Six Songs For The Viva

Something different for a Bank Holiday Monday!

I’ve made a YouTube playlist, six songs that make me think about the viva, about getting ready, the end of the PhD and all of the feelings that swirl around. My reasons for these picks are below, but note that as this playlist is on YouTube, if you do click through there might be adverts between some songs and they have nothing to do with me!

The Final Countdown, Europe – I think this is the first thought that comes to people when their viva is near. The days and weeks leading up feel like a ticking clock to something momentous.

Happy, Pharrell Williams – this is my secret wish for everyone going to their viva. I’d like everyone to go to it feeling good about talking to their examiners.

My Way, Frank Sinatra – part of the viva is talking about what you did, how you did it, why you did it. While the viva isn’t quite the end of the PhD it has a feeling of “the final curtain”. Hopefully not too many regrets, hopefully not sombre or sad. Hopefully you can stand proudly and say you did it your way!

Make Your Own Kind Of Music, Mama Cass – this is a very particular thought for the viva. Some candidates worry that examiners will tell them that what they’ve done isn’t right or appropriate. Worry that there won’t be an answer or a way to explain yourself is real, and there isn’t a silver bullet answer. Perhaps the best thing you can do is work to be as confident as you can in explaining your research. You’ve gotta make your own kind of music/Sing your own special song…

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. – people forget the words in the title’s brackets! The viva might feel like the end of your world, you might be worried – but you can be fine, and you most likely will be fine!

Blackbird, The Beatles – “you were only waiting for this moment to arise…” When you get to the viva, you don’t need anything other than who you are, what you can do and what you have done. You were only waiting for the day to come when you could demonstrate who you’ve become.

I’d be very interested to know what songs make you think of the viva. Let me know if you have any bright ideas!

Tuning In

For the first half of 2016 I would listen to a string quartet doing covers of David Bowie songs whenever I was setting up for workshops.I listened to the songs one day and had a great workshop. It started as a little ritual but blossomed into priming: priming myself for confidence, tuning myself into a certain mode of thinking. After the summer break and a little reflection I switched to Daft Punk. I’m generally in a very happy space when I’m presenting, or I want to be, and Daft Punk is music that makes me happy.

So, an idea: What music makes you happy? What music do you associate with being the best version of you? What music tells the story of your PhD? There are a lot of things you could do to contribute to being viva ready – read your thesis of course, practice answering questions, make notes – but something helpful could be as simple as listening to a soundtrack that helps you focus well.

What’s on your playlist?

Episode 30: Dr Murphy McCaleb

In this episode I talk with Dr Murphy McCaleb, PhD graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire. Murphy’s research area is Performance Studies, and his research focussed on ensemble performances. His viva was in February 2012, and he’s currently a lecturer at York St John University. He has also turned his thesis into a book and published it with Ashgate, and we had an interesting chat about that process.

As ever, please leave comments or questions on this post, tweet @VivaSurvivors or email me! If you’d like to support the Viva Survivors Podcast, then why not check out my ebooks?

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Episode 28: Dr Anthony Whittaker

In this episode I talk to Dr Anthony Whittaker, whose PhD research produced a portfolio of original music compositions along with a commentary on the work. It was really interesting talking to Tony – fascinating because his experience of research was so different to my own. As with all of the other episodes of the Viva Survivors Podcast, we talked about the viva as well, how Tony prepared for it and what happened on the day.

Please leave comments about this episode on this post, or if you have questions then email me or tweet @VivaSurvivors. There are now quite a few more episodes lined up between now and the end of the year – including another Academic Jobs Special which will be the next episode. There may be other interesting news about the podcast in the near future, so follow me on Twitter to keep up to date.

Thanks for listening!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)