Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Qualitative Music

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Qualitative Music

Article excerpt

qualitative music

   what are words, anyway?
   streams of letters combining to make meaning of what is
   sensed, intuitive, factual

   so what is music, then?
   cascades of notes forming
   cadences, aural sentences
   of interpretations,
   heard imprints of events, emotions, evocations

   are they really all that different?
   one has legitimacy in the Research World
   one has its home in the artistic world

   words are music, i say
   how enunciations are made, melodic phrasings of intent sounded,
   intonations, intimations, exclamations emitted

   these all create impressions on my listener's brain
   and must find expressions that become
   sensible to the reader, the reader
   who is eavesdropping, layering
   her own interpretations upon
   my interpretations

   the music is where i meet my participants.
   seems funny to ask someone
   "is this what you sound like?"

   but isn't that what we do when we ask them to
   "read what i've written, please--
   is what i think you've said what
   you really said?"

   i am not putting words to music
   or music to words
   i am doing what any decent researcher does,
   taking note of what the words don't say,
   what is behind, intimated, obstructed
   by viscous verbalisms,
   filtering out my own voices
   and finding an expression of truth
   that is so very personal to my participant
   yet also perhaps known by so many
   word is like a god,
   unchallengeable to those who worship it

   well, i challenge you, word.
   and ask you to give attention to the
   themes, harmonies, rhythmic emanations
   of transcribed truth as heard
   by the heart as well as mind,
   through an other way of knowing,
   through music

   according to Drs. Lincoln and Guba,
   i as researcher am
   a human instrument
   so i will tune up, tune in, listen, and play

Recently I embarked upon an intensive exploration of the role of spirituality in the work lives of higher education administrative leaders for my doctoral dissertation project (Beer, 2012). I conducted a series of interviews with highly ranked administrators at a midsize Western university and used a variety of creative methods to access deeper levels of the experiences they shared. The very nature of this study demanded a high degree of confidentiality in data representation which translated into challenges of analysis and organization. While reading transcripts and listening to the voices of those I interviewed, I was always aware of the need to simultaneously exemplify and disguise what was often very personal and previously private life views. The stories and insights gathered profoundly affected me, and I felt a heavy responsibility to accurately and respectfully transform their words into representations in a way that did justice to the level of intimacy we shared in our meetings.

At one point during the interviewing process, I discovered one long interview had not recorded on my recording device. I was extremely distressed by this event and immediately spent hours re-creating, from memory, the conversation I had had with this participant. I remembered events, discussions, and memories into quotes, stories, poetic forms, and illustrations. Once finished, I felt exhausted and worried that I had potentially lost invaluable data. My mind began to wander, and suddenly I entered a quiet space inside myself and simply remembered what this person had said, how they said it, what their body language was like, the rhythms of their speech, and the overall tone of their being. These impressions began to synthesize into musical melodies and harmonies, and after internally listening for awhile I got up, turned on the recorder, and began to capture the sounds on keyboard, violin, and the Native American flute. When I listened back to what I had recorded, there was a sense that this music somehow directly represented this person. I became aware of experiencing who they were at an essential level. …

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