Monday, 26 April 2010

What I've Learned About Writing a Dissertation.

Finally it's all done! My dissertation is out of the way, all finished, all printed and bound. I'll post a copy online once it's been handed in, I don't want any risk of anyone claiming it as their own or anything.
I think it reads pretty well, I'm especially proud of the primary research. I think all in all it provides a pretty good grounding on many of the issues surrounding digital consoles in live audio.
It struck me that there was a lot that I could have done to make my life a lot easier, most of which I was told and ignored. I thought I'd post a list of the key lessons I learned, so that any undergraduates preparing to write their dissertation might be a bit more prepared.

1) Pick a Topic You Will Enjoy
I'd argue this is the most important point, and it's one I did actually obey. Needless to say it's a world easier to write 10000 words. More importantly though its a lot easier to read around a topic that genuinely interests you, and its near on impossible to pretend to be interested interviewing people about a topic you dont care about.

2) Start Early
Everyone says this and everyone ignores it also. It's only human nature to leave things till the last minute and when all your friends are doing them same it makes it all the harder. A better way to think about it is decide on a topic early and start reading around it. Take notes on everything you read.Other things you can start doing early is finding people who know people that you can interview.

3)Structure Your Essay Well, and Early
If your essay is well structured it will not only be easy to read, but much easier to break up into managable chunks and write. As silly as it sounds, the thing that helped me be most productive was writing a time table of topics I should write every day. Of course you're not going to stick to it, but at least you won't be sitting there wondering what you should be writing.

4)Use a Refferancing Program
I don't think I could have written my dissertation without the help of Zotero, a free plug in for Firefox which can connect to either Word or Open Office. Refferancing is the most tedious part of writing an academic paper and there really is no need to to it manually.
In addition, for a dissertation like mine, where most of my secondary research came from websites, it allows you to take notes all over the pages, automatically back up all of your sources, both on your computer and on their web servers automatically.
Zotero also automatically populates your refferance list and bibliography, as well as formatting and alphabetizing them.
There's also a social networking feature which I found to be mostly useless but might be of use to other people (my profile)

Friday, 23 April 2010

A quick update

Apologies about the lack of updates, I'm really busy with my dissertation which is in this Wednesday, but I will post the whole thing online when it's done for you to read. I'll get back to my usual minimum of one new blog post after that.
Next week I will begin the final mix down of Science Vs Romance as well, so that should be available some time soon also.

Friday, 2 April 2010

5 of the best albums I have heard this year so far.

I've found myself listening to loads of music the last few months, partly due to a break in work over easter and to keep myself occupied while I write this beast of a dissertation. Also because I've recently got back into using now that I have it on my phone. Its an awesome companion to Spotify who's catalogue is much better but sucks as a music discovery service.

Yeasayer- Odd Blood
The follow up to 2007's All Hour Cymbals, Odd Blood is a massive step forward for Yeasayer. A lot has happened for this band since All Hour Cymbals. 09 was a great year for Yeasayer, they supported MGMT and produced Bat For Lashes' hit "Two Suns" album (as well as guest appearing on a few songs). Yeasayer follow up on this with Odd Blood and odd is right, Yeasayer are all over the place. Odd Blood is a mixture of 80s pop, experimental rock and electronica. There are many highlights so far as catch pop tunes go and they're all on the first half of the album (a similar album structure to tour mates MGMT), you could argue that the album goes downhill halfway through if its singles you're interested in but theres plenty of interesting stuff in the latter half too. This is one of the most interesting albums I have heard in a while, theres something for everyone so long as you're not too fed up of 80s nostalgia already.

RJD2- The Colossus
This is RJ's first album for his own "RJ's Electrical Connections" label. More than any other, this album is the sound track to my dissertation. It's the best album I have yet found to write to, just catchy enough to hold my attention, but enough slow sections that I can really concentrate. This is thoroughly well made atmospheric, sample driven, soul/psychedelia inspired Hip Hop/Electronica album with some really great tracks and a massive step up from 2007's "The Third Hand".
I only fear that I will come to hate it if I associate it too much with this dissertation, that would truly be a shame because this album is great.

Frightened Rabbit- A Winter of Mixed Drinks
Those of you that have been here before might notice this was also in my list of most anticipated albums last month. Frightened rabbits are one of my favorite bands at the moment, satisfying my need for folk inspired indie rock, but also just for their well written, well recorded songs.
A Winter of Mixed Drinks sees Frightened Rabbit step away from previous producer Peter Katis (for the most part) and it shows. The album is arguably not up to the same consistent standard that they set with Midnight Organ Fight, but the singles are stronger than anything they have released before. Swim Until You Can't see land is one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year and touch wood its not in anyway annoying me yet. and Nothing Like You is as good as anything the band had released previously (although it does have a piss poor chorus).

Broken Bells
I've been a massive fan of Dangermouse since The Grey Album, and The Shins were one of the my personal highlights of Reading 2007, so the teaming up of Dangermouse with Shins front man James Mercer caught my attention straight away.
This album blends Dangermouse's trademark beats with Mercer's folk and country inspired indie rock to great effect. The album goes from Beach Boys inspired vocal and acoustic based guitar songs like "Your Head Is on Fire", to full band, synth led, indie rock like "The High Road", to drum machine based tracks like "The Ghost Inside" (which sounds like a mixture Danger's work with Beck and Gnarls Barkley) and everything in between.

Tom Caruana- Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers
From one guy who started his career with a mashup album featuring classic rap mashed up with Beatles samples, to an album of classic rap mashed up with Beatles samples. This time it's Tom Caruana mixing up Wu-Tang vocals with Beatles samples to great effect. It's a monster at 27 tracks but theres some real gold in there, its definitely worth a listen. It's had the Raekwon seal of approval which has gotta mean a lot, and the mainstream press has latched onto him, Caruana even had an interview in the New York Times where he talks about, amongst other things, some of the samples he used in one track.
It was originally hosted for free by Tea Sea Records (the label Caruana owns) but predictably its been taken down now, although I'm sure you can find it somewhere if you look hard enough. you really should try and get a copy because its really clever, very interesting stuff.

Honorable Mentions:
Hot Chip- One Life Stand
Delphic- Acolyte
Gorrilaz- Plastic Beach
Four Tet- There's Love In You
Animal Collective- Campfire Songs
Phoenix- Live in Sydney