Guest Post by Ralph Locke – Post-AMS Ponderings: Structure of the Official Daytime Paper Sessions
Ryan made interesting comments in his recent pre-AMS post.
I wonder if his concerns are still the same now that he has attended this conference. What I saw/experienced was lots of papers–official ones during the daytime, and unofficial ones at night, organized by Study Groups and such. Many, many papers by grad students, I thought. But this is from the perspective of a senior scholar. (I’m 62 years old, so probably now qualify for that seemingly distinguished title by simple matter of chronological age….)
The question of how to run the Annual Meeting is always being debated. If anybody reading this blog (or writing for it) has concrete proposals, by all means make them to the Board or the Council (through your Council Representative).
The Board itself ponders these matters anew almost every year. There is a questionnaire (online) that all attendees of last week’s meeting received, asking us some questions in this regard, e.g., whether papers should be shortened to 20 minutes, thereby creating 2-hour sessions and hence more sessions.
I hate this. I find that a 20-minute time frame–which I’ve had to abide by at some conferences–does not allow us to let enough music–or basic contextual info–be heard, and so our findings just don’t make much impact on a listening audience that isn’t already closely attuned to the repertoire and “where it’s coming from.” I say this also as an audience member listening, not just as a presenter speaking. I need to be eased into a topic, and have some concrete music to react to. I didn’t know the particular Telemann overtures-suites that Stephen Zohn spoke on last week. I needed to hear enough to give me a sense, or else I would have had to take almost everything he said on faith.
But that’s just me. You may feel differently, in which case I hope you’ll continue to speak up!
As for anonymity, I thought that the Board made a very wise decision a few years ago in keeping the original 120 “blind” papers and then allowing the Program Committee to add another 24 once the names of the abstract-writers have been revealed. This allows for the possibility that one or another abstract may sound much more interesting and substantive once one knows that the person who wrote the abstract is the world-renowned author of book X on the subject (a basic fact that s/he is not permitted to make clear in the abstract itself).
Speaking of which, what does an abstract writer do in order to indicate that s/he is taking his/her own work further? Some of the abstracts published in the conference program refer to “my previous article in journal X”—but clearly this wording was not in the original submitted abstract. Some of us have taken to referring to ourselves in the third person. But this can create an unintentionally misleading effect, if musicologist Y creates an abstract lamenting the weaknesses in the 2008 article by Y, in order to establish the crucial importance of getting his or her paper on next year’s AMS meeting (in New Orleans).