Meet Dr. Michael Morse, professor by day, jazzman by night:
1) So what has been keeping you busy lately?
Music (playing bass with Biff Hannon and practicing to keep up); scholarship (preparing and delivering a paper on Adorno & analysis for NYU’s School of the Visual Arts grad program; trip to NYC with my wonderful son Tim; reading the usual suspects (Adorno, music theory, Hegel, Max Weber).
2) What is/are the focus(es) of your research?
The social sense and meaning of music.
3) Describe your perfect day? Feel free to be creative.
Good work, good friends.
4) You are handed a free ticket to go anywhere in the world. Where do you go and why?
West Africa, probably Ghana, to experience that incredible society first hand.
5) Is there a literary period that you wish you had belonged to? If you could hang out with any writer, musician and/or group, who would it be? It would be fun to be a fly on the wall, listening to legendary wits like Oscar Wilde or Karl Kraus; but I confess I’m extremely happy, blessed in fact, with the people I have known.
6) What are the last three good books you read and why?
1. Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of His Life, J. Eckermann; insight into one of the most fascinating forces of the 18th/19th centuries, and into life & art generally.
2. H. Helmholtz, On Goethe’s Natural Scientific Work; a critical complement to the previous, and for me a salutary reminder that folks on the o0ther side of the positivist fence also have great insight into Where Incorrect ideas Come From.
3. Christopher Logue, War Music, a partial translation of the Iliad that is poetry and translation of an order I’ve never before encountered.
7) What kind of music do you like? (be as creative as you wish)
I do agree with Duke Ellington that there is only good and bad music, and that genre classifications tend to blinker us; and I love so much of the world’s music(s) that a delimitation would be difficult on that score alone. I like pretty much everything that’s honest; I work in and on jazz, improvised music, and dramatic music.
[Editor: Let’s play some Duke, then:]
8) Any advice for incoming grad students?
1. As Leon Trotsky, of all people, said, “mankind lives not by politics alone”; don’t make learning to strain the world through an ideological filter the point of your education.
2. I won’t get this quote right, any more than Barrack Obama did, but it’s by God important: the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. Don’t fall for the strongly beguiling proposition that this world is so different that immediate relevance equates to truth.
3. Try not to let yourself neglect other kinds of reading and listening and viewing; make some part of your day about beauty and truth, not about prepping for your comps.
4. Be aware that the personal politics of grad school are intense, but not the end of the world. Try to be above cliques and backbiting.
[Editor: indeed to all the above]
9) Choose three words to summarize your own experience as a grad student?
[No can do!]
10) And finally, if you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
At this point, honestly, I’d choose the ability to instantly turn down the volume on IPods and personal music players. This generation is headed for appalling hearing loss problems in the next decade. Equally good: I would cause every molecule of rohypnol to disappear from the earth. (Editor’s Note: indeed)