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Cent jours de français and other stories: Nov/Dec Update

It's been a while since I last got on the blog so... what's been going on and what have I been up to?

Wrapping up (no festive pun intended) the HE semester has been full on and marks the end of a period of activity like no other. Teaching at a variety of Universities during Covid-19 has required constant planning, re-planning, re-planning and then some more re-planning but, despite the challenges and frustrations, has been rewarding in many ways. Helping students negotiate the uncertainty has been a really valuable activity and resulted in us all learning so much in a relatively short period of time. Time for some R&R soon but, for now, there's plenty of thinking, writing, learning to be getting on with. So what have I been up to...

Leeds Arts University: BMus(Hons) Popular Music Performance Xmas Show

Whilst respecting social distancing and institutional room capacity policy, we were able to deliver our annual Xmas Popular Music Performance show. It was pretty challenging to organise this time round but with a variety of 'green room' zones and a network of Youtube live-stream, GoogleMeet connections and a stage manager we were able to perform to live/remote audience safely. I had the opportunity to perform on the drums also which felt like a novel experience. Very affirming to get behind the kit and actually play some music (as captured photographically by Martine Lund Hopefully 2021 will see a return to live performance and some beginnings of certainty for the much beleaguered performers, venues and arts organisations around the world.

Rhythm Masterclass: Durham University Jazz Society

It was a great pleasure to visit Durham University (remotely of course) to deliver a masterclass on 'Rhythm' for the musicians of the University's Jazz Society. We had a great time discussing various aspects of Rhythm (philosophy, practise, 'linguistics') through a variety of interactive activities. We also took a look at transcriptions of iconic solos from a rhythmic perspective, analysing how musician's use of rhythm contributed to the musical sense making. So often Jazz analysis begins and ends from the perspective of harmonic analysis so it was refreshing and revealing to re-evaluate texts from a rhythmic perspective. Thanks so much to the society's committee for inviting me (special mention to David Byfield and Alex Howard-Vyse) and for Durham University for funding the event. It was a real privilege to learn more about the great music-making up in Durham and I hope to return in person when possible.

BCMCR Research Seminar – Cultural Theory - Work in Progress: Roundtable discussion on academic activism

I was delighted to take part in a roundtable discussion for the Cultural Theory research cluster at Birmingham City University. The transcript from the session has been generated and we are now working on edits in preparation for potential submission within the Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education (PTHE) Special Issue – Academic Activism in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities. The description of the session is as follows:

This roundtable discussion is part of the process of developing a co-authored writing piece collectively written by members of the Cultural Theory cluster.

In this roundtable discussion we revisit Edward Said’s Representations of the Intellectual (1993) as a departure for examining how and where academic activism can take place. This is situated both within, and apart from, existing public struggles, including #BlackLivesMatter and other current movements. Academic activism will be explored as an intellectual project, that may at times, problematise notions of: the public, the intellectual and the activist.

We will examine how academic activism contributes to activist projects, while also interrogating how “public” representational claims are made. This includes important questions around who is responsible for publics that are not yet constituted as such? What voices are not yet heard, seen or understood? And what is the role of academic activists in relation to these? This in turn raises ethical questions of how to represent the disadvantaged and/or subaltern - as well as accountability to these publics.

In addressing these issues, the roundtable will explore activism both inside and outside the classroom, offering various figurations of academic activism. With: Tony Armstrong (Education & Social Work), Kirsten Forkert (BIME), Jason Huxtable (RBC), Zaki Nahaboo (Sociology), Eugene Nulman (Sociology), Poppy Wilde (BIME), and Esther Windsor (School of Art).

Cent jours de français

I managed to reach my first 100 day landmark in my attempt to learn French. I've been learning on Duolingo, prompted by Duo (La choutte gentil) to log in and reach my daily target.

I've been learning French as a gateway towards my eventual goal of being able to speak Kreyol de haitienne. This activity is running alongside my research into Haitian percussion, through online lessons with leading Haitian percussionists. Ideally, given a few years of continued study, I will be confident in transferring my knowledge of French to Kreyol, able to speak not only the language of Haitian percussion but also that of it's leading practitioners. All is going well so far...

Rockschool Classical

I've been an examiner for Rockschool since 2005 and have examined thousands of candidates across the world. I hesitate to guess exactly how many exams I've conducted but it has to be somewhere in the region on 10,000 now!

Congratulations to RSL rockschool for their resilience and enterprise through these exceptionally challenging times. In addition to creating conditions for safe face to face exams in the UK, RSL have also developed mechanisms for online video, Graded Certificate, examinations, remote international examining and launched a brand new syllabus! I've been invited onto the new RSL Classical examiner panel and expect to start assessing this syllabus shortly.

If you have any piano students who are waiting to take an examination, check out what RSL Classical offer.

That's it for now. Merry Xmas and I hope to see you in 2021!

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