A New Look at Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

Christopher Marlowe’s ballad “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is probably one of the most well-known poems or, as Mallory Ortberg calls it, “The Most Frequently Owned-Upon Poem In History.” In class we learn about Marlowe’s pastoral love poem but we barely scratch the surface of the complicated and fascinating history surrounding this poem. From directly after its first printing to modern-day, the poem has inspired responses in all genres of literature, art, and music. Its manifestations include a broadside ballad, newspaper comics, jazz songs, poetic parodies and replies, as well as paintings and textile works of art. I have found that there is no one place where this information has been cultivated.

Come Live With Me homepageTo fill this gap, I have created Come Live With Me: Living the History of a Ballad. The site is now live and available for free to anyone who wants to know more about the literary life of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” Continue reading

Ballad Recording Session

Today I learned just how difficult it is to record a song.

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Music Building at UCSB

After walking me down flights of stairs,  Erik Bell,  the Singing Team Manager at EBBA, took me to ( what is known as “The Dungeon” to EBBA singers) the old Ethnomusicology Laboratory in the UCSB Music Building. It’s a small room; the walls are filled with shelving full of cassette tapes, VHS’s, old TV’s, and record players. The technology and decor made me feel as though I had stepped back in time to the 1970’s. The mic was set up, pointed away from the ceiling vent, and the small table where the computer and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface machine was sat less than 5 feet away. I was nervous. Never one keen to be in the spotlight, the idea of singing with an audience (even of just one) made me incredibly anxious. 

Marlowe’s ballad, of course, is tricky and no stanza is exactly the same. Whether it’s lines with more words, fewer words, odd stresses, whatever, it made keeping the tempo difficult. One line, “A hony tongue, a heart of gall” took me forever to get right. I kept stressing “A” when I should have been stressing “hony”: “A ho-ny tonguea heart of gall” instead of “A ho-ny tongueheart of gall. Continue reading