Oberlin Blogs

The Semester in Numbers

May 10, 2009

Will Mason ’10

Finals week already? Seems like just a few weeks ago I was making my daily trek through the cold January weather to labor away in my practice room during Winter Term. I can't say that every semester has gone by this quickly for me, and I think much of the reason why I'm finding myself a little flabbergasted that the semester has already drawn to a close is that my classes this semester were really excellent. I had a wonderful schedule and was genuinely excited to show up to class every day, no matter how tired or overworked I might have been. I credit a lot of this to my fancy new independent major, which has given me complete freedom over my coursework. I'm more self-motivated now than I've ever been, and I'm working hard because of genuine interest rather than the desire to receive high grades. My schedule for next semester promises to be a continuation of this, for which I feel incredibly fortunate. I can't speak highly enough of the IM program.

I'm largely a "left-brained" person (insofar as personality traits really are lateralized across brain hemispheres; some of my neuroscientist peers have told me this tends to be spurious, or at least misunderstood and pseudoscientific as it exists in popular culture). I like sequences, lists, and structure; I'm that guy who meticulously organizes his iTunes library and always wants an itinerary when on vacation (not that I take them). So I thought I might wrap up this semester with a numerical round-up of some of its defining characteristics. Bear with me...

~65 - Pages written. I've never taken the time to approximate my written output before tonight, so I'm not entirely sure if this is average or not, but it certainly doesn't feel as though I've written any more this semester than usual. Still, it's a shock to add up a bunch of seemingly-innocuous 6-8 page essays and realize that in one semester's time you've written what essentially amounts to a deeply schizophrenic novella.

6 - Classes taken. I finished up the Conservatory's core requirement of four semesters of music theory and aural skills. I wasn't sad to see aural skills go, since my singing voice sounds like the satanic offspring of Gilbert Gottfried and an English Longhorn, but I really enjoy music theory and particularly enjoyed it this semester--in fact, I rank this semester's music theory class as the best course I've had at Oberlin. I also took Music Since 1914, a music history class focusing on contemporary repertoire, which is my area of interest. Rounding that out were my Intro to Computer Science course (in which I made extensive use of the professor's office hours and, consequently, patience) and an Intro to International Relations course, which, despite being at the 100-level, was in many ways harder than the other politics courses I've taken by virtue of its broad subject matter. (Classes tend to focus their theses the higher up you go.) And, of course, I continued my lessons with Billy Hart.

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Practice your rudiments, or I'll haunt your dreams!

5 - Recitals in which I performed. From odd-metered jazz tuba music to a piano trio to a graphically-notated noise monstrosity. It's always a pleasure and a privilege to play in a peer's recital; I just wish, as I always do, that I'd done a better job! But that's why I'm here, I suppose...

4 - Coached ensembles in which I participated. A very straight-ahead jazz guitar trio, a free-improv ensemble, a quintet performing mostly original compositions, and a piano trio as likely to play a song by Ornette Coleman as by Outkast. This same trio is recording a CD in the TIMARA studio this Friday under the auspices of my friend and Like Bells band mate Garrett Openshaw. Andrew, the pianist, is graduating but hanging around Oberlin next year, and it's our hope to get a weekly gig somewhere in the area. Hopefully this will help push that along.

3 - Jobs worked. I'm counting my puny output on this website as one of those jobs (I'll be better next year, I promise!). In addition, I spent yet another semester as an accompanist for the dance department, which was great. I don't play piano that often any more after burning out on it in high school, so an opportunity to play for three hours a week was appreciated. The class itself was great fun--fellow blogger Daniel Tam-Claiborne was in the class, and I'll note that I made good on my promise not to videotape him dancing in class and upload it on this website--and it's always a privilege to work with the dance faculty here. I also continued work at The Grape, Oberlin's alternative newspaper, as Features editor. Next year I'll be taking over as Editor in Chief and am very excited to work with a talented staff of writers and editors. Oh, and John West will be there too. (Burn! But in all seriousness, John is to the Grape what Eleanor Gould--an Oberlin alum!--was to The New Yorker.) We're going to try to steer the paper in a slightly new direction--ramping up our already robust arts coverage, adding more long-form news pieces, etc.--and are also working on a change in the paper's design. All exciting stuff. One of my housemates next year, a friend of mine since we were freshmen, is going to be Editor in Chief at The Review. I foresee this either meaning that the age-old friendly rivalry between the two papers will come to a halt, or that tensions will reach untold heights as articles start appearing in both papers about "That Piece Of Crap Housemate Who Never Does The Dishes On His Night."

2 - More years until I graduate. (Well, three more semesters to be precise, but either way I'm over the hump.) Good thing? Bad thing? There's a saying I've heard a couple of times up in central Maine that I love: "Tough tellin', not knowin'." But I'm enjoying the ride more and more every day. Ayuh.

1 - Month-long tour booked for my band, Like Bells. I've written extensively about this in the past so I won't here, but booking this tour required an incredible amount of work and I'm very proud of what we were able to put together. Our calendar is at www.myspace.com/likebells; if you live on the East Coast, chances are we're coming to a city near you. Come out to a show if you can make it, and say hello. We'll be the three guys who look like they've been living out of a minivan and haven't had a shower in weeks. We may or may not be smiling.

Responses to this Entry

Why doesn't this thing have a "Like" button?

Seriously, A+ for the Miss Gould reference. A major compliment for John.

Posted by: David on May 10, 2009 11:38 PM


Posted by: Lillie on May 11, 2009 10:04 AM

"my singing voice sounds like the satanic offspring of Gilbert Gottfried and an English Longhorn"

hilarious! awesome post.

Posted by: Anonymous on May 13, 2009 11:56 AM

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