Archive for April, 2009

time management II

April 29, 2009

The magic ingredient of the method outlined in my previous post is boxes. If we create boxes of time, we can fill them with concentrated activity. If, on the other hand, we have a luxurious chunk of unstructured time ahead, we likely will fail to fill it with anything more elaborate than an occasional morsel of activity (or chocolate).  To be sure, if one, for example, has the task of reducing a book manuscript by 15.000 words in two and a half days, without throwing out all the good stuff and creating a mess with the footnotes and cross-references in the text, the only thing one needs to do is to sit down and do it. The boxes will be five: one workday, one short night, another workday, another short night and a frantic print-out wrap-up, topped off by the ride to the post office to get the final manuscript out of the house. While I have been in such situations, they should not be called normal. Also the required energy level is nothing one should try to mobilize on a regular basis – it cannot be good for one’s health. In normal circumstances, we’re given choices for our activities – and so we choose.

The act of preparing a new piece of music offers too many choices. Most of them can be justified in some really good way. For example, if we hate working on some easy passages, we can claim that some really difficult stuff needs a lot of training first. Conversely, the inclination to jog through a piece without bothering about the difficult passages can be excused because one needs to get a grasp of the structure before one dives down into the details. One can keep practicing the exposition of a sonata, fooling oneself with the belief that the recapitulation is very similar. One can skip the minuets of a suite until the last minute because one might be able to sight-read them, unlike some other movements.  All these evasive moves can be summarized in two words: sublime dawdling. (more…)

time management I

April 23, 2009

In early spring, perfectly timed with the snow that paralyzed the south of England for a few days,  I introduced myself at the music department of the University Southampton – a first move in connection with my post-doc research project which is up and running as of 15 March (see a short abstract under the “research” tab). One of the questions I heard was how I combine playing and research. One could add, “how do I manage to write blog posts about either activity?” A look at the frequency of my postings during the last half year provides the answer, “hardly at all.” The rest is time management, to be attempted again every new day. The following posts are about this topic.

One of the reasons why I’m not drinking ale with my colleagues in Southampton at the moment is that the new project requires an awful lot of reading – and I’ve got more relevant books than I can handle right here at home. I used to be a performance practice person with a bit of knowledge about instrument building; now I am confronted with art worlds, how users matter, the history of technology and Viennese concert life, to name but a few of the things I have to know about before I can even begin worrying about the thickness of strings and hammer heads and the correspondence of various Viennese piano firms. All this material is spread out over several horizontal surfaces all over the house, and whether it is read or not depends solely on my discipline. I need discipline to refrain from cutting the firewood in the garden first, from making another cup of coffee, from thinking that I first need to practice for one of the upcoming concerts, from sliding off into the depths and widths of the world wide web and even from doing the dishes. The problem is not so much that reading books about theory isn’t fun (I will not put a parenthesis after this statement). It is that one needs to create space for truly absorbing what one reads. In the absence of a real plot in most of these books, “stuff” tries to invade one’s brain all the time, and one’s thoughts want to wander. But the paragraph that floats past un-understood is in effect an unread one. There are hundreds of candidates for such paragraphs in scholarly books. One must resort to foolproof and simplistic methods for getting the reading done. Half-engaged scholarly reading is a gigantic waste of time. (more…)


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