As I posted on twitter, I have hit upon a paradox in my work.

The more I read, the more I want to write.   The more I write, the more I need to read. 

This one’s a difficult one.  Here’s where I am.

Yesterday I read through my musicological ballad analysis chapter and started to read Beth Quitslund’s ‘The Reformation in Rhyme’.  I found references to several other books I should look at  about the metrical psalters.  This is par for the course.  This happens every time I read anything.  Each book I look at generates about another 4 or 5 that I feel the need to look at too.  I’m used to this, but it gets a little bit frustrating.

This morning I sat down to write some notes to remind myself what I need to do in the next few weeks.  I  looked through the notes from my last panel meeting, and from the supervisory meetings I had just before I was taken ill.  More things to read.  Chapters in books, unpublished theses, articles, entire monographs…  More and more things to read.  Then I looked round at my bookshelves, groaning under the weight of unread books from the library.

Most of what I ‘need’ to do is reading,  but I need to write something for my next meeting.  I have 23 thousand words of a working document on the analysis of the ballad tunes and their lyrics (it will be substantially less when I move the ballad lyrics to the appendices), but it’s not finished.  I need to do more work on dating the ballads and analysing their lyrics.  Then I need to relate it to the general trends in Renaissance music of the period, and so we come back to secondary reading.  Everything I do leads to more reading.  But I want to write! What’s more, I need to write.  So I suppose at some point I have to draw the line under reading, at least for a while, to do the writing that that reading has generated and carry on with the primary research.

I had a very supportive ‘back to work’ meeting on Wednesday. We talked about my plans to ease myself back into work gently with some reading!  Also, I have an article about Jacobean corruption and Saint John Roberts almost ready for submission to a journal.  I just have to get an exact reference for the document on which it is based, sort out exactly how to present the website references and check it through once more.  As soon as I get the document archive reference, I will be sending it straight off and not holding my breath.  There are also a couple of conferences I want to prepare something for.  One is the histfest at Lancaster University, which is just up the road from me.  So I’ve got plenty to keep me going.  It was lovely being back at work, and great to know I’ve got my panel supporting me.

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Samuel Alexander building

Samuel Alexander building (Photo credit: nogbad the bad)

I was a bag of nerves on Tuesday evening, ahead of my panel meeting on Wednesday morning, as those who saw me that evening could testify.  I go giggly when I’m nervous, and it makes people who don’t know me think I’m not taking things seriously, which is not the case.  Terror doesn’t quite have the same effect, but nerves….

It all turned out alright though.  I’m happy to say that my panelists all seem to think that the revised chapter plan is an improvement, so since Wednesday morning I’ve been busily concentrating on the ballads.  Actually, I started looking at the ballad tunes on Monday afternoon, after a lovely weekend with friends, family and a lot of laughter.  So I’d done quite a bit of work on them before heading to Manchester for the meeting.

Most of my time has been spent analysing the structure and modes of the ballad tunes, putting the tunes with the known words and tinkering with them to make them fit.  The next job is to look at the background (printers/publication dates/variants) of the ballad lyrics and see how the words of the ballads relate to the tunes.  My collated working document of lyrics and tunes is nearly 100 pages long!

I’ve also been looking into hexachordal theory, although at the moment I’m unclear on why sixteenth century musical theorists felt the need to leave out the seventh of the scale.  I will need to draw this into my ballad analysis at some stage.

So last week’s floundering is over, I have a plan and I’m enjoying work again.