Navigating the Post-Grad-School Nebula

June 16, 2019

 

 

I earned a distinction for my research dissertation and portfolio called "The Tesseract", a music tech and composition mapping strategy for harnessing movement to shape sound. It came with a full ride for a PhD at the university. The PhD proposal I submitted in 2017, was an extention of my masters research with the view to use the movement of celestial bodies to shape sound and comparing/contrasting the sound shaped by the motion of microscopic and quantum particles. At first I was informed that my proposal was accepted. Then I received a confusing cloud of communication that ranged from:

 

-You have been accepted but we can't find anyone to supervise your proposal so we don't have place for you.

 

-If you would just change your proposal to something in the Pop music realm we have Prof A and Prof B who could supervise you.

 

-You can probabably do your original research if you can find a second supervisor, just as PhD student X has, from another university who can cover the more technical aspects of this. 

 

Since I was already well on my way through preliminary tests having to do with my original proposal entitled "Stitches in Time: Exploring movement patterns on macro through micro scales as an influence on my multi dimensional sonic art & composition"... I opted to contact an outside supervisor who I really admired. They agreed to the second supervisory role pending approval etc from the university. I also asked Prof B if they would be interested in supervising me to which they responded with an emphatic yes. When I responded to the university with my good news and inquiry about the protocol to move forward, they said that Prof B could no longer take any students as their roster was full & that a second supervisor from outside of the university was problematic...basically. (I thought to myself- SERIOUSLY? But, you JUST said... Okay, fine...) 

 

A possible free ride to do PhD research is not something you easily give up on. So, I sketched out a pop-music research proposal where I had some form of passion to propel a 4 year deep dive. (You see, research needs passion to fuel that long haul, daily trek of obbsessively digging into not just the subject matter and experimentation but also your own self.) I met with Prof A about supervision who seemed interested in the idea.  When I reported back to the university I was given the same response as before: Prof A had a full roster and they could not assign them as my supervisor. (Inner dialogue: REALLY?!? I have an email that says... Okay, fine...)


Once my student Visa ran out I had to fly back home...across the ocean. When my degree arrived on my daughters 6th birthday in June of 2018 there was no fan fare, no pomp & circumstance, no celebration. 

 

I remembered a few comments made to me about needing to be a computer scientist in order to move foward with the ideas that I had been working with. So, in August 2018, I registered for Harvards CS50 at CS50X Miami Ultra. I learned C, Python and a few other languages along with many thought ordering concepts. It was like a reboot for my mind & soul. I will forever be grateful to my professor, Kenneth Loomis. My final project was called Paper Sings.

 

I tried inquiring about the PhD once more while the award for distinction was still good for a free PhD. The admin at the university responded with a message about having no record of my prior submission. (More inner dialogue: Are you kidding me? Did I portal jump into an alternate dimention? Okay, fine...)

 

I honestly have no idea what all of that was about....especially after receiving such high honor for my work. Also, it is important to say that I met some wonderful and brilliant people there with whom I am fortunate enought to keep in contact with to this day. 

 

This is when I entered the post-grad-school nebula.

 

Even with a "distinction"...I felt hazy, worked over and defeated. I looked at my daughter and decided to keep going. Though still open to the idea, I decided that I did not need an entity to supervise my creative curiosity. Nor did I need the goal of receiving an accolade in the form of a title to love music, art, movement and science. I realized in that moment that I had to continue researching, learning, and creating while hopefully leading by example.

 

By November 2018 I attended Ableton Loop in Los Angeles (my second time at the Loop conference) and meet up with my Ableton Fam. There is something beautiful and interesting about having so much in common on a soul level with people from around the world who use the same software for hours on end to create with. It was like a family reunion. On the last day of the conference there was a day-long open workspace called something like using the planets to make music. I had to check it out because...HELLO, have we met? When I arrived I saw 3 women, Kelly Snook, Margaret Schedel & Monica Bolles, who were working on creating an instrument to explore and create music & visuals with planetary data based on Keplers' Harmonices Mundi in an immersive ambisonic environment. I was awestruck and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. I was invited to join them for pizza afterwards and was embraced as part of the team. I affectionately refer to them as The Concordia Crew and am honored to be in their company.

 

In Jan-February 2019 I was invited by Monica Bolles to help with an ambisonic array using speakers from Meyer Sound at Imersa Summit 2019 and met a community of film makers, composers, programmers, astronomers, artist, dome designers, researchers, planetarium and science museaum directors, animation and CG artists, sound designers, VR/AR/XR professionals and music software developers. So far due to all of this I've been able to beta test for Ableton, Delta Sound Labs and mi:mu. All of which helps me in my own creative process, research and development. 

 

Recently, I was invited to Kennedy Space Center (More on that one day soon, hopefully). The team I was with were surprised with a private tour. I met a diverse group of individuals at NASA who, simply by existing, inspired me to continue onward and upward. It was an emotional experience for me internally. It brought me back to when I was 10 years old. My father, with massive help from my mother, had mustered up the energy to drive us to KSC. (The agoraphobia/clusterphobia made traveling tough for him. His love of space, the excitement we had for all things NASA and the tireless support from my mother to push beyond limitations drove us there.) We even managed to get through a short group tour before heading back on the 4 hour roadtrip home while bypassing all major cities. I know what that took for my parents to get us there financially/physically/mentally/emotionally.  Being at NASA this time was overwhelming in the best of ways and a dream come true. 

 

This summer I will be attending a Mini Dome Residency at Jenn Deafenbaugh,'s Interstellar studio. I will also be testing and mapping with the Concordia Crew & visiting The Cube at Virginia Tech.

 

This fall I hope to get to Kelly Snooks Concordia Launch Pad with the rest of the team who will be flying in from all over the world. 

 

Things in the post-grad-school nebula are...well...nebulous yet, fascinating.

 

 

 

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