Not Cocktail Party Music

One of my least favorite parts of academic life is the receptions. I am not a reception-y type person. I enjoy talking to my colleagues, but I want to actually talk to them, not make chit-chat while standing around holding little plates of cheese. Why do people think this is fun? This may sound strange (apparently, though, it is a fairly common thing) but I am much happier giving a lecture to 80 students or a talk to a great big roomful of other scholars than I am circulating at a cocktail party. I enjoy public speaking, and I’m reasonably good at it, and I enjoy actual conversations with people, but this reception business – I mean, yeah, it’s good to meet the dean and all that, but I have already met the dean, haven’t I? And the dean I am sure is not particularly interested in my answers to the “so, how are you settling in?” questions.

But enough rant. (And yes, I do understand that it’s important to get to know people and be friendly and collegial and network and all that – I’m obnoxious, but I’m not oblivious.)

One thing that I noticed about this reception was the music they were playing in the background. It was the sort of anonymous jazz that is usually an attempt to communicate something along the lines of ‘we are cool people talking about interesting things,’ which is true only to a very limited extent in this instance. I would have picked some of Haydn’s string quartets, myself, or maybe some classical guitar. Or perhaps we could have selections from various Regie productions of Mozart operas projected onto the walls so that when we run out of things to say (and we do, sometimes) we can discuss those.

When I become dean and run the world, that is what we will do. I do not expect this to be a popular decision, but it will be the right decision.

23 thoughts on “Not Cocktail Party Music

        1. Non-academics in the sense of people who don’t work as professors/postdocs/deans etc. We can be kind of a dry bunch. I meant it purely as a job description – i.e. Eyes would be an asset to the party because she’s not one of us boring old professors.


          1. Ah! Gotcha! One of the driest (and also funniest) people I ever knew was my undergraduate Intro to Music History professor. When you can make jokes about Perotin or Frescobaldi, you really have something going on (that probably no one else gets)!


  1. As a musician, and one whose hearing is maturing (meaning having trouble distinguishing voices in a noisy environment) may I suggest NO background music? (Is it just me, or do restaurants seem to be playing their background music louder these days?)

    Also, I understand (from living with a thankfully now-retired dean) that being dean is not nearly as much fun as one might think. How about Empress? (or Marschallin?)


      1. It’s true about being dean – I have an older colleague/friend whose sister-in-law is a law school dean and the stories she tells! Administration is only for those with great patience and great force of personality.

        Although if someone offered to make me Marschallin of the College of Arts and Sciences I would seriously consider it.


        1. If there is a College of Arts & Sciences led by a Marschallin instead of a Dean, I would like to know. Also if they have a graduate program in Sorta Comp Lit Plus a Bunch of Other Stuff. With lots of funding.


          1. If I am ever Marschallin of arts and sciences, all graduate students will get full funding and offices with windows. We will have the first Sorta Comp Lit Plus a Bunch of Other Stuff program in the nation – I anticipate success.


              1. Actually I jest. The English grad students at my school did pretty well on the windows front — the nice thing about cardboard being you can make your own with just a pocket knife. But you did want to place your office under a fairly capacious overpass, or else you’d tend to get the weather in.


                1. The grad students at my current institution are grossly underfunded too – at least, I know they are in the history department, and English and History are often pretty similar as far as that kind of thing goes. Even in this part of the country it’s hard to live on 11K a year unless you’re a whiz with boxes/underpasses/knives and/or really really love to eat lentils. (The cheap lentils, too – not the nice ones.)


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