Lazy Luddite Log



Last week I spent my time at the Sydney Choral Intervarsity (IV) Festival. The full event extends over two weeks but I only attended one of those (still that was more than the few days of visit I made to the last one). In some ways I am missing SNIV strongly. However I also wonder how well I would cope with a full IV.

The setting of the first week was a residential college at the University of Newcastle (hence some of us inserting "N" into SIV to produce SNIV). One of my few regrets of the week was that I never saw much of the township itself. I did see the uni and some of the suburbs but never the old town itself. Still, IV was way too intensive for that. Staying at a halls-of-residence was luxury by IV standards apparently. We each had our own room and I found that very useful just for grabbing moments of solitude with my iPod. From there everything was all too conveniently within a short walk. So showers and kitchenette were seconds away. A swimming pool was possibly two minutes away and I got to swim before breakfast many-a-morning. Then there was the common area in which meals were served and rehearsals were held - also two minutes away.

The regime of rehearsals was punishing. On many days they took the bulk of the day. Fortunately the conductor excelled at promoting both good cheer and useful musical instruction. Still it started to get to me by the end of the week. In particular dress rehearsals bugged me as the task of walking onto and off stage in formation was practiced. Singing is one thing but choreography too! Another thing that arose from the various frustrations of the assemblage was that by the end of the week orders were barked both by those in a position to do so and by some of those who simply had an opinion. Suddenly the following words started playing in my overtired mind:

Been beat up and battered round
Been sent up and I've been shot down

...and from the same song...

Been stuck in airports, terrorised
Sent to meetings, hypnotised

That was from Handle Me With Care by the Traveling Wilburys. But back to me - I suppose I was having a melodramatic moment there. I had a few during the week. I think everyone thrown into the pressure cooker of humanity that is an IV will be like that. In some ways the human contact and sleep deprivation made for a more sensitive me but I enjoyed it. These conditions combined with one of the pieces we were performing - the beautiful Dusk - to make me cry while singing it.

The concert itself went well by all accounts. It felt like we got on top of a rather challenging program of original Australian works and impressed the audience (and in some cases the composers) so all that rehearsing did the trick. Rehearsal and performance is only one aspect of the IV experience, however, so I now must move onto the greatest challenge of all...

How does one choose between rest and recreation? The flesh wants to sleep but the spirit wishes to engage with friends and friends-to-be in a host of activities. The spirit inevitably wins. And what a lot of stuff to do! There was a revue to both perform in and be entertained by… secret-swapping games… the sculling of beer (which for me was reminiscent of inter-school sports)… assorted partying and dancing… singing along to skilled pianists or guitarists… and the most important thing of all – getting to know others.

My personal perspective is that we are all ultimately alone – nobody but me can ever reside within my skull and it is important that I can live with that truth. But it is also important for me to challenge that truth and so the greatest activity I can ever undertake is to try to understand and be understood by others. That is why I love talking and I did a lot of that. And the best kind of talking is the face-to-face kind complete with its attendant waving of arms and pulling of faces.

Getting to know someone is a process that never ends – I spent time at IV with MonUCS friends because of the comforting familiarity of them and yet in that process feel that bit closer now. And it is never too late to start. There were some interstaters who I was becoming familiar with only on the last day I was there. Someone who may have seemed a blank mask to me one day would become a unique and fascinating person the next.
All that contact within the context of a big but closed group will have its consequences. My confidence in my own ability to interpret nuances in communication was regularly tested. I think I did okay but still spent some of the time wondering what the heck was happening around me. If stumped for what to do I would just smile and let others respond in whatever way was best for them.

Exposure to others also mutated my mannerisms. Ever since the United Nations Tertiary Youth Conference I attended (aged 18) I have experienced this phenomenon. At IV I acted like an exuberant and verbose chorister two thirds my age and of another gender!

I also started to lose my ability to make decisions and process information independently. On returning to Sydney following camp I found basic things like interpreting shopping centre maps more difficult than had I travelled there alone. It was as if a week of consulting leaders or following the crowd had dampened personal autonomy. I wonder if this is just me or if it has implications for the political nature of closed and homogenous communities.

There were tensions and confusions and mixed messages and all that is to be expected of IV. I would go further and say that all those things are to be expected of life but that the IV setting will tend to concentrate them just as it concentrates the fun and fulfilment of human interactions. It is something I will do in future but possibly I will be better at pacing things and choosing between rest and recreation than I was this time.

Update: I have indexed my seven IVs as of 2013 in this post.

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  • I'm curious that you felt you were acting like someone of the opposite gender. How do you think female choristers act differently from male choristers?
    I always find it amusing that the stereotype divide in choral circles seems to be more pronounced between the higher and lower parts than between the sexes: the self-centred show-off tenors and sops (guilty as charged) vs the pedestrian yet friendly and sex-obsessed altos and basses (no comment). Especially amusing is how people play up to these stereotypes even if they're bisectional!
    IV seems to make everyone more exuberant and verbose. Also more touchy-feely, more open (to experiences and to telling others about experiences), and generally less inhibited. I suspect some of my good friends from IV would be rather disappointed if they met me in another context.
    This time I think I spent too much time sleeping and not enough time fulfilling the spirit. Sure I wasn't physically wrecked by the end of the week like I was after BIV - but I have fewer memories to carry me through the next 18 months till Hobart *sigh*. And I was grumpy anyway from dealing with everyone else's sleep-deprived over-emotional-ness, so next time maybe I won't bother being sensible :o)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 01 February, 2008  

  • Well I am playing with notions of culturally-conditioned gender here rather than biological sex. A person may be inclined to be giggly and bouncy but there is more acceptance of them exhibiting that if they are a woman than if they are a man. It was those kinds of things I was thinking of.

    I tend to find the stereotypes of the four parts even more useless than those of gender. And yet we do play along to them (as we do for gender roles). Hmmm... I think I am too eccentric to be pedestrian... too reserved to be consistently freindly... and as for sex-obsessed - nobody saw me do anything much...

    Naturally I overdid it more than you because it was all still pretty new and exciting for me. Mind you I must have done some things right as I am still lurgy-free.

    The shifting of durations between IVs is a bit disconcerting. There was only six months between my 'sampling' of BIV and my full immersion in SIV but now it will be eighteen months till HIV. There will just have to be more local fun and more impromptu interstate visiting to compensate.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 01 February, 2008  

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