Research: Conductors and Conducting — Part 1


Perceval began life as a short story.  I finished page one hundred and realized that I was writing a novel.  I would need to research conductors and conducting.  I knew, from my background in music, that this research would take a long time and be difficult.  What could Evan be instead of a conductor that would be easier to research?

Auto mechanic came to mind.  Lots of auto mechanics in the world.  Most people own cars and have had experience with at least one auto mechanic.  I could probably find several auto mechanics within a mile of my home.  They’d probably be flattered, too, that a novelist wanted to observe their work and learn about their lives.

The night after I made that decision, I dreamed of Evan, my main character auto mechanic, dressed in white tie and tails, glowering at me.  Suddenly his face zoomed up close to mine in the dream and I woke.  He had said nothing.  This same dream occurred with increasing frequency over the next six nights until I was getting little sleep.  Finally, I was afraid to go to sleep. 

 OK, OK.  What was the dream telling me?  Evan wasn’t dressed in the greasy overalls of an auto mechanic but as a conductor.  Although he said nothing, his expression conveyed anger — at me, hence the his-face-in-my-face move.  He’d initially appeared to me as a conductor (see October 6, 2007 post “Who is That Guy or Where do you get your ideas?”) and had announced more than once in the story so far that he was a conductor.  In the interests of being able to sleep, I gave in.  Evan was a conductor.  I would do the research on conductors and conducting.  The next night, no dream.

First insight into conductors: They know who they are and what they want and can be incredibly stubborn about it.  (Is this true?  Would I be able to verify this?  Time would tell.)

At this point, I wished desperately that at least one of the other music students I’d known in college had gone on to become a conductor, someone I might be able to call a “conductor buddy” and use as a resource.  No such luck — none of them had pursued conducting.  Conductors are very, very busy people and many of them travel for months at a time.  So, as far as interviewing conductors was concerned, I wanted to make certain what when I requested an interview, I had a compelling reason for it.  For example, a specific question that I knew a specific conductor could answer.  I wanted to make friends of conductors, interest them in my writing, not annoy them by inadvertently wasting their time.

To be continued….

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10 responses to “Research: Conductors and Conducting — Part 1

  1. *chuckle*

    Poor ol’ Evan, being threatened with demotion to ‘conductor’! No wonder he was glowering.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Naomi! Actually, the threat of demotion was to auto mechanic….(smile) Not what Evan wanted to be when he grew up! (laughing)

  3. LOL – I knew that. I did. Honest. I just disengaged my brain to comment. I find the words come easier that way 😉

  4. Did he keep appearing the same way each time? I.e., same clothes, same actions? If not, I would find the differences between appearances interesting.

    I once wrote a long story – which is a different story all together – in which a man is having recurring dreams. These involve a woman he knows, whom he encounters in the dreams the same way, over and over again. What changed was not the mechanics of the encounter, but the appearance: her clothes, the chair on which she’s sitting, the sword in her hand. They’re different in each dream, but are consistent with in the dream (e.g., on an old camp stool, wearing a soldier’s jacket and carrying a well-worn sword in one night).

    It isn’t until much, much later he recalls them and realizes the significance of the different images in the life he has subsequently created for himself.

    Of course, bizarrely, it wasn’t until much later in the story that I realized their significance either. I had originally just put in different images thinking of keeping it from being boring to the reader, and because the whole point is the confusion of the man over her (esp. since he thinks she dead).

    Oft times, I think we fail to see the connection between things when they are different, since we tend to look for similarities, rather than similarities of differences.

  5. I know! I’m guilty of doing that too sometimes…and it’s really easy with computers to type fast and think one thing but type another….(smile) Always glad to see you here, Naomi.

  6. Elizabeth, your story sounds interesting! Is it finished? Published?

    To answer your questions, yes, he appeared exactly the same and did exactly the same thing each time I had the dream, which made it increasingly more like a nightmare than a dream. What I realized finally was that my imagination was telling me not to change his profession to suit my needs, but to remain true to him as a person/character. Now that I’ve gone through all the research (and enjoyed it), I can see other reasons, some symbolic, for him being a conductor. It is magical the way the imagination works, prodding us to do/write what it wants….

  7. No, it’s not finished, per se. I think it could be chopped off about 1/4 of the way through it. But, once past that, no. I know where I want it to end, and have the problem that I’m not sure how to get there.

    I have then struggled with the idea that I should perhaps throw out the “I want it” end, and simply go back to writing an see where it takes me.

    No, it’s not published. I did toy around with the idea initially, when I saw it was more than just a short story or novella size. I would need to actually finish it, though.

    I would also need to get past the terror of letting someone else read it. I have never had a problem with letting people read my professional stuff: reports, opinion papers, procedures, etc. Of course, I feel far more confident about the quality of my professional abilities. It’s that versus something which is completely from myself. I fear rejection about that far more than a position paper on why we need to remove a 10,000 gallon underground storage tank for EPA compliance.

    Ah, well. My writing today needs to focus on the methodology for monitoring radioactive fallout based upon comparisons of wet/dry deposition and aerosol scavenging models. OR Public Policy on quarantining people with AIDS. I’m tired of science, I think I’m going to go for political policy, and try to refrain from screaming, since I’m sitting in a library.

  8. Ah, the terror of allowing someone else to read something we have written from the imagination…. I’ve gotten so I compartmentalize that terror when it’s time to show my writing to someone. And I make certain I have other writing to work on, to occupy my mind. I’ve learned that people want to read a good story, and most of the time, they respond well.

    I was terrified about starting this blog. It is writing that is truly out there in the whole wide world…that is, if people find it! (smile) I decided at the beginning that it would be informative and serious about writing and not personal or ranting. As professional as I can make it. I love getting the comments (not the spam). I wish I had more time to explore more of the blog world and find other interesting writing blogs….

  9. ah, the art of ranting. Unfortunately, it rarely achieves the exalted state of ‘art’. Most just vent their spleen with no consideration given to being persuasive or truly convincing.

    I’ve read some astonishingly ignorant, bigoted, and just down right stupid things on people’s blogs. Most recently was some ignoramus ranting about the Mass as St. Stephen’s in Mpls. Obviously a dyed-in-the-wool conservative (and ignorant, which is not the same) who doesn’t – or refuses to – know anything beyond his comfortable little niche.

    I have a propensity to rant, when something just gets my goat or raises my ire. I repeatedly tell myself that having a blog is not an excuse to subject the rest of the world to my personal ranting. One certainly can do that; I do not wish to.

    I’ve tried to keep myself within the parameters of things that I just find interesting, inspirational, and – yes, occasionally – infuriating. Of course, I’m not doing this professionally or about my profession. I doubt many of my friends would be interested enough in what I do to read about it. Although, I have contemplated doing something like this professionally. And use it to ponder the amazing stupidity of people with regards to their health and the world, rather than just their immortal soul. On that note: have a joyous Easter (or at least relax and sleep in tomorrow morning).

  10. I often wish I were more eloquent. Ranting has its place. But I felt more comfortable keeping this blog focused on my novels and the writing, as well as writing-related activities. There is still a certain terror associated with it, though….

    I do enjoy checking in on your blog, Elizabeth. It often makes me think….

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