Stuart Allan writes: I used these songs mainly to help me focus on reading or writing, so as a result there are many tracks that are largely instrumental or that I know so well the lyrics barely register with me. Mogwai’s Mr Beast was a constant favourite for obliterating any noise around me when I read on the bus, while I found that some of the electronic tracks – e.g. ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’, ‘minipops 67’ – helped me when I was generating ideas during the writing stage. The last three tracks reflect the strange mixture of relief, sadness and euphoria I felt at the end.
‘The Big Rock Candy Mountains’ has been my earworm throughout the dissertation, possibly because it describes a place where everything is perfect – and this is how I liked to imagine the future would be after I handed it in. I also enjoyed hearing our young children singing along to some of the inappropriate lyrics when I played it at home (‘In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, you never change your socks / And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks’).
The artwork is my Dad’s design for landscaping our garden, which I have framed and hung on the wall in our kitchen. I picked this image because I’ve been thinking a lot about the many months he spent planning and designing the garden before he broke ground. (‘Well planned is half done’, I remember him saying.) I made a conscious effort to try and follow that approach with my dissertation: to organise my process and my thoughts before I started to write. Dad finished building our garden shortly before he died in September 2013, which was when I started my MSc.
Stuart Allan is a student on the MSc in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh
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