OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This week I finally have something a bit different to say.  I am aware, you see, that writing a blog about writing a PhD is a bit repetitive: “read some ballads, thought about the music, wrote about some ballads, went to a supervision meeting, did some more research, wrote a bit more, read some secondary texts… read some ballads…” and so on.  But this week was different, because I went to Queen Mary, University of London, to swelter at the Psalm Culture and the Politics of Translation conference organised by Ruth Ahnert, Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan.  The heat was immense, but so was the amount of work that had gone into the conference, not just by those many people giving papers but also by the conference organisers.

Three parallel panels, three times a day, plus multiple plenaries and daily double keynotes meant that there was plenty to keep you occupied.  I enjoyed  Timothy Duguid’s paper on Scottish metrical psalms, Lucia Martinez on the creation of early modern English metre, Lucy Underwood on Ralph Buckland and Kate Sargan on the life of Christina of Markyate.  But my personal highlight was the presentation made by  Beth Quitslund and Nicholas Temperley on the Sternhold and Hopkins psalter, not least because it was made in the chapel of the Charterhouse, which is in itself a beautiful building, but also because they actually got everyone singing!  There were only a few lectures that mentioned the music for the psalms, partly because a lot of them were on prose psalter translations, but it has to be said that literature and history specialists predominated, so hearing some music sung was very refreshing.

On Tuesday evening I went on the tour of the Charterhouse which was led by one of the brothers.  I was very glad that I went because the building is, in part, Tudor and it has a very  interesting history.  The gardens were absolutely beautiful.  There are several of my photographs below.

It was also a very friendly conference.  I arrived on Monday morning having met only one person there before, and left on Wednesday evening having made lots of new friends and having plenty to think about over the summer.  When I got home I booked my first summer research trip, to Cambridge.  I need to go to the Parker Library and Cambridge University Library.  I’m in the process of organising a trip to the Bodleian and then I have to think about going to London to the British Library.

While I was down in London I did some work on my theory section, refining my work on knowingness.  I finished this bit of work this morning and I’m quite pleased with it, because although I wasn’t very sure of myself when I started on it on Monday, it has really helped to clarify my thoughts.  It’s very important, because it underpins the whole basis of my thesis.

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Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575)

Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s always like this at the start of a new piece of work. The floundering.

I’m starting to investigate the music, and I have spent the last day or two looking at modal theory, finding out about hexachords, looking in to the life and times of Archbishop Matthew Parker and playing with ballad tunes.  I’ve done quite a bit of reading, and I’ve tried to do a bit of writing on ballad tune analysis and on Parker’s idea of the effect of modes, but I’m struggling a bit.  I find it a bit hard to get going, until I’ve got an angle to get into.  Or unless, of course, I’ve been told what to do, like last week when I was asked to write my theoretical section.

It’s not comfortable.  I’d like to be able to report progress.  But to be honest, I don’t think I’ve been all that productive in the last couple of days.  I think I need to set myself a specific goal next week (apart from getting through my panel meeting, which is probably the main one).  I need to find a particular area in which to immerse myself, and I need to get hold of a couple of library books too.

Next week I have a research assistant to keep me company.  My husband will be on his half term break, but the children aren’t on holiday until the week after.  This presents something of a problem, because although I get extra help with my musical analysis next week, the following week I’m going to find it almost impossible to do any work at all.  So even if I get stuck into something, I’m going to have to put it to one side at the end of next week to take care of the children.