new ebook by Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner: Thinking Together: An E-mail Exchange and All that Jazz

New ebook by Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner

New ebook by Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner

What does it take to pull together a collaborative research project?  Howie Becker and Rob Faulkner reveal all, via a reconstruction of their prolific email correspondence collected in a new ebook Thinking Together: An E-mail Exchange and All that Jazz.  Prompted by the puzzling observation that younger musicians didn’t know the same repertoire of songs shared among older musicians, Becker and Faulkner, who are both practicing musicians, muscle through hammering out a research design and theoretical explanation for how musicians, including ones who have never practiced together before, can collectively perform.*  Their exchanges evidence the gradual refinement of categories with plenty of links to songs, descriptions of illustrative experiences, and recounting of interviews with fellow musicians while practicing in the field.  Here’s a blurb penned by Becker:

Would you like to know how people really think their way through all the problems of doing research and writing a book? Watch two old pros in action as they do that in the e-mail correspondence between sociologists Rob Faulkner and Howie Becker as they wrote Do You Know? The Jazz Repertoire in Action.

The book Thinking Together: An E-mail Exchange and All that Jazz shows the authors exchanging ideas and modifying them as the conversation proceeds. It shows them extracting ideas from their experiences in the field: performing in public, collaborating with other musicians, interviewing, using their field notes to generate ideas and test them, to elaborate theories as they go, all the thinking that goes on when you actually do research. No review of the literature—it’s replaced by the two of them drawing in work that seems relevant, that gives them something they can use to explain what they’ve seen and heard: using a study of Mexican witchcraft, for instance, to develop a research strategy, and painfully realizing that they have some substantial musical prejudices that they have to turn into a kind of historical sociology.

This is the way research really gets done, what you do after you write the research proposal and start working and find out that none of your plans are going to work because things were more complicated than you thought they were.

Bonus #1: learn more about the genesis of the controversial 2009 NSF qualitative research report.

Bonus #2: read what Becker and Faulkner really think of colleagues’ concepts and research.  For example:

Category A: Helpful

Category B: Needs more work

Interested in learning more about the authors’ other publications?  See:

HT: Howard Aldrich

Learn why British piano-players know this song, but American ones don’t on p. 215

* A challenge shared among other occupations: airline pilots and crew, medical teams, emergency response groups, improv groups, etc.

Written by katherinechen

September 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I heartily recommend you read “Do You Know?” before reading “Thinking Together” — it is one of the richest & coolest reports from the field I’ve ever read. You’ll get insights into all kinds of stuff you never knew you needed to know.


    Howard Aldrich

    September 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm

  2. Howard – Thanks for the “Do You Know” suggestion. I looked at the excerpt linked. I had no idea that Becker had studied with Tristano, who I’ve heard could be very rigorous and demanding.


    Jay Livingston

    September 21, 2013 at 2:00 am

  3. […] both amongst jazz musicians and academic researchers. The book is currently being discussed over on Org Theory.  Maybe somebody here has read the book and wants to comment either on Org Theory or here. Or […]


  4. I’ve recently uploaded an interview with Clinton Sanders about his time studying with Howard Becker on YouTube that you might find interesting.

    The interview is in relationship to Sanders’ article in Symbolic Interaction.


    Dirk vom Lehn

    October 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm

  5. Thanks for posting the interview, Dirk!



    October 1, 2013 at 6:25 pm

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