All posts by Everardo Cuevas

Writing Music Recommendations: Bebop and Cool Jazz Stations

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Continuing with my use of Pandora streaming as a way to help one focus during studying, when I’m bored of “classical” (classical to whom? But that’s another story) music (which definitely happens), I move on to different jazz stations I have in my Pandora stations list. I keep to jazz that still falls under the no lyrics category when studying (which is most of the time).

For this post, I want to focus on two specific Pandora jazz stations: Bebop Radio and Cool Jazz Radio. I write about both of these in one post because they are obviously related (although you could argue about where the boundaries of these styles exists). But they serve different purposes as a study aid.

Both stations are great aids in helping me hone in my focus and assist in creating a study/work space. They keep me on task, even if that means listening to a track for a moment while I collect my thoughts. There are two deciding factors that lead me to decide which station to use: current energy level and where I want that energy level to be while studying.

Bebop is great when I’m at a low energy level and need some more up-tempo music to keep me going. Bebop has been especially helpful when I just need to draft pages of an essay or personal work. It really helps me with the generative process—I get lost in drafting/writing with a great Bebop classic in my ear. I’m thinking anything by Dizzy or Horace Silver (when the station melds with Hard Bop). The Bebop Radio station can sometimes be unhelpful when I’m reading, as I’ll start reading (or skimming) too quickly and be more caught up in the tempo. So when I need a more chill energy level while doing some studying, I turn to Cool Jazz.

The Cool Jazz Radio station is very useful when I need to calm down (especially when related to stress) a little to focus. It is a great study aid when reading, as the music makes time feel like it’s moving in song time (not pages, nor minutes); a couple of chill songs pass by and I realize I’ve read 40 something pages or finished a blog post (which is happening as I write this). Paul Desmond’s “A Taste of Honey” is a welcome study companion any time during reading or more relaxed drafting/creating.

It’s interesting to be juxtaposing these styles (Cool and Bebop) in regards to my studying, as they have always been juxtaposed since their post WWII fame (for the same reasons too, tempo and feel). In this microcosm of personal choices influenced by historical tensions, I keep trying to make choices, to study, to create (lol, ending with typical academic theorizing).

The Construction of Identity in Digital Consultations

Something to consider in online writing consultations is your process of identity construction, the power relations these identities rely on/reify/endorse and how this all affects the goal of peer revision, collaborative meaning-making and the writing center consultation.

When we engage in online writing consultations via Twiddla and discuss writing with a student by chatting and engaging the text (without audio or video) we are engaging writing through writing, as opposed to in-person consultations that sometimes involve very little actual writing. The creation of a writing space through online, real-time, digital communication is affected by similar pressures that exist in parallel online, constructed environments—like social media, blogging platforms and discussion boards. One such guiding pressure in this writing space is the construction of identity through written text. In an online setting as a writing center tutor, you are expected to endorse an attitude of peer revision and collaborative meaning-making, while also constructing an identity to engage with another peer in revision. Engaging in collaborative meaning-making requires people, and so both (sometimes more) people in the online writing center consultation are engaged in revision and are constructing their identities simultaneously, all through text.

This could be said of an in-person consultation too. I would argue that in person, though, we rely on bodily cues to signify identity. We rely on physical interactions and performative indicators to relate to each other as bodies and people. Considering the dynamics of identity construction in a virtual space can open up possibilities of change and awareness in the online consultation setting. What identity are you presenting/creating/relying on? Is your process active or assumed? What identity are you inferring about the “student” or “client” or “peer” you are working with and does that affect how you work with them?

Writing Music Recommendations: Classical for Studying Pandora Station

The classical for studying radio station on Pandora satisfies my musical needs while studying. The station offers all instrumental music, which is important because lyrics distract me. What I like most about the station is that while it includes classics like “Suite for Solo Cello No. 3 in C Major” by Bach, it also includes modern composers, movie scores instrumental versions of pop songs and video game soundtracks. I have learned that I really love the modern composer Rachel Currea (“Announcement of War” is a dope piece). Realizing halfway through the song that I am jamming out to the Skyrim soundtrack is always fun. After using this station for years now, I’ve found that if I put on the station, I am more prone to just work. And even when I zone out or get off task, the music’s presence as “work music” pulls me back in without pulling me into singing along (which can be a distraction).

Overall, the lack of lyrics, chill mix of music, and repetition of my usage of the station have led this station of be a successful study tool/trick for me.

Listen here.

The Writing Process, the Writing Center, and You

Dear Potential Writing Center Client,

I am writing this letter to you to inform you of the world of possibilities the Writing Center @ MSU can offer you. Through this letter, it is my hope that you open up to the idea that writing is a process and that we are here to assist you with that process, wherever it is you may be.

Strong, thoughtful writing usually doesn’t happen overnight. If you write something the night before it is due, then you are writing what is probably, as Anne Lamott would call it, a “shitty first draft.” And shitty first drafts are great! Sometimes you just need to get it out and after you have your initial ideas out, shitty or not, we (you and a tutor) can begin to engage in the writing process through revision.

I want you to open up to another idea: writing as revision. Writing, as a process, is something that ideally happens over time and is at its strongest when you can draft something and continue to revise it, or re-envisioning it (see what I did there?). If you can give into this idea, then, the writing process is something we can engage in together (at the Writing Center!).

A basic outline for the writing process is as follows: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revision, revision, revision, revision (do you get the point yet?), revision, editing. I will now go into detail concerning the individual steps.

All of these steps are proposed as a model. You might have a different model or one in a different order. If you are not doing writing in the way I’ve just prescribed, don’t fret! It’s just a model to give you a start.

Brainstorming:

This is the generative, imaginative, creative, and/or constructive part of the writing process. This is when you can begin bringing ideas together without any fear of linear thinking, making complete sense, or worrying if it will “work.” Brainstorming is a beautiful, magical time where you are free to roam the wilds of your mind and jot down anything that seems relevant. Techniques like making lists, bubble maps, and free-writing are simple tools you can use during this stage to generate ideas.

Outlining:

Outlining can be understood as the step between brainstorming and drafting where you take those many thoughts and start organizing them into a more coherent, but not perfect state. Outlining can consist of formal outlines with roman numerals, lazy outlines of your choosing (my favorite) or just organized lists. Outlining can also be a great time to discover if you need more research or not.

Drafting:

Drafting, for the purpose of this model, is the creation of the first draft (or “shitty first draft”) in an attempt to get your words into a more coherent, written-out-with-sentences form. Drafts don’t have to look like the final product. Drafts are an attempt at paragraphs and organization. Think of this as the starting step for what your essay or written text will become. A few tips for drafting: don’t over think it, just write as much as you can (more is better), and just let go.

Revision:

Revision is the possibly never-ending process of taking your draft and re-envisioning it. This is when you really need to start considering the form/needs of the genre you are working in and the global issues of your paper (organization, main argument, transitions, clarity). When you think genres, think about how essays are different from prose, are different from cover letters, are different from poems. For example, if you are writing an essay, where is the thesis and is it central in your whole piece? I say revision is possibly never ending because at this point you can revise to your heart’s content (or until the deadline) and leaving yourself the time to revise is of the upmost importance to the writing process. Like the old maxim from da Vinci, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” There will come a time when you will have to say, “Okay, I think this is where I need to leave my writing for now. It makes enough sense and answers to the assignment/genre.”

Editing:

Editing is left for last because now that you have addressed the global concerns, you can go through and check your paper for local issues like sentence structure, syntax, and grammar. Editing is the time to “polish” your piece and consider your tone and how you are saying things. A good strategy for this is reading the essay in reverse order, one sentence at a time, to focus on the sentence meaning and not the linear, argument(s) being constructed.

The best thing we (at the Writing Center) can do for you is also help you figure out YOUR PROCESS. That’s the beauty of our approach to peer revision—when you become aware of your process, you can begin to tailor it for your own needs and purposes. That would be our highest and ultimate goal: to facilitate awareness of and define a process that works for YOU. A process you can engage in (and redefine) as you need, long after you stop using the writing center and even long after college.

Please come join us for a session at the center. I mean, you’ve already paid for it in student fees! And you never know what you might learn here, or what we can imagine together.