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Monash Memo


60 seconds with … Dr Paul Watt

14 April 2010

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Name: Dr Paul Watt
Title: Research Officer and Assistant Lecturer
Faculty: Arts
Dept: School of Music - Conservatorium
Campus: Clayton

How long have you worked at Monash?

A little more than three years.

Where did you work prior to starting at the University?

I was a sessional tutor in music and a sessional lecturer in publishing studies at the University of Melbourne while undertaking my PhD at the University of Sydney. Before that I worked for 10 years in various editorial and production roles in academic publishing.

What do you like best about your role?

The variety and the people. It has a bit of everything: research, teaching, administration and our ‘musicological' lunches - entirely work-related, of course.

Why did you choose your current career path?

I had always been interested in music history in secondary school. Then at university I took subjects in nineteenth-century music as well as philosophy and aesthetics, and I became fascinated by the ways in which these areas interacted. I decided very early on that I wanted to be an academic. I especially remember giving a tutorial presentation on the relationships between Lamartine's writings and some aspects of nineteenth-century music (I forget the details now) but it was then that I realised how exciting this kind of work is.

What did you want to do for a career when you were young?

As a child I wanted to be a bus driver and, later, a secondary school teacher. For a brief moment in time I considered being a dentist.

What research are you currently working on and what does it involve?

I'm about half-way through writing an intellectual biography of the music critic Ernest Newman (1868–1959). It has involved many years of archival research and, like any project of this nature, has meant a great deal of moving between areas outside my discipline. The learning curves have been many, but that is where the enjoyment of this project resides. I'm also general editor (with Dr Patrick Spedding from the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies) of a four-volume project, Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period that is taking my research interests into new areas.

Tell us a bit about the conference you are currently organising?

Believe it or not, this is the first conference in Australia on British music. British music is a growth area in musicology at the moment; two publishers have established book series devoted to the subject and there are now dedicated conferences in North America and Britain (though the British one concentrates on the nineteenth century) that attract scholars from all over the world. Our conference aims to be interdisciplinary and of the abstracts we have received so far there is a good mix of topics ranging from neglected musicians and repertory, to British-Australian-European-North American musical relations, politics and nationalism, and performance practice and traditions.

What is your favourite place in the world and why?

Cambridge, UK. I lived there for 18 months while working for Cambridge University Press. It is without doubt my second home. We lived in an apartment that overlooked the King's College sportsfields. Having an orchard and lake in our garden (with deer and snow in winter) are things I'll never forget.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

"If at first you don't succeed, try again". I don't recall the exact circumstance in which the advice was given, but I do remember being upset at not having accomplished something. However my father was all smiles and completely confident that whatever I was hoping to do would eventuate. He is an eternal optimist, and I think I am too.

Tell us something about yourself that your colleagues wouldn't know?

Well I think they all know I'm a slightly mad, cat person but they probably don't know that one of my first recitals in my youth was playing German folk-songs on a button accordion.

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