it's almost-almost-almost done

Nine days ago, an exciting arrival to my inbox: proofs! Seriously, it’s crazy to see your book look like a book, except it’s a PDF.

When I started this newsletter last July — holy crap, it’s been more than a year?! — I was wrapping up a final bit of research. In September 2019, I wrote about how I had a full manuscript drafted. Now it’s nearly a year later, and the thing is really, actually, almost-almost-almost-almost done. It’s coming out Feb 1! (Which means, funnily enough, that the Oxford lists its shipping date as Jan 20. I don’t think my book will be the most important news on Jan 20.)

So here’s where things are at: I submitted the final-final-ish manuscript to Oxford back in May; over the past few months, they (more specifically, Newgen UK, the production company) have copy-edited and formatted it and, well, turned it into a book. I’m extremely fortunate that they got a great copy-editor who knows the subject matter really well — Tim Rutherford-Johnson (read his book!). So the copy-edits are superb. Along with the proofs (proofs are, essentially, what the book will look like when printed out — a PDF that’s fully formatted and looks like a book), I also received Word files with all the changes that have been made, along with a few editorial queries and notes. So, two tasks in the coming weeks:

1) Editing editing editing. The best/worst part about almost being actually finally done is that after this step, what I correct is what people are going to *hopefully* read and buy. I’ve been poring over the page proofs and making tiny corrections and fixing little mistakes, with the knowledge that this is the last time that this will happen, and that any tiny error I miss is one that will be in the book that people read. That’s pretty stressful! The good thing about page proofs is that they look different, which gives you a fresh set of eyes to tackle editing. And yes, I’m still finding tons of little things to tweak or fix — word repetition, inconsistent endnote formatting, little factual errors that I’m so glad I caught. I almost printed that Brian Eno’s Music for Airports came out in 1979! It’s 1978, folks. Everyone knows that.

My book will have endnotes rather than footnotes — which is to say that all the citations will be in one section in the back of the book, rather than footnotes on the page in which the stuff is actually cited. I generally prefer endnotes for books, footnotes for articles. (This is a controversial issue in academia.) Until the proofs phase of the process, though, my endnotes have been at the end of each chapter (saved as a separate Word file), rather than all together in one section. Now I have a 41-page section (yes, I have a lot of citations in this book) at the end of the book that I’ve looked at in chunks but never all once together. That means there are a ton of formatting inconsistencies I’m addressing. When I cite interviews with the Yale Oral History of American Music, should it be “Yale Oral History of American Music: Major Figures in American Music: 188 a–b” or “Yale Oral History of American Music: Major Figures in American Music, 188 a–b” or Yale Oral History of American Music: Major Figures in American Music, 188a–b”? Those probably all look identical to you, but there are differences in commas, colons, and spacing that were all inconsistent across different chapters and that I thankfully caught. These things keep me up at night. (OK, actually, Ira keeps me up at night.)

So I catch these small errors, correct them in the Word docs, and send those Word docs back to Oxford for a new set of proofs. Then, the book doesn’t get changed any more, and whatever it is it will be. Crazy.

2) Indexing! This is my first time making an index, it’s a weird process. Basically, you read through your book and figure out all the key terms and names and proper nouns and stuff and make a giant list of them, make subheadings for some of them, alphabetize them, figure out which ones are passing references and can be cut out of the index. Then you add page numbers for all of their appearances — or in the case of Oxford, you add specially numbered paragraph numbers (like, C3P46 or something would be Chapter 3, Paragraph 46) which gets translated into page numbers later down the road. I’ve heard people say that they really figure out what their book is about during the indexing phase; so far I’ve just found that it is menial busywork that can be accompanied by Charlemagne Palestine, which is fine by me. Right now I’m refining my big list of indexing terms, and haven’t started the listing-all-paragraph-appearances phase yet.

Anyway, both of these tasks should be completed in the next couple weeks, and then it’s really pretty much a book that I’m done with. Except probably for something else that I’ll have to do, we’ll see! I haven’t seen any cover design work yet, I’m very excited about that.

Speaking of excitement: Sound Expertise is now halfway through its first season! You can listen to all existing episodes thus far over at our website, — this week’s ep was with Jesse Rodin, talking about Renaissance song and embodied experience, and it’s really great.

Next Tuesday’s episode will be a sprawling interview with George Lewis, it’s one of my absolute favorite episodes this season! But they are my children, I love them all equally. (Actually, they are not my children, and I love Ira, my child, the most.) If you haven’t given the podcast a listen yet, please do, and if you have, please give us a review on your podcast platform of choice and talk us up on social media! I’m happy with our metrics/downloads thus far but really want to make sure everyone who would be into this kind of thing has found us.

In case you missed it, I wrote a twitter thread outlining some of the reasons behind starting the podcast:

When I first started the podcast, it was my intent to do all episodes as in-person interviews — I was hoping to capture some of the energy of my favorite always-in-person-pre-pandemic interview podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. I wasn’t going to be traveling around the country to record my podcast (future plan!) so that meant either grabbing people during down time at conferences or when they were in my neck of the woods. So the interviews with Erika Honisch and Micaela Baranello were recorded in my hotel room at last year’s AMS , the interviews with Loren Kajikawa and Alex Ross at my apartment and then house, the interview with Megan Lavengood at her home, and the interview with Jesse Rodin in my campus office. Along with the fact that most of those spaces had poor acoustics — although I later discovered my house’s basement has excellent recording acoustics, which is why all the intros/outros sound so good (also thanks to amazing producer D. Edward Davis) — I also discovered that in-person interviewing can be really awkward! I think the interviews are all quite good, but it was hard to be only a few feet from someone else’s face, around one microphone, when doing them. There’s also a lot of sounds of tapping, chair creaking, etc that were hard to edit out.

Zoom, however, is a different story. Not only do the final four episodes sound better than the previous ones, I actually think the conversations flow better: I started doing Zoom interviews a couple months into the pandemic, so people had gotten used to talking in this format, and I think generally scholars feel less awkward about expounding about their ideas when there’s some virtual distance there. Given that the pandemic does not seem to be going away anytime soon, that means Season 2 of Sound Expertise (I’m hopefully getting started in the fall) will be done virtually as well, which makes it a lot easier to seek out different kinds of guests, which is exciting! So: stay tuned. And tell your friends to listen!

Ira is now 7.5 weeks old, which is totally nuts. He’s super sweet, super alert, and sleeping really well, and we’re very grateful. He has also been smiling a lot since almost the beginning. We’re generally keeping photos of Ira off of social media, but since I normally end this newsletter with cute pics of Georgia, I thought I would give an Industry *exclusive* to all my loyal subscribers. Here’s Ira, and his sister too. They’re pretty cute together.

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