I’m on vacation this weekend, but thought I’d share with you a song I wrote about the International Congress of Medieval Studies. Because I’m a nerd. Who raps. About nerdy things sometimes. I also want to talk a bit about Kalamazoo, which is where the conference is, and what we usually refer to it as.
I went for the first time about two years ago, with a bunch of other students and David Porreca, one of our professors. It was a fun road trip, and I was utterly unprepared for the experience. Previously, all I knew about academia was from the student’s point of view. Professors were people who lectured in my classes and held office hours, and there was an abstract notion of them doing research on the side. Kalamazoo was the home of the academic in their natural habitat, each one of them neck deep in their research and excited to talk about it with anyone. It was five days of sleepless nights because I was up talking with scholars about anything and everything. Up to that point in my life I’d met a lot of people who were passionate about things, and who were extensively knowledgeable, but the intersection of the two was a bit new to me. I always had the sense that, when we got on to the topic of their research, it wasn’t just a job. It was their life’s work, and there’s something amazing about that. I can easily say that it was Kalamazoo that made me appreciate scholarship in full.
This year I did my first conference presentation there, organized the first ever Kalamazoo tweetup, and got to know a lot of people who are doing incredible work. One of the workshops I attended was on Gregorian chants, and we actually sang one, working from a different era of sheet music each time. With their permission, I sampled the chant on my phone, and wrote a song. In true Gregorian style, it contains no instruments, only voices. Enjoy!
Roll up on Bilbo’s for our evening libation,
For some of us the first time, an initiation.
We wait patiently while others eat hastily,
then shoving greasy pizza into our pasty faces we set off
leave our kit in our rooms, the hallways are silent, they’re quiet as a tomb.
But we’re not done, the night’s still young.
Time to get the first taste of K-Zoo fun.
Scrabble is the game, and Latin is the way we play.
Deus! Da mihi bonas litteras, amabo te!
Then I’m up for a breakfast made of pre-fab ham.
Daylight hits my eyes like a battering ram,
Hustlin’ from session to session like a man on the lam,
And all the while I kick it to Gregorian jams.
Late evenings spent in conversation,
Old friends united
Discussing news of our vocation
Students or teachers, we’re excited.
It’s here we realize what we’re meant for
To bring about another generation bent on
Studying the history that’s found in scripts and stones,
Through cabbages and kings or through the game of thrones.
By hook or by crook we pull them in to their passions,
From ancient manuscripts to medieval fashions
Here we indulge our fascination with annotations on old pages,
Declarations of altercations that happened in the middle ages
Presentations on dissertations concerning ancient sages,
Standing ovations for orations delivered on the pseudo stages
Chaucer! Tolkein! Ockham! Aquinas!
A multiplicity of sessions in whose diversity you’ll find us.
Bushy-tailed or dozing, we try to understand,
and in our hearts we kick it to Gregorian jams.
Jim Tigwell is a freelance writer currently pursuing his Master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Waterloo, specializing in philosophy of social media, games, and professional ethics. He is the creator of Concept Crucible, a blog focusing on applying philosophy to everyday life. You can find him on Twitter as @ConceptCrucible, or on Steam.