The Past, Present and Future of Public Musicology

At the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey, I just presented “The Untapped Doctoral Majority of Potential Public Musicologists” at a conference about the Past, Present, and Future of #PublicMusicology. The paper went fine, and a number of people thanked me for being honest about my experiences and thoughts re musicology and my attempts at doing public music history & culture independently.

From other presentations and discussions, I also have some new ideas about things I can try in order to proceed, such as arranging for visiting scholar (though unpaid) status at a university, looking into more-mainstream presses as venues for my future books, and submitting things to a just-launched web-based forum for short articles (The Avid Listener; there is some money for them) meant for students and others.

I saw people I knew in earlier periods (up to fifteen years ago, in one case), met a number of people I knew of but hadn’t met before, and got to know some others for the first time.

new book project: “Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion”

My proposal for “Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) follows hot on the heels of “Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion” (2014). I’ve also proposed several related papers (on Gabriel’s less mainstream music, including early Genesis) for some popular music conferences in 2015. In addition, I have a paper accepted about the untapped doctoral majority of potential public musicologists for a conference in Princeton, NJ on January 31, 2015.

Discussion of “Class Struggle” (about part-time university instructors)

Re the CBC’s Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers (includes an embedded player of the radio documentary):

Having a large part-time workforce of adjunct instructors is not an unfortunate consequence of under-funding universities.  It is a planned consequence of higher education trying to sustain too many programs, taking in too many students, and having way more non-faculty employees (administrators, etc.) than it has tenure-track and tenured faculty members.  Pat Rogers (of Wilfrid Laurier University) and Ken Coates (of the University of Saskatchewan, formerly of the University of Waterloo) have basically given up on higher education actually being for education.  “Saving money” for student residence climbing walls and whirlpools is now the priority, even though money is not actually saved, because of hiring a new administrator for every little thing.

The “statistic” about an adjunct (a.k.a., contingent, sessional, etc.) instructor making $28,000 to $45,000 a year for teaching the same number of courses (four) as a faculty member making $80,000-$150,000 is misleading.  Most adjunct faculty do not teach full-time:  I typically made around $16,500 for three courses per year.  Even as a Visiting Assistant Professor, I only made $22,000 for four courses.  Maybe things are different in STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math), but adjunct instructors and faculty members in most disciplines simply do not make the kind of money indicated.  Also, numerous Ph.D.s eventually leave academia and become things like school bus drivers, real estate agents, yoga instructors, and welfare recipients.  Some of us also publish books and articles, present papers at academic conferences, and so on, but none of that provides a living wage.  Writing usually works out to less than minimum wage (not to mention that it’s only a part-time venture), and, in fact, presenting at conferences costs money.  Usually, it’s just faculty members who can get conference travel funds.

Most adjunct instructors continue to hold out hope for landing permanent academic positions, and they thus resist saying much about their circumstances of low pay, limited or no office use, no benefits, no pensions, and so on.  Conversely, most tenured and tenure-track professors won’t go on record on this issue, either, because they would almost invariably appear to be unsympathetic.  So, documentaries such as this one end up having to interview administrators, even though the over-hiring and over-prioritizing of them is one of the main problems in higher education today.  If you don’t believe that this is an issue, see also the Huffington Post’s New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators.

Purchase “Experiencing Rush”

Please purchase a copy of Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion
(October 2014) at Rowman & Littlefield (the publisher), (or a non-US Amazon, such as in Canada or the UK), Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo, or another book retailer. Thanks!

Experiencing Rush - full cover

Experiencing Rush – full cover

“Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion” – full cover

Please purchase the book now. Thanks!

Experiencing Rush - full cover

Experiencing Rush – full cover

Please purchase the book now. Thanks!

P.S. Today is Geddy Lee’s 61st birthday AND the 40th anniversary of the day that Neil Peart joined Rush.

The Future of Higher Education?

December 2113, at breakfast:

  • Dani (14): Hey, Daddums. What’s “philosophy?”
  • Dad: Something about the meaning of existence; your great-grandma studied it.
  • Dani: Where did she study it?
  • Mom: At UCLA, I think. Her blogkive has some gradeypost she wrote about this government arts and music ambassador in the 2030s, named Miley Cyrus.
  • Dani: Do you mean that people actually used to submit things mostly in words, and sometimes about the arts? My Business Economics Enabler-Bot-ing administrator, Master Baights, MBA in Seed Acquisition, Level 7, says university has been only about honing your entrepreneurial potential for at least the past sixty years.
  • Dad: That’s all true, my little stevia lozenge.
  • Dani: Can I study to be a doctor of philosophy?
  • Mom: Not anymore. Your great-uncle had his “Ph.D.,” but in sociology. It had to do with the early, post-postmodern, post-postindustrial history of manufacturing small electronic devices in other countries in the early decades of the 21st century.
  • Dani: That barely even QRs, Momsie. Do you mean that China used to make its stuff here? Where did he work?
  • Dad: At first, he taught a course or two at the State College of Eastern West Virginia. He was an “adjunct,” so he didn’t have access to the instructohub and mostly used his car as an office.
  • Mom: Smaller cities didn’t have subways and skytrains back then, and most of their LRTs failed and were torn out for additional efficipark structures by about mid-century. He was also on something called “food stamps.” After about ten years, he ended up at AmazoogleFedEx, working part-time as a gravlift drone-fleet pilot.
  • Dani: That QRs even less. OK, well I better get my visohelmet on and get started on my webdeck about some quaint, “hippie” thing from the 2010s, called “crowdsourcing.”
  • Dad: Surf safely!

Meet Prof. Doe

A history professor (Jonathan Rees) recently referenced the 1941 Frank Capra movie Meet John Doe. In it, a fake, world-despairing “everyman” (played by Gary Cooper) ends up having value despite being imagined into existence by a newspaper columnist (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and then being appropriated by a power-hungry aspiring politician.

Rees’ idea is that something similar is going on with the providers of online university courses (MOOCs) apparently thinking about hiring celebrity actors to “teach” their courses. It’s not a great analogy, though. For example, in the contexts of adjunct instructors and other disenfranchised academics, the world-despairing is not actually being faked at all. Tens of thousands of post-secondary courses are now being taught by academics (including thousands of Ph.D.s) who do not have offices, benefits, or pensions. Actually, some people with Ph.D.s are worse off than that:  I know, because I’m one of them.

So, someone should write a screenplay called Meet Prof. Doe. The title character would be perfect for someone like Matt Damon, especially given his early success with 1997’s Good Will Hunting. (Ben Affleck may direct the movie, but he may NOT appear in it!)

Public Music History & Culture

As I sit here starting to put together Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (2014) and look back over my dissertation (“Permanent Change: Rush, Musicians’ Rock, and the Progressive Post-Counterculture,” 2003), it’s perfectly obvious that we do lots of great research and writing for our Ph.D. dissertations.

However, despite what every academic career guide says, it’s also perfectly obvious that we should not be adapting our dissertations into academic-press products for a couple of hundred colleagues, a couple of dozen academic libraries, and (if we’re “lucky”) a couple of thousand people who will never get past the excessive jargon, overly-technical analysis, and so on.

We should be adapting our dissertations into intelligent, non-fiction books for hundreds of thousands of people in the general public, such as through thousands of bookstores and public libraries, in e-books and public talks, and so on.

There are only famous non-fiction writers (including a certain curly-haired one of my acquaintance) because 95% of academics do the former instead of the latter 95% of the time.  There are also tens of thousands of exploited adjunct instructors purely because almost no-one has bothered to figure out how to do something way more useful than that.

The Glacial Pace of Academia

I just filled out the American Musicological Society’s enhanced profile, a very basic section of the AMS website that apparently took them more than three years (!) to develop.

Compare that to the mere six weeks that it took me to develop the AMS’s most popular website section: Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology.  Also compare it to the fact that I developed a prototype for a possible new website for Malcolm Gladwell in the last day and half!

Naturally, on the new AMS profile system, I filled in as much information as I could:  publications, articles, works in progress, and as many external links as possible — thus excluding “Departmental Web Page.”  Of course, I also had to leave the “Institutions” field blank.

For obvious reasons, I’m looking forward to Malcolm Gladwell’s new book — David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Oct. 1, 2013).

An Article about Adjunct Instructors

An Article about Adjunct Instructors – by Celine James

My followup:

In my field (musicology or “music history & culture”), only about 20% of Ph.D.s ever get continuing full-time positions, including temporary/adjunct ones and the handful of multi-year post-doctoral fellowships.  The best I had was a pair of 8-9 month temporary full-time positions and a pair of multi-year part-time positions (single courses).

This situation is pretty normal in the arts and humanities.  Music academia has 75 new positions per year for 375 new Ph.D.s (not to mention existing Ph.D.s who change jobs), but it does almost nothing to prepare the other 80% for any other type of career direction, such as “alternative-academic” careers (libraries, museums, research projects, etc.).  To me, that’s a much bigger issue than the problem of universities cutting costs by now using adjuncts to such an extent and closing tenure lines.  See also my posting about such issues at:  In addition, I recently gave a semi-autobiographical conference paper on the subject.