Now that I’m back in the USA, it’s time to reemerge into normal life and get my affairs, as they say, in order. One such affair is class registration for next fall, a biannual ritual I’d managed to escape this past year. In case you’re not familiar with the UK higher education system, I should explain that postgraduate degrees obtained, like mine, through research—as opposed to “taught” degrees—involve no coursework. Although this situation causes much hand-wringing over what “research” in the field of music composition really means (and how best to define it for the higher-ups who control the purse strings), it excuses research students from going to class, completing assignments, and handing in papers. After seven years of university music study, that’s pretty sweet.
Every so often, a friend of mine gets married, takes a job, moves into a house, or has a child—you know, real people type stuff. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get A’s on my projects. One nice thing about the UK research degree is that it acknowledges that you are, in some sense, a grown-up: Many of our research students at Brunel lived and worked in continental Europe, commuting to London every few weeks for an informal seminar or supervisory meeting. Never once, in my eight months in the UK higher education system, was attendance taken. That’s empowering.
On the other hand, those informal seminars and supervisory meetings were so cool that I can only wonder, starry-eyed, about what a regular, thrice-weekly class would have been like with some of these people. After spending so much time composing by myself over the past year, I’ll be grateful for some face-to-face time with my much-missed colleagues at the University of Minnesota, and I know that the course offerings will be meaty—I’m finally getting around to Schenker, for instance, a science my inevitable grapplings with which you can no doubt expect to read in this space. Surely there’s something to be said for both paths of degree completion.
None of that, however, changes the fact that it’s going to be very difficult for me to start going to class again in the fall. I am so over class.