Thinking . . . thinking . . . thinking . . . as summer days whiz by . . .
I am deep into a writing project that has been with me for awhile — over two decades, in fact. How does a writing project stretch out to such proportions? Well, procrastination is certainly a major suspect. So is life–relocating multiple times, changing jobs, taking on new challenges, accepting new invitations, attracting new opportunities. But all the while, chipping away at the project, uncovering long buried sources, expanding my frameworks.
The project started innocently enough. An opportunity presented itself to put Hawaiian music in conversation with broader audiences while simultaneously challenging all of us to think deeply about this music.. And realizing the scale presented by this opportunity might not come back around to Hawaiian music, at least not for a long long time. So I dug in my heels, and just kept chipping away. And as the project took shape, so did my understanding of just how carefully this project needed to be executed. Not carelessly, not kapakahi. Only the most honestly scrupulous process of checking and rechecking and checking and rechecking.
Itʻs hard to think about how to share bits and pieces of this project with you, dear readers. Along with all the self-promotion and posturing going on all over the Internet, it is abuzz with negativity, hate-mongering, one-upmanship. (Meryl Streep opened her Oscar acceptance speech this past March by relating that half of American must already have screamed, “Why HER?”) That which has been aimed at me–knowingly, and unknowingly–is proof that I have attained sufficient visibility to have become a target. How flattering.
So I put my head down and just keep chipping away. And the story is materializing. And sources are passing electronically from my computer to the editors. And I am starting to glimpse a faint flicker at the end of a long and dark and curvy tunnel. And the pressure and urgency mounts.
The working title of this project: Hawaiian Songs Ancient and Modern. Contracted for publication in the series “Music of the United States of America” coordinated by the American Musicological Society and A-R Editions, and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
My project is an exploratory one. What are the means and the limits of representing Hawaiian songs? Why is the enterprise of “defining Hawaiian music” so explosively divisive? What is the range of sources by which Hawaiian songs–and (perhaps more importantly) knowledge about Hawaiian songs–have traversed from the past into the present? My goal is simply to invite folks to ponder about Hawaiian songs in light of the stories their sources bear.
I humbly ask for your patience and understanding, as posts here have become sporadic. After such an protracted journey, Hawaiian Songs Ancient and Modern is on the homestretch. It needs to reach the finish line.