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2004-2005 Weekly Brown Bag Lunch Discussion
" Science's Audiences "

September 24, 2004

Elizabeth McCormack (Physics)
The Trials and Tribulations of Academic Writing:
The Case for Cross-Training

Participants' writings on the topic "drum"


Scott Silverman's Drum:

So I came to my first Brownbag this season expecting to be passively stimulated and now Liz wants me not only to work but to write in freaking longhand for seven minutes about the word “drum.” Like I can even read my own handwriting, anyway. As it happens, however, I have three musical fantasies: to play guitar like Richard Thompson; tenor saxophone like about a dozen people you have never heard of expect maybe Coltrane; and to drum. And the thing is, jazz drummers just kill rock drummers; it’s how you separate the musical men from the boys. But I would love to play drums like Charlie Watts on “Gimme Shelter.” I love drums. I saw Ed Blackwell twice, Max Roach once. Andrew Cyrille I’ve seen twice, same with Ben Riley. Blakey once. Charlie Watts cannot or should not be mentioned in the same paragraph with them. But I’d love to play Charlie Watts playing on “Gimme Shelter.”

What would cause a physicist to make us do this? Maybe this whole conversation about science and society is just beyond my reach. Of course I do know at least one scientist drummer, but he’s a geologist and don’t geologists at least get dirty and bang on rocks and such? Why does Liz McCormack care about the word “drum”?

Michelle M. Francl's drum:


Marching to the beat of a different drummer -- until you reach resonance with the rest of the marchers.

The drumbeat of rain on the skylight above my bed. Rhythmically soothing, like the sound of my mother's heartbeat in the womb. I fight sleep because I want to drift in that moment of sensation. Holding my mother and weeping her arms, hearing her heartbeat again. It still soothes and I to again be suspended in her womb, shrouded in mystery, enveloped in her presence and unaware of the impermanence of such bliss.

Sitting in the darkness, the stillness of Matins in the chapel at the Jesuit novitiate. Meditating, finding that still point in a turning world, that single moment where everything is in balance. Evil and pain still exist, but they cannot triumph, in this, the good holds them in check. Is this why evil and pain exist, so we can recognize the good?

Arshiya Bose's drum:

Back home, the monsoons come pelting down on the streets, fills up the drains and forces commuters to lift their skirts to prevent them from getting drenched.Yet there is a water shortage in the city and the heads of government are at Water Harvesting Summits, compelling people to store water in their water drums.

It takes me about six or seven drums because our family has three dogs, two cats and a tortoise. Ironically, the water filter also seems to conk when there is no water and an hour or two is usually spent on boiling the water in the drums so they can be used for drinking.

The water drums that I used have were old, mouldy and rusted. The amalgamated zinc coating has been oxidized away and I could see red and orange iron flux floating around on the water surface. The drums were useless and needed to be used for something else. Perhaps as a pot for my coffee plant.

Paul Grobstein's drum:

Drum starts with a "d". While it might seem straightforward and perhaps even a little dull as a topic, that reflects more on the listener than on the topic itself. Indeed, there is some question whether there even IS a "topic itself". If so, where is it located? In the sender? Or in the receiver? Or in the interaction between the two? From this perspective, it is not the obvious (straightforward, dull) that is significant but rather what may be there that is obscured by luminosity of the obvious. What DOES "drum" mean/represent/evoke other than a child's toy, a band instrument, and the like? Could "drum" be interesting precisely because it is on of a small (VERY small) number of words that really ARE dull, with nothing else behind what they evoke at first?

Swarna Basu's drum:

It was a very cheap drum set that we rented for the show. We were hoping that no one would be able to tell the difference in the quality of the sound as the other instruments would drown it out. The drum set arrived two hours before the show, so our preparations could go ahead. The bass drum, as well as the snare drum, was in very poor shape. We prayed that they wouldn't break on stage. Looking back on that day, I am reminded of another show where the snare drum fell to the ground because its stand broke in two, and we were left with the amusing sight of a snare drum resting on a chair. And that drum wasn't even a cheap one like the one we had rented years before.

Anne Dalke's drum:

It's beating. My heart is beating. My heart would like to stop beating. I'm exhausted. This morning I tried to resuscitate F&GS--how huge the problem. This afternoon: Palestine-Israel. How huge the problem. How intractable the memories. The attachment to memories, the investment in the wound. I'm getting off track. Will Liz make me read this aloud? Talked with Raji yesterday for the first time in a year. Her son has graduated from Amherst, and is teaching h.s. chemistry. Is he still drumming, I asked. He hasn't time, she said. No time for drumming. I march to the beat of a drummer. Who's sounding the beat, who's setting the pace? Azade just said Thank you Anne for running this. Thank you Anne for running everything. If you quit, they'll have to hire 25 people to replace you. The Little Drummer Boy. The Tin Drum. What was the plot of The Tin Drum? It was tragic. Palestine-Israel: tragic. Tight as a drum. Come they told me, pa rum pa ra pum. A newborn king to see, pa rum pa rum. My finest gift to bring, pa rum pa ra pum. To lay before the king, pa rum pa ra pum, rum pa ra pum, rum pa ra pum...Who is the king? Am I laying gifts, laying up gifts in heaven? Where dust and rot will not corrupt? What is the motive force? Who sets the beat, the tone, the pace? George just came in. Talk of being a farmer. Hating the drumbeat of the farming life, the inexorability of that drum. Coming to intellectual work to get off that track, path--to be able to play the flute! --

Jeff Dalke's drum (poem by Jeff Dalke, pictures and commentary by Anne Dalke)

Elliott Shore's drum:

Drum strikes me as a verb. It also calls to mind the ear and it resonates with the word we use at home for drum, Trommel. In the course on advertising that I teach here, a drummer plays a major role, and he (almost always a he) is a traveling salesman who promotes his products by (literally0 drumming up business throughout the rural parts of the US in the 19th and 20th centuries. And that recalls to mind a Katherine Hepburn film where Burt Lancaster literally beats on a drum to make rain and sell his services to the drought-stricken word at the early 20th century Midwest.

But a more striking drum for me is a tin one, the Blechtrommel, a novel, a film and a way to think about the causes of World War II and its aftermath. Oscar Matzerad, at the time of his birth, hears his father say that when he reaches his 5th (3rd?) birthday, he will get a tin drum. Oscar decides that that would be a good age to stop growing, because...

Sharon Burgmayer's drum:

Drums are rhythm - and I love rhythm. Drums have many shapes and sounds - and I love their variety. And then there are those who drum. Drummers - in my experience - have a characteristic personality. I had a drummer boyfriend once...a typical result of long hours in a pit orchestra for a musical.

Drum also evokes a connection to my discipline - the completely inadequate visual images one struggles to present to students for "realness" of wavefunctions. So I envision a circular standing wave on a drumskin; how one can throw a bit of sand on it to see better the different parts of structure.

Jody Cohen's drum:

drum what? drum hum are we talking about the musical instrument - or maybe it's the verb, the act - drum - a command. This is making no connection for me. 7 minutes feels long - drum drum thumb bum dumb mum from ok drum beat the profound beat beneath the music drums and hopi music, thrumming you can feel the drum, while you hear other instrumentation. What about drumming it (the idea, the bias, the feeling) out of you, aggressive, directive, as in, I will drum this out of you! Drum wow I'm really not interested in this word, am spending my real energy strategizing about how to get through this 7 minutes. Drum looks and sounds stranger and stranger - boy that woman reminds me of Gayle, come on now enough! 1 1/2 minutes drum the heartbeat - the determination of rhythm controls the rest of the music but often seems to be in the background drummer sings Starr. Alright aren't we finished yet? Of course it's funny to feel...