Opti: Ladies and gentleman, welcome to another Opti Interview with your hostess Opticalillusion. Her guest this week is none other than h5ringer.
h5ringer: Well thank you Opti. Very kind of you to invite me. May I first of all apologize for my appearance today. I thought I ought to make a little effort for the readers, but with hindsight perhaps my choice of a plum, velvet smoking-jacket was rather too much.
Opti: I understand that you are a University Field Researcher, for those who don't know, could you tell us what this means?
h5ringer: A University Field Researcher is just like any other researcher on h2g2, except that they have elected to take on a project with a rather larger scope than is possible within the space constraints of a single Edited Guide Entry (EGE).
h2g2 University comprises five faculties: Art and Entertainment; History, Philosophy and Spirituality; Science, Mathematics and Engineering; Social Sciences; Sport and Lifestyle. My own project, on the life and work of the late romantic period Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, comes under the Arts and Entertainment faculty. It comprises 14 EGEs currently, with a further two required to complete it. Of course not every project need be that many; a project can comprise as few as five entries.
Writing an h2g2 university project is just like writing an EGE really, except that the planning has a broader scope. Whenever I start to write any new entry, I first make a sort of template, with just what I think the headings and sub-headings should be. This gives me an overall structure within which to write; I prefer this approach as it makes it more obvious where a particular piece of information that I want to include should be covered. For a h2g2 university project, the same principle applies, but in addition the structure planning is expanded to include what the content of individual EGEs will be, rather like planning the chapters of a textbook. It's essential to produce a synopsis, otherwise there is a real danger that the project will ramble on, getting ever and ever bigger.
It is important to remember that one of the requirements for acceptance of a project is that each of its component EGEs must be able to stand alone and be self-contained, as well as being part of the larger project. A university project is not just one very long entry broken into smaller chunks, requiring the reader to start at the first entry and follow the subsequent entries through to the end.
The project sub-editor (now there's a task I don't envy) will add a title-bar at the top of each entry, with links to each of the other component entries, rather like the contents page of a book.
As a Field Researcher you also get a very fetching pale-blue badge to adorn your Personal Space.
Opti: How long have you been a Field Researcher?
h5ringer: Oh dear, I was hoping you weren't going to mention that Opti, however...the first couple of entries were submitted in the spring/early summer of 2006. This means that my project has been a shade tardy in coming to completion, but it should do so by the autumn of this year. In my defence, I should add that by then I think, it will amount to a total of something like 50- to 60,000 words. During that time I've also written entries on other topics, mostly music-related, but not exclusively so, and then of course there's my monthly Musical Notes column for The Post.
Opti: What led you to produce a series of entries on Mahler?
h5ringer: Oo, a glass of Chateau Margaux. Most appreciated. I must say, you have jolly good hospitality here Opti. Now, where were we? Ah yes, well therein lies a story. I have had a more-than-passing interest in Gustav Mahler since the early 1960s. This has grown over the years into what, if I'm honest, has to be acknowledged is an obsession. Before joining h2g2, I had already written the first three entries (although obviously not yet *as* entries) and was looking for an outlet for my work. I had also written a thinly-disguised piece of fiction with a Mahler connection that would be obvious to those who know the topic. Not knowing any better I submitted it to Peer Review and was quite rightly advised to submit it instead to the Alternative Writing Workshop (AWW). This I did and I'm happy to say it now sits in The UnderGuide, entitled 'The Pilgrimage'. Having had a good reception to a piece of fiction, I was keen to see what other people thought of my non-fiction, so entries on the First and Second symphonies were pushed under the spotlight, and the rest was, as they say....
Opti: Did the project come together as you expected?
h5ringer: I think the project has changed since its inception in two respects. My original design was to describe only the events and the context surrounding the composition and the first performances of each of Mahler's symphonies. When the entry for the First Symphony was put into Peer Review, my good friend Gnomon suggested that I might care to add a description of the symphony's music as well as its composition and performance. Having done so for that entry, these movement-by-movement descriptions have now become an established part of the structure. The second change is that the number of 'chapters' in the project has increased. I have added a number of supplementary entries, including a two-part biography of Mahler's wife Alma.
Opti: And finally, have you got any further projects in the pipeline, so to speak?
h5ringer: There's nothing planned immediately, but I'm of a mind to do one on the history of opera in New York up to 1914. I'd also like see a project started on the subject of jazz, but that would almost certainly have to be a collaborative effort.
Opti: Thank you h5ringer for taking time out to tell us what it takes to be a Field Researcher. May you long continue to take pleasure in h2g2.
h5ringer: It's been an honour and a pleasure to chat with you Opti, and sorry again about the jacket. (Whispers to Opti) Do you think anyone noticed the moleskin trousers?