April 2013


Well, the planning paid off.

At least in as much as I got through my big supervision meeting on Wednesday without making a complete fool of myself.  Actually, they seemed to be quite impressed with the content, if not entirely by the structure, of the work I submitted.  My music specialist gave me lots of great ideas to work on, but I’m going to let them gestate for a bit while I work on the second chapter before I go back and redraft the first.  I was very relieved, because I really was worried that the musicologist would find great big holes in my work and suggest that I hadn’t found out anything new or raised any interesting points.  In short, I thought she would point and say ‘Imposter’ in a loud and accusative voice.  I was amazed to find that she seemed to think that some of the ideas were well worth pursuing and that I had already added something to areas of musical study that aren’t that well developed.

In terms of the writing, though, it was less successful.  I haven’t completely got over my tendency to list (I spotted ‘Titanic’ written in the margin of my supervisor’s copy of my chapter!) and I haven’t mastered the art of saying what I’m going to say before I provide the evidence for it. I am slightly alarmed by the look of glee in his eyes when he said he would enjoy going over the structure and style with me sometime in the next week or two.  The thing is that I know whatever happens, he will still make me laugh while he gently but thoroughly tears me to pieces.  I won’t realise I’m in bits until afterwards!  I know it needs doing, I know I’ll learn a lot and I know that I’m lucky that he isn’t as vicious as some supervisors I’ve heard about.  I will come out of it with a silly grin on my face, knowing a lot more than I did when I went in and being confident enough to give it a try.

RMS Titanic

RMS Titanic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So to sum up, it was a really productive meeting, it gave me a lot to think about and it gave me plenty of self-confidence to start on the next chapter, in which I’m looking at how the words fit to the music and how the different sets of words affect one another. Good fun.  But again, I’m in the situation that I’m not sure what I’m trying to say until I’ve finished writing and by then, the form of the chapter will be a mess.

I think I need my academic writing lesson soon!

Steve Tilston

Steve Tilston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday afternoon I sent off first draft of my first chapter to my supervisors.  It’s been a tough week, as on Monday evening I was really struggling to make the chapter work because it had just evolved out of my notes.  I couldn’t get the separate bits of the chapter to hang together – it was just some chunks of text that could have been completely separate entities if they weren’t all on the same page.  A frantic call to a friend about the disorganised nature of my work resulted in some very good advice.  “Write down the points you want to make on index cards, then arrange them into order.”  How right he was.  So I spent Monday evening juggling index cards.

On Tuesday morning I started with 12 index cards, a blank document and  heavy heart.  I got some blue tac and stuck the index cards to a convenient bit of blank wall next my desk, and  stuck a couple of post-it notes on to a few of them to remind me where I had found evidence to back them up.  By Tuesday afternoon, I had 5000 words.  Okay, so not all of them by any means were completely new and original for the new document, but the opening few paragraphs were, and I’d made substantial alterations to the bits that I had copied and pasted in from the old notes.  A first draft was ready for proofreading by Thursday afternoon, so I had a night out!  I took the family to see Steve Tilston at Garstang Unplugged, and we all had a lovely evening.

Friday morning I spent proofreading and making alterations, then in the afternoon I fiddled with the footnotes and bibliography.  I sent it off mid-afternoon, having reached about ten thousand words somewhere along the way.  It’s interesting, because not long ago I commented to a friend that I hadn’t ‘planned’ a piece of work in years.  Everything had just, sort of, evolved out of my research and seemed to come out okay.   This is partly because I never knew exactly what I wanted to say until I was saying it.  But this time it just didn’t work, perhaps because my command over the material was not quite as confident.

I have to say I’m not entirely happy with the end result.  It’s probably the chapter I’m going to find most difficult, as it is the most interdisciplinary, looking at the similarities and differences between art music, from church and court, and the popular music of the ballads.  I’m a bit worried about how my music specialist is going to react to it and I’m certain that my other supervisors are going to find plenty of stylistic problems too.  All in all, I’m quite nervous about my supervisory meeting next week.  Between now and then, I’m going to do some more reading on reader reception theory because I borrowed some books from a very nice German teacher at the university at the beginning of the year and it really is time I took them back!  I also have a conference paper proposal I need to write, as the call for papers closes this week.

sizergh castle gardens

sizergh castle gardens (Photo credit: scpgt)

I think it might be a fortnight since I last posted an update on my work, but as it’s been the children’s Easter holidays, I’ve not had all that much time either to work, or to write about it on my blog.

There have been several family trips out, for example to Brockholes and Sizergh Castle,  and a couple of  walks.  This morning I spent baking with the children (that is, we baked biscuits and cake together, not me using them as ingredients!).  I took advantage of a couple of  days when my sister looked after the children to go to the John Rylands Library to read some of the books that they won’t lend out.  The second of the child-free days I spent trying to identify the subject of one of the ballads I’ve been looking at.  I found her, quite by chance, in the middle of the afternoon, but her identity opened up a whole new set of questions which I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to.

It’s not been easy because although I want to play with the children and be there for them in their holidays, I’m eager to get on with my research.   At the times I’ve been able to do a bit of work when the children have been at home, I haven’t been able to give it my complete attention, nor have I been able to spend any extended time on it.  Now this makes a difference to what you can actually do.  It means that I have to find little bits of things that I can do and complete, or that I have to do secondary reading that I can leave whenever I’m needed.  It’s not that work can’t be done, it’s just that it can’t really be planned and I have to be flexible.

I have arranged a meeting with three of my supervisors the week after next.  My plan for tonight is to finish off the musical analysis of the ballad tunes so that at the beginning of next week, when the children go back to school, I can edit the work a bit and put some structure into it.  At the moment, it is a list of ballads with their analysis and it needs sorting out before I can let my supervisors see it.