clive james - notes

clive james – notes (Photo credit: russelldavies)

A funny sort o f week. Today I sent off all my work for my panel meeting, which is scheduled for next week. My supervisors certainly have plenty to keep them busy – my research plan, training log and chapter plan don’t take up too much space, but the draft chapter on combining music and words to make ballads is somewhere in the region of 55 pages and they’ve got a couple of thousand words more on what a ballad actually is. Or is not. In the end it will form part of my introduction, which my twitter followers may already know I accidentally wrote the first draft of a couple of days ago. My response to a chapter on Tudor music by John Milsom metamorphosed into a bit of a literature review, so then I decided to stick in the methodology section I wrote in January and voila, an introduction was born. Yesterday I proofread and sent off my little epitaph ballad article, so that’s gone too.

All of which meant I had no pressing work to do today, so I trawled the online archive catalogues looking for things that I ought to go to see over the summer. I think I’ll probably be doing more of the same tomorrow.

This evening I’m having a night off. I’m going to read a bit more of the third volume of Clive James‘s memoirs and enjoy the evening sunshine. Now there’s someone whose writing I admire…

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This week I’ve been working from home again.  I’ve redrafted my chapter on ballad music ready for my panel meeting and redrafted my article, although I’m not certain where I’m going to send it to.  Between them, they have taken me all week.  I’m going to proofread them tomorrow, as I think it’s more or less down to the fiddly stuff now, like sorting out the formatting and  checking the detail of the footnotes.

Having finished the chapter yesterday and the article at lunchtime today, I was left feeling a bit peculiar this afternoon. Considering that I doubted I would get the chapter finished in time for the panel, having it more or less complete over a week in advance wa something of a surprise.  What to do?  I spent an hour or so looking at my training log and research plan for my panel meeting and tinkering with them.  I sent an application in for the graduate travel fund.  I sent a few emails.  I looked at a few Stuart ballads, just for a change of scenery.  I printed out several articles and a chapter of a book to read on the train to London tomorrow.  I’m off to the HA Branches and Members Committee meeting in the morning.

I think my next job is to get stuck in to defining ‘ballad’, so the chapter I’ve printed out is one by John Milsom on Tudor music.  Most people seem to have limited their studies of ballads to printed broadside ballads.  I can only assume that this is because it makes it easier to decide what is, or isn’t, a ballad.  Because I’m not confining myself to printed sheets,  I have to make an attempt to define what makes a ballad a ballad, or at least acknowledge that it throws up some interesting questions.  It’s on my list of summer goals, so I might as well get stuck in now!

 

 

John Rylands Library, Manchester, England.

John Rylands Library, Manchester, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost.  Not quite.  Well, perhaps sometimes.  It comes over me in waves, usually on a Saturday or Sunday.  This weekend it was Sunday, today, that the enormity of trying to perfect my chapter before my panel meeting.  Now, if I only had to perfect my chapter in time for my panel meeting, things might be a bit more manageable but I have several Historical Association deadlines too, an article to finish and several other bits and bobs, as well as things going on at the children’s school that will cause interruptions…  I’m looking forward to getting it all over with and heading off to London for the Psalm Culture conference in July.

The panic set in because, after doing a 12 hour day yesterday, I realised that all my musical examples need re-writing.  Every single one of them.  This is incredibly tedious, because they are created in Sibelius on a different laptop and have to be exported as graphics files and then moved across to my work laptop to be inserted into the the chapter itself as images.  Any mistake means the whole sequence has to start again.  There is also quite a lot of work that needs doing on the text itself, to improve the clarity of the writing and to explain some of the more complex ideas about memory and music.

On Friday I went to the ‘Printing Cities‘ symposium at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, organised by my co-supervisor Sasha Handley.  There were six very interesting talks, but the one that stood out for me was given by Massimo Rospocher on Venetian ballad singers and politcal ballads, as it connected closely with what I’ve been saying myself.   The John Rylands is a beautiful building, so  it was very atmospheric.

Histfest programme

Histfest programme

I was very pleased to attend Lancaster University‘s postgraduate history conference yesterday, where I spoke about my work on knowingness in Tudor ballads and the links between sacred and secular music.   I think they had a bit of a shock when I started singing ‘Down in Yon Forest‘ to demonstrate the simplicity of melody and ‘call and response form’, both of which help to make it a memorable  tune.  The rest of the musical examples I had recorded my husband singing, because I didn’t feel confident that I would have time to learn them before the seminar, but I think having the musical examples really helped because it brought home how the melody can make links between the songs.  There were some very interesting questions and the paper seemed to go down well.  I was also very interested in the papers presented by my fellow panelists, James Mawdesley and Sarah Ann Robins, both early modernists too.  I would have liked to attend Geoffrey Humble’s paper during the morning, but I accidentally ended up in the wrong room!

I had a really interesting supervision meeting this week where we shared our ideas about early modern attitudes to death and looked at the epitaph ballad that I’ve been studying.  I’ve put that to one side for a bit though, in an attempt to get a chapter finished before my next panel meeting in a month’s time.  So today I’ve gone back to working on the ballad contrafacta, in particular pulling together my table of ballads with more than one set of words to the same tune.  I spent several days on it before we went on holiday and I’ve spent another 4 hours on it today.  It’s still not finished, but I needed a break, so I decided I’d catch up on my blog before I tried to do any more on the table.

On Friday I went to the Pathways postgraduate careers event at the university, but I’m no clearer about what I’m going to do when I finish my PhD.

DSCF1150 DSCF1148

Weather-wise, it’s been a much better week.  Yesterday the weather was beautiful, but unfortunately I wasn’t in a fit state to enjoy it.  My eldest kindly brought  a bug home from school earlier in the week and having had a sleepless night on Tuesday, I wasn’t in a fit state to kick it out of the house.  So I spent most of yesterday in bed with a bug.  Anyway, the garden is looking lovely, I think.  We had the redpoll and the siskins back in the garden this week too.

Work is going slowly.  I’ve started work on my second chapter, but at the moment I’m researching rather than writing.  I have a wild theory up my sleeve that involves heraldry and ballads!   I’m in the process of comparing several ballads about Lent, which is actually proving to be a lot more interesting than it sounds!

On Wednesday I survived a lesson in how to construct a sentence!  I have an annoying habit of leaving subjects out of sentences, which is fine if you happen to be inside my brain as I know what I’m talking about, but apparently other people can find it a bit hard to follow my train of thought…!  I have been told to think about my sentences as musical phrases, in order to make them more balanced.

In other good news, I have my lovely middle-aged laptop back (as opposed to the old one that I need to get repaired next), which means that I’m back on  Windows 7 and no longer have to attempt to work round Windows 8 which, as far as I am concerned, is the stuff of nightmares.  Windows 7 works.  It just gets on with things.  Windows 8 thinks it needs to be at the forefront of your work all the time – it’s far too in your face.  Also, today I got the document reference I needed to complete my article, so it’s now all ready to go.  This feels very strange.  I think I probably feel the way a rhinoceros must do when it’s about to give birth – this article has been two years in the making!

 

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!

It’s been quite a week.  First of all I had two days at home looking after my sick little boy.  Then on Wednesday I went into Manchester to have a supervision meeting.  I spent most of the day reading and managed to catch up with a few of my friends, which was nice because I hadn’t seen them for a long while.  The supervision meeting was very productive, with both my main supervisors setting me completely different pieces of work and discussing the work that I wrote on the Cromwell ballad flyting.  I was surprised about how positive they were about that.  It was barely even a first draft and I thought it was pretty rubbish, especially in terms of its flow.  However, I am very pleased by the detailed feedback I was given and its certainly given me something to think about when I go back to it.  But that will be a little while off.  I have to re-write my chapter plan, again, with some different case studies, and I have 2000 words to write on reception theory, speech act theory and knowingnesss.  So that’s what I spent yesterday reading up on.  I’d done some work on speech act theory before, so I started with reception theory and wrote a bit on that yesterday.  I have to say it’s been rather hard work, and I’m not entirely convinced by it all.  Theory is all very well, but when it meets practice it seems to collapse…  Oh well, it remains to be seen how it comes out in the wash.  I picked up some more texts in the library today, so that’s Monday and Tuesday sorted at the very least!

Today I was on a three hour course on ‘Evidencing Your Skills’, all about how to match your experience to competencies required by employers.  It was rather too long, I have to say, but it was a useful reminder of how to prepare for life beyond the PhD!  So I’ve set myself several targets from that, too.  The first is to contact the careers service at the university, as there are a few options I’d like to discuss.  I am also going to force myself to write some proposals for conference papers, as I haven’t done that yet at all.