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Feedback on essay? :)

Posted By: fnork

Feedback on essay? :) - 02/12/13 11:16 PM

Hey everyone, I'm applying for a doctorate terribly soon and am trying to put together a sort of essay that outlines my more or less specific plan for what I'd like to do during this doctorate. Studying for a degree like this is a bit different here comparing to say, America. In the case of my current academy, it's a question of having a clear plan/theme for five recitals (not necessarily 100% solo), as well as a written dissertation. Roughly speaking, I'm planning to focus on early 20th century piano music for the concerts, possibly focusing on different geographical (or, shall we say, cultural) regions for each concert. The idea is also to focus on repertoire off the beaten path - unjustly neglected works, and so on. The written dissertation, on the other hand, would focus on performance practices of pianists of the Golden Age of piano playing. I'd love to get valuable feedback on these topics, so...I won't post the essay I'm sending in here - however, if anyone would be interested in reading it then I would gladly email it over privately. Send me a PM here with your email adress!

Posted By: BruceD

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 06:30 AM

I don't understand why you want others to read your application essay if you are still "trying to put [it] together." You are the only one who knows what you'd like to do during your doctorate, so what are you expecting from your potential readers? What sort of "feedback"?

Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 06:35 AM

I can well understand wanting to get people's reactions on such a thing. I think it's a good idea. Maybe he doesn't have people right there to show it too, maybe he wants some extra reactions....
Posted By: fnork

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 02:18 PM

I guess it mostly has to do with that I value the opinions of several members of this forum. Obviously, potential feedback could be anything from suggesting musical pieces that I might have neglected for the concerts but which suit the topic, or criticism of the content or suggestions on expansion, and lots of other things. While the doctorate is obviously my own business, I'm certainly interested in what other knowledgeable forum members might have to say on the topics I have chosen.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 06:18 PM

My concern is that in my experience these admission essays are supposed to be the original and sole work of the author. Unless your situation is entirely different, I think that getting opinions on your not yet completed essay - which might influence your editing of it - could be construed as getting help in writing it.

It all depends, of course, on what are the stipulations regarding the writing of the essay.

Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 06:30 PM

Originally Posted by BruceD
My concern is that in my experience these admission essays are supposed to be the original and sole work of the author. Unless your situation is entirely different, I think that getting opinions on your not yet completed essay - which might influence your editing of it - could be construed as getting help in writing it....

I don't think so, Bruce, at least not necessarily. People 'get opinions on their not yet completed essays' all the time, from teachers or colleagues or friends or family. I would think that this is within that. However, I can see various reasons why people would hesitate to do it in the way Fnork is suggesting, including because it could feel like what you said. I think it would be less so if he tried to do the interchange openly, right on here -- not presenting any full draft but talking about some of the ideas and content.
Posted By: fnork

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 06:51 PM

It's fairly simple, really. I wouldn't dare to call myself an "absolute authority" on the topics mentioned, though I've read and studied everything extensively. In my own thoughts and my own writings, I've constantly gone back and forth between various sources - books on piano literature and playing (David Burge's wonderful "20th century piano music" and Kenneth Hamilton's "After the golden age" in particular), on music history (Austin's "Music in the 20th century", Alex Ross' "And the rest is noise", The Cambridge history of 20th century music, most book by Taruskin) and on performance practice (Clive Brown's book - forgot the title -, Philipp's "Early recordings and musical style" and Rink's "The practice of performance"), all of which have influenced what I've come up with so far. Nevetheless, there might have been things I have neglected to mention, composers that ought to be discussed, and matters of performance practice that slipped my mind during writing. Luckily I know a great deal of people whose opinions I respect, some of whom are on this forum. I'm looking for opinions and thoughts, that is all. I'm not going to drastically change anything in my essay, but possibly get reminded of things that I might have forgotten to include, for example. I don't see anything criminal in this.
Posted By: Mark Polishook

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 08:14 PM

Fnork - there are a few essentials that your doctoral proposal demonstrates to its readers.

1) do you show expertise already acquired in whatever it is you're proposing. expertise that will allow to make an original contribution to whaatever it is that you're priposing.

2) does the proposal show that you know how to express your ideas in writing? is the proposal structured so it take the reader on a tour of your idea and leaves the reader at conclusion saying 'Wow! That'a great project! Would love to see this pianist go forward w/her/his project. And would be great to have this person in our program! He/she would learn a lot and contribute alot.

3) does a bibliography (and footnotes in the essay) demonstrate that you know what's been done previously in your topic? does the bibliography show that you're focusing on some specific aspect of your topic?

4) repertoire: does the proposal show that you have an original approach to your project in some way or another? if you're proposing pieces directly from the center of the repertoire, do you a point of view that shows you have a personal, original take on whatever it is that you're doing? or, the repertoire you're proposing is from the fringe of common practice do you have a good, interesting take on that?

5) can your proposal have life after you complete the project? presumably, you're then 'the' authority on the topic you've chosen. how might you carry rhe project further than the completion of the degree alone?

in terms of getting feedback, the more eyes that see your proposal the better! you never know who might see something in what you're proposing that could be developed more intensely or whatever. at the same time, a very important group for feedback would other pianists w/doctorates who have completed the program you hope to enter. that particular group will know entire arch from initial proposal through to doc. defense and possibly then on to book publication, academic jobs, etc. another group from whom to seek opinions are students already in the program you're looking to enter. and it may be the case that know who your doctoral advisor will be if you do enter the program. in that case, be in contact w/that person and request feedback before you submit the essay.

it may be that some or many of the particulars i've mentioned don't quite apply or don't totally fit to your project. i mean, who knows! i'm just a voice on the internet! having said that - clarify to yourself (1) what exactly you want to work on over the next few years and (2) how the institution(s) to which you're apolying see the doctorate?

hope this helps ... and good luck!

Posted By: Peter K. Mose

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 09:56 PM

It's not clear whether there is pay involved in this request for editing help. Some of us can set aside ethical qualms more easily when money is involved.
Posted By: fnork

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/13/13 10:11 PM

aw man, come on! I'm asking colleagues and friends for advice, that is all. Had you lived in Helsinki, I would've bought you a beer.

Printer1 - thanks for all of the excellent advice. Very helpful.
Posted By: Mark Polishook

Re: Feedback on essay? :) - 02/14/13 12:08 AM

fnork, i just read your original post one more time and a few more things jumped out.

you're proposing to play repertoire off the beaten path (unjustly neglected) and to research performance practice in the golden age of piano.

my advice is your proposal needs to show the relationship between those two things an easy one to suggest (an example only) is to look at cultural perspective in the music you play and the practice that you research. in other words, the lens through which you look could be focused to "read" cultural perspective and then your performance and your scholarship bring out that idea (for whatever you think it means).

but this example likely misses whatever really interests you (again, i'm just some voice out here on the internet ... smile

... anyway, the important thing is your proposal should have a grand arch so that what you play and what you research fall under that arch. by doing that, you make it really easy for YOU to see the big picture. and you make it clear to your committee that your artistic and research practice is linked and not two separate projects. in other words, one feeds the other and vice versa.

about the idea of "unjustly neglected:" .. that's a pretty common, ubiquitious catch-all phrase. but what does it actually mean? for example, why and how did mendelssohn champion bach's music? how did he do it? what are the artistic and critical paths he applied to show bach's music should be played and programmed and studied. or another example is gustav mahler. his symphonies came into the repertoire because leonard bernstein and a few others began to program them in mid 20th century. so how and why did that happen? how and why did it take that long to get someone like mahler into common practice! ? !

or there are composer who promote, for whatever reason, the music of other composers. gunther schuller's an example in the states. he's led so many festivals and what nots where he championed a million composers he thought were interesting and should be heard. now, gunther schuller doesn't now have the influence he once had. but there was a time (50s and 60s) when some of the "unjustly neglected" got quite a helping hand from him.

maybe a larger question in this is "what are the paradigms of bringing the unjustly neglected into common practice?" in other words, despite the fact that a million and two composers, performers, conductors, etc. have championed unknown work, there' are probably a limited number of common strategies and reasons that have driven what they've done and which have been used to bring new work to the public. or maybe instead of new work, the idea should be something like music composed in some previous time that begins to however it happens gets cache some years later in the future.

you might look at pierre boulez and IRCAM in Paris. there's an example of a composer who more or less went to the national government and said "fund contemporary music and research! do it now! and do it big!" he put his name behind it. so for example, Kaija Saariaho was an ircam beneficiary. (for all i know, she's your neighbor in helsinki .. smile .... why did boulez promote her work? what did he get from it? what did the music world get from it? how did ircam benefit?

by looking at previous methods you can build on them or disregard them or subvert them or challenge them or disgard them, whatever. but the point is, there's a historical thread among the "unjustly neglected" and part of that thread perhaps is "unjustly neglected" is a modern invention in western culture where the concert hall exists as place to "verify" the worth of composers and performers. now, i'm not arguing at all that that's true. ...

one more take on it ... if the ligeti piano etudes sprang out of nowhere, say if ligeti really WASN"T known as the major composer that he is known as, etc. well, in that case, perhaps they'd be neglected because pianists would say they're unplayable. same for elliott carter string quartets. so conlon nancarrow's piano music (for player piano) might fall into this group.

... the disclaimer once more ... i'm not suggesting any of the above is true or what you should do. i'm just describing it as an examples of how to look at the "unjustly neglected" and to do more with it than dig up repertoire say "here's music that got overlooked!" maybe the "unjustly neglected" got neglected because the "golden age of piano" performers for whatever their reasons didn't want to go to wherever those unjustly neglected works went! in other words, maybe there was a "limit" to what golden age pianists performed and maybe whatever that "limit" is is the unifying idea behind the repertoire you play and the performance practice that you research.

hope this helps smile ... maybe one more thing to say is in the proposal writing stage, really, think big! and then think practical later! think big as in "what would you like to play and research do over the next bunch of years that'll keep you awake at night because it's so interesting and, the same, which will wake you up in the morning because it's so interesting!

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