Tag Archives: university

2550. Ethnomusicology

A true story to celebrate round figure Story Number 2550.

In my younger years I was teaching fulltime and trying to complete a music degree in between classes. I would turn up to class with a banana, teach about Wuthering Heights or Richard the Third or something, and the minute the class was over I’d leap into the car, and eat the banana for lunch while driving off to my university lecture. Choice of music papers studied was largely dictated by what was available when I wasn’t teaching. In this particular year I was taking An Introduction to Ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology is the study of non-Western music and this particular year it focused on the music of Polynesia.

The lecturer was Allan Thomas. He once stopped me in the corridor and said, “Bruce, have you ever thought of coming to university full-time and learning something?” Just so you can envisage the time scale, the New Zealand academic year runs roughly from February to November. Around March Allan Thomas announced that there would be no examination at the end of the year but everyone must submit a detailed study on an approved topic about Polynesian music.

I continued to attend lectures, but the detailed study on an approved topic somehow went on the back-burner. I used to try and avoid Allan Thomas outside of lecture times. It was September. I still hadn’t had a topic approved; in fact, I still didn’t have a topic. And there, coming along the corridor with no side corridors to escape into, was Allan Thomas!

“Bruce,” he said stopping me, “what’s the topic you’ve been studying this year on Polynesian music?”

“Oh!” I exclaimed, saying the first thing that came into my head, “Jock McEwen is helping me with it.”

“Jock McEwen!” said Allan Thomas. “That’s wonderful! We’ve been trying to get information out of him for years!”

My heart fell. Jock McEwen was an old Maori local man who knew absolutely everything about New Zealand Maori music. He was the guru of gurus. I went home having leaped from the frying pan into the fire. What to do?

I went to see the local priest whom I knew to be a great friend of Jock McEwen. He said he’d see Mr. McEwen and explain the situation. I waited. Back came the answer.

A local Maori woman known as Aunty Dovey (“Aunty” being a title of respect for older Maori women in New Zealand) had composed songs all her life and they had been recorded but never written down. They had never been copyrighted. The Greek singer, Nana Mouskouri had released a new LP and some of Aunty Dovey’s songs were on it. So too had the Australian singer, Rolf Harris. Would I write down the music of all of Aunty Dovey’s songs so they could be copyrighted? I was given recordings of her songs. Incidentally, Aunty Dovey’s full name was Hera Katene-Horvath but she was known as “Aunty Dovey”.

The day the assignment was due had passed. I had been up all night transcribing. In the morning I drove to Wellington where I knew Allan Thomas lived. I would leave the manuscripts in his mailbox.

There at the mailbox was a woman. I explained that I had an assignment for Allan Thomas. She said he was her husband. She would give him the assignment. What was the topic?

“Oh!” said I. “I have transcribed the music of Aunty Dovey’s songs.”

There was a stunned silence. The woman’s name was Jennifer Shennan. She was a well-known choreographer and dancer. She was doing her doctoral thesis on the dance movements of Aunty Dovey’s songs, but had never been able to get hold of the written music – only the recordings. This was a God-send!

Meantime she had missed her bus. A tom-cat had pee-ed on her woven flax bag at the mailbox. Could I drive her to her studio in downtown Wellington? Off we went with the stinking tom-cat-pee-ridden woven bag held out the window.

Oh! And I got an A+ for the paper!

2130. A litany of achievement

Beryl was excited. She had won a scholarship to a prestigious university.
“All my hard work paid off,” said Beryl. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!”
“Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are Black.”

Earle was excited. He had won a scholarship to a prestigious university.
“All my hard work paid off,” said Earl. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!”
“Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are in a wheelchair.”

Fay was excited. Fay had won a scholarship to a prestigious university.
“All my hard work paid off,” said Fay. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!”
“Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are transgender.”

Craig was excited. He had won a scholarship to a prestigious university.
“All my hard work paid off,” said Craig. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!”
“Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are White. We had to show we weren’t biased.”

(Footnote: Unlike the scholarship recipients in the story above I have had the thrill of having won first place in Chel Owens’ A Mused Poetry Contest. It’s well worth a look at this contest if you don’t already follow it. And it’s fun, free, and easy to enter! You should think about giving it a go!)

1768. Look out

It was one of those tragedies that could have been avoided. It was both indulgent and unnecessary. Twenty-four university geology students on a field trip were crowded onto a lookout in the mountains. The lookout collapsed and the students fell thousands of feet down the cliff to inevitable death.

Let us compare details of two university students to better understand the sadness of what happened.

Donna Bella was enrolled at university to get a degree in Geology. She was bright, intelligent, and quite frankly full of herself. Her father (I know him from work) is a civil engineer. He said to his spoiled daughter, “You can do better than that”, and through various connections secured Donna Bella a grant to study nuclear physics at a rather prestigious institution. That is why Donna Bella wasn’t one of the geology students standing on the mountain lookout that collapsed.

On the other hand, Minnie-Martha had enrolled in geology and was standing on the mountain lookout when it collapsed. Obviously her father didn’t have the money to buy his daughter a degree from a prestigious university. Actually, she was my daughter. I cannot bear to say more. Enough said.

Some people think they can get away with things scot free. Not so, which is why I applaud the unidentified driver of the hit and run yesterday that ran over that selfish know-all called Donna Bella. She was crossing the road and the car didn’t just clip her; it went slap-bang wham full on. It was very satisfying.

1555. She couldn’t wait

(The closing sentence for this story was suggested by Cath of Cath’s World.

Winnie hated school. All day was spent sitting in a hot classroom listening to boring teachers drone on and on. She couldn’t wait to leave school for her life to finally start.

Winnie hated university. A student’s life was meant to be fun, but all she ever got was assignment after assignment. And boring lectures. She couldn’t wait to graduate for her life to finally start.

Winnie hated her job working as a receptionist for an airline company. People were so rude and demanding and full of themselves. She couldn’t wait to meet Mr Right for her life to finally start.

Winnie had a couple of kids before her husband, whom she now hated, asked for a divorce. She couldn’t wait for the divorce to come through for her life to finally start.

Winnie’s kids were expensive and tiresome. Soon, surely, they would leave home and start to be independent. She couldn’t wait for them to fly the nest for her life to finally start.

Winnie was now getting on in years. She worked as a receptionist for a hardware company. She couldn’t wait to retire for her life to finally start.

1203. Good for everything is good for nothing


Paddy was a bit of a plodder. At school he struggled with most subjects, but he was good with his hands and wanted to be a mechanic. A mechanic he became! He fixed mainly trucks. He was very good at it and enjoyed it very much.

Royce was good at everything. At school he got the top marks in nearly every subject he took. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but the world was his oyster. He went to university and took economics. There’s good money to be had in that! After a year he got tired of that and thought he’d change to a degree in sports health. After all he held his previous school’s record in the high jump. Towards the end of the academic year, Royce thought he’d gone in the wrong direction and didn’t even turn up for the exams. Geology was his thing. A career in that would be both academic and outdoors.

“It’s good that Royce is checking out his options,” said his delighted parents. “So often young people go straight into a career which doesn’t suit them.”

After eight years at university “checking out his options”, Royce got a job at the local warehouse stacking cartons.

1161. Dreams of being a vet

Throughout his childhood, Bonito loved Nature. He collected leaves of different plants and pressed them. He knew their names, both Common and Latin. He had pet macaws, and bred them. He even had a pet chinchilla!

Throughout his adolescence his love of Nature never wavered. His parents had a few acres, and he was allowed to have an alpaca. He called it Juan Carlos.

It was a natural step, when he left school, to begin studies to become a vet. He would become a specialist in veterinary services for farm animals. How exciting it was to begin the course in Biology at the university!

In the second week, the students had to dissect a guinea pig each. That was the end of Bonito’s dream. He walked out of class and never came back.

877. The bathroom was cleaned


(This is my attempt to use a phrase in the passive voice! Grammar was never my strong point!)

It’s terrible. There was blood from one end of the bathroom to the other. Rosina’s body was on the floor. The rest of us had gone to the pub for the evening and left Rosina home because she had a chemistry assignment to finish as part of her university papers.

Rosina was a bit of a nerd. She never took part in any of the fun the rest of us students had. We would get most of the academic stuff out of the way by the weekend, so we could party. I admit, there were some recreational drugs, but it was pretty harmless. Rosina had threatened to report us, but she never did.

This weekend we were all at the pub except for Rosina who stayed in the shared student apartment to do her chemistry paper. The body was found when we got home.

Anyway, the bathroom was cleaned. Rosina was put in the chest freezer for a bit until people sobered up.

To listen to the story being read click HERE!

696. Virgil’s booze money


Most of Virgil’s friends were having a hard time in their first year at university. It wasn’t the tuition fees that were difficult; parents looked after that side of things in the main, and they had readied themselves for such expenses for years. And it wasn’t the cost of text books for each paper studied that was the great hardship. Parents had planned for that aspect as well.

What really got Virgil’s friends was the cost of booze. They were young only once, and the price of weekend partying was pretty crippling. And yet Virgil managed. He always seemed to have spare cash for partying on Saturday nights. His parents were not that well off. Virgil’s friends asked him his secret, but he wouldn’t tell. Surely he wasn’t a thief.

What Virgil had discovered was that, once he was in the system, a few minutes at the sperm bank a couple of times a week to make a deposit was all it took. Getting booze money was a pleasure.

Listen the story being read HERE!

341. University education


The first year students at the prestigious university of agriculture had a week of orientation. They were introduced to all aspects of the subjects they would study over the next three to five years. Some would become farmers, some vets, some agricultural advisors. Some would specialize in horses; or sheep, or crops, or poultry, or household pets, or whatever.

At the end of the week, there was a meet-the-staff evening, with nibbles and drinks. Frances attended. She was on the university staff. She enjoyed watching the students attempt to ingratiate themselves with the staff members. “Ha! Ha! Ha! Professor! What a funny joke!”

Frances was surrounded by a gaggle of students; like wasps around a hummingbird feeder. How the students greased, and flattered, and sweet-talked!

“And what exactly do you lecture in, professor?” one student asked. Frances had been introduced as one of the more important people in the university’s Zoology Department.

“Call me Frances,” said Frances. “And, oh! didn’t I say? I clean out the pig sties.”