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Wednesday, December 17, 2003
 
Academic standards in Australia

The news tells me that the Australian National University, Canberra, and Melbourne University both appear in a list of the World's top 100 universities. I have been unable to verify this result. Nor have I been able to see how my favourite educational establishments - Bagshot Correctional Institute and Miss Whip-Lash's Services to Errant Politicians and Itinerant Bloggers - fared.

I suspect that the ANU may be on the list fraudulently. I spent some time there last weekend, trying to find something interesting/useful to do in the Arts faculty. I was unable to locate the English department, even though I recognised that it could, perhaps, have become 'misfiled' under Strine. The only other subject within the faculty of any interest was the didgeridoo and I determined to look into having lessons. Imagining myself on the major concert halls of the World, displaying my virtuosity on this haunting instrument had great and immediate appeal but there was a negative side, too.

There is an aphorism (is it perhaps from a popular song?): 'I took my harp* to the party and nobody asked me to play'. A major limitation of the instrument - nothing musical - was quickly brought to my attention so I was forced to decide against it. I was, of course, greatly worried by the thought of having to cart the thing about. Ah me; just think of what might have been...

Seeing portability as an important criterion in the choice of instrument, I then alighted on the piccolo but I could not, for the life of me, find anyone on campus qualified to teach me. So it's OK to teach didge but not the piccolo, eh?

Think of the power of the piccolo to cut through the full orchestra (storm movement in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony). Then think of an equivalent contribution from the didgeridoo. Can you think of a didgeridoo cadenza or obligato? The best I can come up with is the didgeridoo solo foghorn in one of Britten's sea works, or is that my imagination? Hm, there's something wrong with ANU's academic standards all right. I am beginning to believe that they are unduly influenced by political considerations.

[* or double bass, contrabassoon, or even cinema organ]


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