Swedish Adventures 3: Stockholm Syndrome (and how I'm learning outside academia)

In Swedish Adventure 2, I went to a Kunglinga Filharmonikerna concert, and was blown away. That blog post, and subsequent discussion on Fb with lots of friends is really generating a huge amount of ideas. I think they're really productive ideas, and I'll be blogging about them as time goes on.

In Swedish Adventure 1, I went to a Kaija Saariaho concert, and got to experience live music I had only ever heard on recording. And I learned a lot about myself and Saariaho's music in that one concert.

This post is actual a series of (mis)adventures I've had recently while navigating this pseudo-post-academic life while still doing academic research and trying to still have a professional life.

(Mis)Adventure 1: Printing.

Stockholm is, for the most part, more expensive than most areas in the US, with prices on goods honestly passing what I used to paying in NYC. Some items, like cigarettes, are comparable or even a bit cheaper than NYC, but otherwise, things like food, clothing, etc are more expensive. And, no, I haven't picked up smoking again. On average, I think I pay around 25-50% more for items. It's workable.

But yesterday was a first. In my trying to stay professional and somewhat autonomous, I went to a print shop to print scores. This is a normal activity for me, and one that is, honestly, very costly...especially outside the confines of having a laser printer handy. So, off to the print shop.

The order, for me, was fairly small. Two scores, one 18 front & back pages, one 8 front & back pages. A whopping 26 pages. I needed 3 copies of each, all spiral bound. OK, so, 78 pages front & back, 6 binds. In the US, I'd be looking at dropping something in the $40 range at a Fedex Office, with a large amount of that going to the binding. To lessen the price, I often source my own paper, which drops the printing price in half.

The print shop in Stockholm? 800 SEK. That's about $120. And, at Fedex, this would be done in 15 minutes, here "maybe tomorrow, but probably Monday."

Now, part of this is that I went to a more "local" shop. I've done that in KC and paid a bit more as well, mainly to support the local stores. But not 3 times as much. Needless to say, I called this one in to the US.

(Mis)Adventure 2: Phone calls

I have a Swedish phone number. I don't remember this number, ever, so I carry the simcard card around with the number on it.

I don't use this phone every day. But I use it regularly. It has 2 purposes: to talk to my adviser.

And to call contacts in Stockholm about interviews.

This has been easily the most frustrating experience of my life. The initial people I spoke to were incredibly helpful, and in short order, I had names of all sorts of people. My name was being floated around metal circles, and people were passing along phone numbers.

The crazy part is the phone numbers aren't to local bands, they're to much more famous musicians. That's awesome.

And frustrating.

You see, these famous guys are incredibly busy. I called one guy a couple days after I got his number, and we set up a rough idea of when we'd do an interview.

That was three weeks ago, and still nothing. Haven't even been able to get him on the phone since. And I try to be respectful (I've only called once this week), because I know he's busy (might be in the studio right now), but it's frustrating to be so close!

This has happened a few times now. My best bet is an email with "I'll be in town at X time, stay in touch, and let's get together then."

So while all the help I'm getting is awesome, and everyone I've spoken to is really nice and supportive, the final step is difficult. I know major musicians can get really busy, and it's not like I'm from Rolling Stone calling for an interview.

And I'm positive, eventually, I'll get together with everyone. Just have to be patient. And accept that I do have a long time to get these interviews, after all. I should take a point from all those musicians books and just work harder on my own stuff, and relax.

(Mis)Adventure 3: Working.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about how I've tried to make a concrete schedule for myself in hopes of getting more work done. I haven't always done a great job with it...mainly because I've been waking up later each day and staying up accordingly. And it's getting dark super early, which just drains my energy quickly. But, I try to at least get myself in a rhythm and work for a solid 8 hours a day.

And I try to breakup where I work. I just got a library card for the Musik/Teater Biblioteket and plan on making use of their facilities AND their massive stacks. The downside to the Musik Biblioteket is the same as UMKC: they have almost all the books in storage, and have to retrieve them. Now, there's a big difference between the sizes of libraries: UMKC has a huge, 5 story building, that's in the process of being expanded with more classrooms, and was expanded for the RooBot. They say they don't have enough room for the books in any other fashion but...

To put it in perspective, the Musik Biblioteket takes up half a floor of a somewhat narrow building. What's out are reference books, and, wow, do they have an impressive reference section. They REALLY don't have room for their books...and several thousand orchestral scores. Oh man, I can't wait to start browsing their catalogue.

Of course, this comes with the normal difficulties. Everything is an online search. I have to know exactly what I want before even looking. No "happy accidents" of seeing all the scores around the one I want, or all the similar books right in front of me. No flipping through the first few pages to see if I really want the book. There's work involved to grab the book from downstairs--manpower is wasted if I don't actually want a book.

It's a form of research that I honestly don't like. I enjoy perusing stacks and finding what I need, thumbing through books and putting them back rather than asking for 20 books, having someone go get said 20 books, and sitting at a table for 45 minutes just to return 15 of them. I actually feel bad making someone have to do that. Seems wasteful.

And the language. Their search is, of course, in Swedish. And I found out that the Swedish have their own filing system! I probably shouldn't have been surprised. In a way, I'm somewhat happy now that the books are in a separate housing area. If they had been in stacks, I would have probably freaked out not knowing where anything is. LOL. So much for memorizing portions of the LC system!

Then there's taking work with you. How many of you work in multiple locations? How many have you forgotten key items and you don't realize until you arrive?

In some cases, this is a disaster. Showing up to an IATSE lighting call without a wrench means you could be fired for the day. Showing up to a meeting without key documents could spell major trouble as well.

Luckily, this isn't life or death for me. If I leave something at home, I'm not going to get fired. I still can't work, but it's "easy" enough to go home and either work from there, or travel back and forth. I don't normally travel back and forth: when it's an hour each way, you get really tired of that quickly.

I did this yesterday. I planned to hit the Musik Biblioteket, get a card, then either work there or head to KMH. I decided to head to KMH to try programming some stuff in Max 6 that I had done in Pd, then work on writing music. When I got to KMH, I worked a couple hours fumbling through programming (with lots of screaming, cursing, and general anger) before throwing my hands up at my astounding lack of vocabulary (considering I've been using these programs for 6 years), and turned to write music. I pulled out my paper, pencils, eraser, and...

Shit...no ruler. No ruler when you're doing a proportional piece with very specific measurings down in millimeters.

With a sign of frustration, I through everything in my backpack and went home.

And bought a pizza.

Because after calling people in the afternoon and getting no answer, being told scores were going to cost me $120, a library catalogue in a language I am still struggling to learn, programming making me want to pull my hair out, and then forgetting something as mundane and important (oxymoron?) as a ruler, I couldn't handle even the idea of cooking.

So I bought an expensive specialty pizza with oxfile (beef filet), bacon, kebabkött (gyro meat), kronärtskocka (artichoke hearts), and lök (onions). It was delicious. And I drank a Guiness, because Swedish beer kind of sucks (it's all PBR tasting lager).


Thus ends my day of (mis)adventures. The struggles of working outside a university are showing. I don't think I could afford to be an independent composer here. Of course, the best part is I have an independent state run library for resources, so score study wouldn't be an issue. Same with studio time thanks to EMS.

Ok, maybe I could be an independent composer here, as long as I was able to find a cheap printing option, learned the language, and practiced more patience.


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