The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:52 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2017 12:16 pm
MessyTendon wrote:
Sat Nov 04, 2017 4:54 pm
Why are you wasting your time studying the past, when you can play the guitar in the present and future :)

Academia and academic culture is a diseased franchise of financially elite men and women who prey on the youth...to be students.
Yay! Another sceptic. It's too much of a generalisation and it would vary a lot with the subject-area but for the most part I'd agree with your assessment.

I came back into academic study late in life and being armed with more awareness than a twenty-year old am horrified at the incompetence, mediocrity, dishonesty and self-serving conformity to dogma and speculation. Philosophy is my thing and here the situation is chronic.

I write a lot and have spent many years trying to learn how to avoid an 'unwelcome style', but it's not easy. I fear that some innate talent may be required. Adrian mentions another problem, which is that many books could be cut down to a page without leaving out any important content.
I wouldn't go as far as you, Pete. There is a self-serving element in nearly everything in life (name me one profession that is pure and untainted by any careerists or peddlars of B-S), and because I accept that, I can tolerate a certain amount of nonsense.

However, it might depend on the subject or discipline. There are elements or philosophy that cross over with history, particularly post-modernism and Foucault etc, and I have found some of that a real challenge to wade through. A subject with a lot of links to history, archaeology, seems to be presented with a much greater economy of words, and generally comes across as being more scientific in approach. Philosophy, however, might be the one subject that allows for the biggest excuse to indulge in semantic games.

And all of this brings me back to what I love about the classical guitar - there is no chance of disguising anything - it's all about the player and his or her skill, no effects pedals, no concealing poor technique.
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Christopher Freitag
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Christopher Freitag » Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:54 pm

gitgeezer wrote:
Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:46 pm
Is there an editor in the house?! Textbooks are difficult to the extent that good editors are missing from the process. This is especially a problem for history books, because historians tend to assume that they are good writers and don't need help. Scientists, by contrast, understand that they need help, to the extent that their books may be over-edited.
I've been editing textbooks, primarily in music, for nearly 25 years. Making a good one starts with finding someone who is both an excellent teacher and a good writer. I can fix the latter, but not the former.

Like anything else, though, not all textbooks are created alike and saying that they are all boring (or all great) is like saying that all cedar tops are more romantic or all lattice-braced tops are too loud. There is also a tendency in many of the posts to equate "textbook" with "academic book" but those two things are generally very different.

I'm biased, of course. I know how hard my authors and I work to make our books lively and approachable while still treating the subject seriously and with respect. That is a good goal for any writing. Even on a forum.
Chris Freitag
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Rognvald
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Rognvald » Sun Nov 05, 2017 4:33 pm

"I came back into academic study late in life and being armed with more awareness than a twenty-year old am horrified at the incompetence, mediocrity, dishonesty and self-serving conformity to dogma and speculation. Philosophy is my thing and here the situation is chronic."
PeteJ


Outstanding!

Playing again . . . Rognvald
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Rasputin
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Rasputin » Sun Nov 05, 2017 5:01 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:52 pm
However, it might depend on the subject or discipline. There are elements or philosophy that cross over with history, particularly post-modernism and Foucault etc, and I have found some of that a real challenge to wade through. A subject with a lot of links to history, archaeology, seems to be presented with a much greater economy of words, and generally comes across as being more scientific in approach. Philosophy, however, might be the one subject that allows for the biggest excuse to indulge in semantic games.
The wafflier the subject, the harder it is to disentangle the content from the words in which it is expressed. If you have a maths textbook it's relatively easy to improve the writing without altering the substance, but in a subject like philosophy it's much more difficult. If a philosopher wants to put his concept in just such and such a way then that really is the concept, and you can't mess with it. It makes sense to me that history would also be like that, although there is no chance of me staying awake through enough of a history book to confirm that.

Even with a good editor, the author's voice will come though - which is as it should be I think. In the field of musical aesthetics, Scruton and Davies are both published by OUP and presumably have comparable editing support, but I don't think their writing is at all comparable.
And all of this brings me back to what I love about the classical guitar - there is no chance of disguising anything - it's all about the player and his or her skill, no effects pedals, no concealing poor technique.
I couldn't agree less. The technique is just cogs and gears in my view - what matters is the musical vision the player can convey, or in other words the way in which they express the music. I don't think it's far-fetched to draw a parallel between that and the way a person expresses ideas in writing. Both are matters of personal style which reflect the way something is organised in an individual's mind, and both are successful to the extent that they persuade us to organise it the same way in our own minds.

Does the history degree mean you have given up with the diploma for the time being? I saw you had stopped the Skype lessons.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Nov 05, 2017 5:11 pm

Rasputin - I am doing both the diploma and the history postgrad at the moment. I ask for Skype lessons when I hit a wall in my progress, which might be every few months.

And I have just been bullied out of a job as a teacher (long story), so back to supply teaching.

I will never properly grow up - I will spend the rest of my life learning and be doing bits and pieces of teaching here and there.

And as for classical performance being just cogs, maybe the technique side of it is - but I still have a lot of respect for the number of years it takes to play something to what we call performance standard in front of an audience with no amp to disguise technical failings, etc.
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Rasputin
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Rasputin » Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:30 pm

Well, good luck with it. I posted in the distance learning thread about an online platform called staccato which is supposed to be optimised for music lessons, so might enable her to hear tone.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:21 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:30 pm
Well, good luck with it. I posted in the distance learning thread about an online platform called staccato which is supposed to be optimised for music lessons, so might enable her to hear tone.
Thanks - I will look into it. I never intended to have lots of lessons, just a few to keep me on my toes by somebody who is better than me.
In five years or so, I bet that tone on webcams will be almost perfect, and the slight delays will be improved. This is still cutting edge stuff.

Give another 10 years, and my prediction is that a hologram of a guitar teacher might be able to sit next to you in your own room, beamed over the internet.
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PeteJ
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by PeteJ » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:34 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:52 pm
I wouldn't go as far as you, Pete. There is a self-serving element in nearly everything in life (name me one profession that is pure and untainted by any careerists or peddlars of B-S), and because I accept that, I can tolerate a certain amount of nonsense.
True enough.
However, it might depend on the subject or discipline.... Philosophy, however, might be the one subject that allows for the biggest excuse to indulge in semantic games.
It''s a widespread problem but as you say, philosophy is the natural home of idle sophistry.
And all of this brings me back to what I love about the classical guitar - there is no chance of disguising anything - it's all about the player and his or her skill, no effects pedals, no concealing poor technique.
Yes, this is my problem with it.:)

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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by PeteJ » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:50 pm

Christopher Freitag wrote:
Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:54 pm
There is also a tendency in many of the posts to equate "textbook" with "academic book" but those two things are generally very different.
Good point. My complaints are not usually about text books, albeit in philosophy their content tends to be stuck in the 19th century. I don't read widely enough to comment on the whole of academia, just my corner of it. Most music text books I've read have been excellent and perhaps you edited some of them.

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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Rick Hutt » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:39 pm

And don't get me started on the texts in law school.......
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Adrian Allan
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Nov 06, 2017 6:50 pm

I am pleased that so many people have responded.

I think that I am maybe onto something here, in that many of us have had similar experiences in having to wade through needlessly dense academic books, and some subject disciplines seem worse than others in this regard.

I think that the issue is also generally unspoken - nobody, especially full-time academics, want to admit that they found a book hard-going, as they might believe it brings their intelligence into question. This is in my opinion, the main reason why the issue goes unmentioned.
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by amezcua » Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:54 am

Marcus Brigstocke the comedian was presenting a sort of historical show and drew some blatant conclusions about an artifact they had unearthed. It was all a bit tongue in cheek . In a considered moment he said "Well now, how do we know this? --Well I`m a Historian and I`ve just told you ". That`s one of my favourite lines .

PeteJ
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by PeteJ » Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:39 pm

The other difficulty, and I feel it is a worse one, is that many excellently written books are empty of content or full of nonsense. I'd rather have badly-written book than an empty one. It seems some authors write just so they can put their book on the course reading list.

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Arash Ahmadi
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Arash Ahmadi » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:48 pm

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough - Einstein.

I certainly have come across those kinds of academic books too. Not everybody has the ability to explain or teach something, although s/he might be very good at doing it. Unless it's an open-ended scenario, poem or story, academic books need t be clear on what they are trying to teach. It would be over a different subject if they are deliberately writing in a way to make the reader do some research.
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: The Unwelcoming Style of (some) Academic Text Books

Post by Andrew Fryer » Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:07 pm

In all branches of academia (read 'research') there are techniques to be learnt, and books that teach technique are technical.

It's not rocket science...err, unless you happen to be in that faculty.
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