The Project Train is Running Out of Steam

Hey everyone.

Know the song “Train Kept a-Rollin'” by Aerosmith? Yea, well, that song does NOT describe me right now. I’m starting to burn out on my project…which sounds like such a whiny complaint, but it’s true. Lately, I just can’t bring myself to care about working on it all of the time.

Last month, I did small portions of work every day. I was on a roll, and things were going very well. Of course, I was working on a part of the project that necessitated daily work (the poetry journal, for those familiar with what I’m doing), so it was easier to stay focused. Reading and doing research such a chore at that point either, because I was in the process of figuring out how I would use it. I was also so deep in the process of preparing for and taking grad school auditions that I was used to having my nose to the grindstone.

Now, I have a few things contributing to my lack of motivation:
1. I’m feeling senioritis. I never thought I would get it, but I did. It doesn’t help that I’ve gotten scholarship offers from a few grad schools and that I’m trying to figure out where to go next year.
2. I just want to practice all of the time. I am feeling really motivated for some auditions and stuff coming up, and I miss working on solo repertoire just for fun. I want that time back.
3. I miss reading for pleasure. I have so many freaking books on my shelves, and in my Kindle library, that I have not had time to read because I have been doing research all of the time.
4. The weather is getting nicer and I want to stay outside a bunch.
5. Summer is calling my name, especially since I’ve just committed to return to the Chautauqua Institution from late June through August. That orchestra is so much fun to play with.
6. I’ve met someone I really like, and spending time with her is fantastically fun.
7. The second season of Daredevil is out now and the first DLC package for Fallout 4 comes out on Tuesday. Crap.

Okay, I think that’s mostly it. Are they all ridiculous things to be complaining about? Yes. Am I just whining and being insufferable? Yes. Do I care about either of those things? No.

Anyway, if any of you have some motivational advice or are struggling with similar issues, let me know! I’ll take any and all advice.

Stay well!

Evan

Spring Break and Project Updates

Hi everyone!

I’m pretty certain that (almost) nobody is following the blog right now, seeing as it is “Spring” Break. That’s alright, because some of you may see this post when you return!

I decided to stay in Ann Arbor for the break, mostly because I am not made of money for travelling and because exactly a week from today I will be taking an audition for the Tuba substitute list with the New World Symphony Orchestra. So, I needed to make sure I had adequate time to practice — not to mention the fact that it is ridiculously easy to snag the performance halls in the Moore Building if I want to record things (which I have begun doing for my project!). I also live in Florida, so the idea of returning either home or to some other tropical destination is not that appealing…this happens when one grows up in a tourist state/region. I much prefer the gentle snow that we are currently getting here!

Anyway, I hope you are all having wonderful vacations. Personally, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time playing Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4, and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It has been quite lovely. But, I’ve also had tons of time to work on my Capstone Project! So far, here’s what I have accomplished:

  • I am over halfway through the completion of my poetry journal.
  • I have composed two pieces of music, one for each week that I have written poems for, and have recorded the first of them.
  • I have gathered about 17 pages worth of quotes/research from various books (mostly related to the relationship between poetry and music) that I have checked out from the library or purchased, and am close to formulating a solid goal with the prose I plan to write. All that remains is to delve more into the psychology/physiology/emotions of being a practicing musician, and then I should be ready to start writing (if I don’t decide to just begin getting ideas down soon, which is actually more likely then it would seem to be).

I’m pretty happy with where I am, especially considering that I’ve been able to complete some other, non-project-related tasks in the interim hours. I finally feel like I’m set on course and know what I’m going to do (except for the prose element, which I’m still working on mentally).

I wish you all a relaxing reminder of this break, and I hope that everyone comes back refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester! Good luck 🙂

-Evan

Production…Plan?

Alright, so I finished this thing. I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out! I have essentially every component figured out, save one or two smaller parts:

-Every day for a month, I’m going to write a few stanzas of poetry once I am done practicing.

-In 3-week segments, I will research and produce essays on specific topics related to the implicit ideas of the poetry.

-Each component will be showcased on separate pages f my portfolio.

As far as stuff I don’t have as much of a handle on:

-I want to write music to reflect the poetry every week. I think this will be an unaccompanied tuba solo. What I’m not sure about is how to describe the process, whether I should augment it with any research or OTHER essays. I’m also not entirely sure if it will be an effective component of the project. Perhaps it can be combined with a voice-over of me reading the poems? They could then have a direct relationship to each other, and this may clarify the parts of the music that reflect certain things in the poetry.

OK I think that’s it so plshalpkthxbai

The Epic Journey of Creating a Project Proposal

Honestly, the title of this means almost nothing. I kind of wanted to write a funny, short narrative of myself writing my proposal. Probably not going to happen, as I just ate lunch and am on the verge of napping.

When I wrote my proposal, I had previously spent time examining the questions posed in the syllabus on Canvas. I answered each question as completely and fully as I could imagine, taking a question or two each day (mostly over the weekend). Then, I drank an entire French press’s worth of coffee and went to town writing the proposal proper.

What resulted was a more detailed document than I would have expected to have produced. I managed to explain all of the facets of my project, and I wrote over 1500 words.

But, when I got to class on Tuesday, I was confronted with many questions that I did not expect to receive. Many of the questions posed by my colleagues allowed me to further cement the details of my project, while also encouraging me to think more critically about the questions I planned to ask with my project.

The form of my project didn’t change after workshop, but it become more focused and detailed. Here’s to an exciting remainder of the semester!

— Evan

Ruminations on Work and Stress

Do any of you ever feel overwhelmed, even when you have plenty of time to do everything that you need to do?

Do any of you ever feel overwhelmed, even when you have plenty of time to do everything that you want to do?

I am currently feeling overwhelmed, even though I have plenty of time to do everything I need and want to do.

Maybe this blog isn’t the right place to post about something like this. Whatever. I’m not here to complain; I’m here to see if I can find an answer to why I feel this way. It’s influencing my approach to writing, too, so that’s why I’m plopping all of this here.

Here’s what I’ve got going on:

I had my first grad school audition on Friday, here at Michigan. I wasn’t terribly nervous because it was for my current professor and the doctoral students that I have already played for/with for the last 3-4 years.

Earlier last week, though, I began to have a lot of issues with my playing. I began to regain many of the tension patterns that I worked very hard to eliminate during my freshman and sophomore years. I began to practice too often and my facial muscles actually began feeling sore during my daily activities outside of music. I had never experienced this to the degree that it was happening.

I also juggled three different performing ensembles and running a fraternity as President.

I basically got so stressed out about my abilities and about my chances of making it into the grad programs that I am auditioning for over the next few weeks that I overworked myself. I’m sure you all know the feeling quite well. It’s easy, as college students, to want to max out on everything when we have something to prove.

Add to these musical/physical woes an extensive amount of deep thinking and writing in Writing 420, and you’ve got a recipe for mental disaster. It was everything I could do to keep myself focused. The only things I looked forward to were drinking with my friends and eating absurd amounts of food.

Over the last couple of weeks, as this stress and over-thinking began to set in, I began to also dread sitting down to write anything. I finished the book I had begun before winter break ended as quickly as I could so that I wouldn’t have to read (even though it was voluntary reading). I stopped writing poems on a regular basis. I stopped enjoying playing video games as much, and got increasingly angrier when I didn’t have good matches on Star Wars: Battlefront or Call of Duty: Black Ops III. I even stopped enjoying listening to music.

I suppose that what I’m getting at is that stress is bad, and it can creep up on anyone unexpectedly. I didn’t even realize that what I was feeling was stress.

So, over this past weekend, I took an entire to not practice or write or anything. I played video games, I went to Sam’s Club and bought a bunch of coffee, and I sat around ― a lot. I ate a lot of food and drank a lot of beer at Buffalo Wild Wings.

And today I feel better than I have all month. All it takes sometimes is the realization of the fact that one can’t fix everything in a day. Working on writing projects and practicing music are gradual processes, and I have to remind myself that I am not bad at either one.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my rant if you made it this far. Remember: be happy! 🙂

― Evan

Another Project Idea (need feedback pls)

Okay, so there wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic response to my Star Wars project idea. But never fear — I have another idea! This is in the very beginning stages of conception, but here’s a general idea:

For those who don’t know, I am a music major. I play the tuba. For this project model I will, over the course of the next month or so, make a sort of poetry journal. The plan is that after every one of my practice sessions in the music school I will write a few lines, a stanza, a few stanzas, or whatever, of poetry. The underlying goal of the project will be to see if I can create a deep, engaging, and complex emotional picture, through poetry, of what it means/feels like to be a music major.

Much time is spent discussing certain physical elements of being a musician, as well as the perils of performance anxiety. I have seen very little that has to do with the actual emotions of the everyday experience. Perhaps this is a hole in my knowledge, which will certainly prompt some research on my part. I have the feeling, however, that many people don’t write in these terms because there is an unspoken idea that being a music major is worth all of the struggle and pain. I agree with this, but I want to see if I can illuminate those struggles with a different art form.

As a parallel to this, I would then take the poetry I write each day and, afterward, compose a piece of unaccompanied tuba music that mirrors the emotional directions and content of the poetry. This would add another media element to the overall project, and would be an interesting way to make music, poetry, and the general concept of “hard work” or “study” all interact with each other.

Thoughts and suggestions are appreciated! Thanks in advance.

Evan

The Nature of the Force: A Capstone Project Idea

For those in McDaniel’s Capstone class, I’ve used the following tag to write about what we discussed today (Tuesday 1/12): Capstone Project Components

 

Alright, everyone, here’s the deal: I’m a huge Star Wars geek. I have been ever since my dad showed me A New Hope when I was about four years old. Ever since then, I have consumed the films, books, video games, comics, and toys of Star Wars with a ravenous appetite.

 

Seriously, I have so much Star Wars in my life that it is absurd. My apartment is littered with Darth Vader novelties and posters, and my phone case resembles a Stormtrooper’s armor.

 

I used to spend hours in my front lawn jumping around and waving PVC pipes like lightsabers. I even taped duct tape around the bottoms of them for hilts. I would write stories ― very poorly-constructed and badly-written ones ― based on my knowledge of Star Wars lore, and then I would act them out with my sister and my next-door neighbor. This continued for years on end, and Star Wars was my main source of entertainment (outside of Harry Potter). By the time I reached my teenage years, I began to conceal my fandom because it didn’t exactly improve my dating chances. But, I have continued to remain invested in Star Wars culture. Recently, I purchased a PlayStation 4 just because it was a special Star Wars bundle. It had a design of Darth Vader’s head on the console itself, a controller modeled after Vader’s chestplate, and the bundle included a copy of the new Battlefront game.

 

Naturally, I am interested in focusing my Capstone project on something to do with Star Wars. I have a few different ideas of what this could turn out to be as far as content is concerned, but I am pretty set on writing a piece of fan-fiction.

 

There are a few considerations that go along with writing such a piece. Of course, I would need to investigate whether or not any copyright considerations would creep up. Also, I would need to present a concrete form of any and all research into the (now-defunct) Expanded Universe. It wouldn’t be enough for me to simply be well-versed in Star Wars lore and to hope that my readers would also be. Such a piece of writing would, therefore, need either footnotes or endnotes to explain and contextualize references or story elements that would otherwise be lost on the casual fan.

 

But anyway, in reference to our discussion in Professor McDaniel’s class today, here are the main elements that would need to be considered and addressed as part of an undertaking like this:

 

  1. List of disciplines and genres that inform the topic
    1. creative writing, film, sociology, politics
    2. genres: fiction, specifically fan-fiction
  2. Focal object/subject
    1. military characters, ground troops
      1. This is inspired, primarily, by the new novel “Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company.” It is based on the new video game, and delves pretty heavily into the psychology of the troops involved in the Galactic Civil War (Rebels vs. Empire from the original trilogy). It follows the story of Sergeant in the Rebel Alliance that is recruited from a backwater colonial world, where tribal wars are commonplace, who struggles later on with his beliefs in the Rebel cause. There are a few side characters from the Empire that are similarly portrayed.
    2. Grey Jedi (neutral Force-users that practice both Light and Dark side)
      1. Not much has been developed on this front, at least not in official canon. There are some wiki pages and the like that attempt to give them stories, but many are unimaginative and somewhat cheesy.
      2. The Grey Jedi are often portrayed as Jedi that leave the Order because they don’t believe in focusing solely on the Light Side. They believe that the Force cannot achieve balance without both the Dark and the Light. The only examples of this philosophy are (postulated) Qui-Gon Jin from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, who is portrayed as disagreeing often with the Masters of the Jedi High Council, and Jolee Bindo, who is a character from the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. He formally left the Order and became a hermit on Kashyyk, the homeworld of the Wookies (Chewbacca’s species). He is the first character in any Star Wars production to have articulated the philosophy that became that of the Grey Jedi.
    3. Confounding variable
      1. Humanize the characters ― not much is done in this regard in a wide majority of SW EU novels. Some is done in video games, but there is still the overriding Light/Dark binary and extremism.
      2. Perhaps spin the light-falling-to-dark trope on its head, dark-to-light? Something along these lines may be a new twist on familiar SW tropes. Although, the dark-to-light things seems to be a possible direction that the new movies will take with Kylo Ren.

 

Well, I suppose this post ended up being longer than I thought it would. This almost looks like a proposal…

 

Anyway, if you made it this far, thank you! Any feedback/ideas are appreciated. Happy Writing!

 

Evan

Percentages of Disciplinary Focus

Repurposing

 

Disciplines:

 

  • English Composition 40%
  • Philosophy 10%
  • Sociology 10%
  • Culture 20%
    • (Popular Culture)
  • Literature/Poetry 10%
  • Music 10%

 

Remediation

 

Disciplines:

 

  • Poetry 40%
  • Spoken Word 30%
  • Music 20%
  • English Composition 5%
  • Philosophy 5%

 

Skills/Things to Learn

 

  • In a poetic context, how to choose single words more precisely to imbue greater meaning than the mere definitions of them
    • More specifically, how to contextualize words in order to enhance their meanings
  • How to speak with clear syllabic definition and to emphasize every bit of musicality that can come from language and speech
  • How to understand poetry that is somewhat bare or vague
  • How to capture the relationship between music and words, how they can reflect each other (may be more useful for Capstone stuff)

Poetry at Literati

This weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of listening to my professor, Raymond McDaniel, and his colleague, Tarfia Faizullah, read selections of poetry that they have published as well as poems that have not been released yet. I was floored. Both poets have an uncanny command of the English language, as well as an ability to shape beautiful portraits of people, places, and experiences.

My favorite poems that were read were McDaniel’s about his life in Florida. Being a Floridian myself, I was swept up in a current of memories and emotions. The cranky sunbathers, oppressive heat, and crushing humidity came back to me as McDaniel’s words floated through my brain. It was almost surreal.

Tarfia’s poems were charged with emotional and sexual tension. Though I couldn’t relate directly to some of the experiences that she described, I could easily place myself in those situations – hypothetically, of course.

It was a great hour of poetry and I highly recommend these kinds of events to everyone in the minor. Invite your friends, too! I brought a buddy with me and he also enjoyed it.

Art is #fun doe.

Interview with Phoebe Gloeckner

I attended an interview yesterday at the Espresso Bar, above Literati bookstore, with Raymond McDaniel and Phoebe Gloeckner. Quite frankly, I was blown away. The amount of artistic experience that Gloeckner spoke about in her work was a mind-boggling array of skill sets and interrelationships. I mean, who else do you know that can weave cartoons, models, photographs, videos, and prose together in one piece entirely on their own? I’m not sure if I would have the wherewithal to cultivate such a wealth of skills simultaneously. Honestly, I can’t even say that I would want to!

Phoebe spoke at some length about her approach to creating her work and the various forms in which it is produced. One thing that resonated with me and my own experience with writing is that she repeatedly talked about how she figures things out as she goes. She never sits down and creates a full plan, she just acts on impulses and fleeting emotions in order to determine what shapes her projects will take. It’s kind of crazy to think that the intensely complex works that she produces are not thought out and planned before they are executed.

I was inspired by this interview. It confirmed many of my strongly held beliefs about art and the process by which it is created. I think that all of the arts are the truest expressions of the human condition. Without planning or concentrated forethought, any art achieves a level of honesty that is as close to we will ever get to understanding ourselves as people. I think that Gloeckner, while she may not describe this in the same way that I just did, was getting at this phenomenon.