “Parody: Intertextuality and Music” issue of MUSICultures.
This article reworks ideas about parody, postmodernism, and television from such critical and cultural theorists as Linda Hutcheon, Jason Mittell, and Jonathan Gray to contextualize the wide variety of parody and intertextuality in the music of the animated TV show The Simpsons. It explores several categories of the show’s music, such as: variations of cartoon themes, songs, instrumental underscoring, and guest musicians. This article particularly uses specific episodes of The Simpsons to highlight parodies of the show’s own theme, movie music, themes from other TV shows, and so on. The show’s music thus functions as a kind of court jester or king’s fool.
Academic Research and Writing
Of the eighteen people contributing to the forthcoming Cambridge University Press book on progressive rock, sixteen are university-affiliated academics (so it would be reasonable for them to expect to do such things as a part of their employment), one is VP of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and one is a computer technology order support specialist making the equivalent of about $11 U.S. per hour. Guess which one resents doing academic research and writing for free, given that it has nothing to do with his employment?