April has arrived in a stereotypical display of sunshine and showers, and I've had a sudden burst of spring cleaning enthusiasm. In the course of tidying some paperwork (I've not yet found the courage to tackle the sheet music mountain), I came across the print-out from my school 'careers interview' where I somewhat confused the careers guidance person by reeling off a very detailed plan about how I wanted to be a musician and how I was going to go about it. I was single-minded then, but I'd been through phases of wanting to be various other things - a writer, a translator, something to do with nature or biology.
When I went off to University to study music, I found that single-mindedness going off track a bit. I discovered I was still really interested in language. I started reading about psychology and philosophy and found those fascinating too. Whilst berating myself a bit for not being able to 'stick to one thing' I ended up a few years down the line with both a University music qualification and an Open University degree made up of (hang on, let me think) Latin, Greek, general humanities modules (I loved the mixture of subjects these let you explore), philosophy, psychology, English literature and linguistics. I studied linguistics for my Masters because I was absolutely hooked on discovering the ways that analysing language could enlighten all sorts of subjects. I sometimes felt a bit apologetic though, especially when people gave me slightly puzzled looks - why was I not doing a music Masters? Why was I on this course where 90% of the other students were English teachers? But I used linguistic analysis techniques to kick off my research into adult music learners, and in the process found myself heading down the route of interdisciplinarity (nice description of what academic interdisclipinarity is all about here). Quite an exciting route as it turns out!
It becomes really obvious when I'm looking at conferences to attend. I look at all the music education conferences (and those that are about music psychology and music in general). Then at the linguistics ones, and there are a lot of those - not all relevant, but anything in sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics or discourse analysis catches my eye. But then I'm also interested in education in general, and adult education in particular, which opens up a whole other array of events. So far I've presented posters at the Manchester Forum in Linguistics and the SEMPRE (music psychology and education) Postgraduate Study Day. I'm very excited to have been accepted to give spoken presentations at the International Society for Music Education (ISME) research seminar this summer, and at the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) triennial research conference in Ireland later in the year. It's a little bit overwhelming to have all these options, but mainly it's wonderful to be able to draw on all these different areas and hear about the research and experiences of people researching such a mixture of topics.
It's interesting that Universities have had to give a particular name to research that crosses subject boundaries, since those boundaries have never been entirely clear-cut. Life doesn't sit well into perfectly defined 'subjects' - it overlaps. A conversation you have in the gym might spark something that helps you approach your flute playing in a different way. An experience of playing music might feed into another area of your life. The lines between physical and mental health aren't as defined as we once might have thought they were.
But perhaps being able to give this boundary-crossing a label - 'interdisciplinary' - has helped me feel more at ease and happier with my tendency to explore lots of different areas and not just focus on one. I'm not sure I can ever imagine only 'doing' or 'being' one thing - a teacher, an academic, or anything else!
Now, about that sheet music mountain...
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