November 18, 2014

8.15 am. Into light:


9.00 am. The Art/Sound lecture moved into methodology mode this morning — charting the ocean of possibilities that present themselves in the intermedial, interdisciplinary study of the art history of sound. 11.00 am. Vocational Practice. We explored the relative merits and preparation of notational and verbatim scripts for lecturing, and reviewed a pair of contrasting examples of lecturers in action.

2.00 pm. Back into the studio, to eke out time for The Bible in Translation project. To complete both the visual and aural elements of this output by the deadline will require considerable time management, good timing, micro planning, and graft. In the background, I began putting together the modified versions of the sound sample that I’d worked on over the weekend. The objective was to finish the piece by the close of the day. (Often, projects take as long as you give them.) Contrast and abrupt transitions between distinct timbres was the key to resolving the recomposition:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I dedicated the evening to furthering and completing my modification of the sample. By 9.30 pm, Hatton Cross (so named, because the sound of the original sample reminded me of the noise in the sky above that Tube station in London) was ‘off the bench’. The finished re-composition evokes the noise of underground trains as much as it does overhead aeroplanes. This was an unexpected and satisfying outcome.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2. 10.40 pm. ‘The night watch’. I updated my website, posted news, and attended to a number of overdue emails.

November 17, 2014


8.40 am. En route to the Old College to undertake re-routed second year painting tutorials. I’d honestly never before noticed this sign on the pier’s facade. What coarse rogues some young people are.

9.00 am. Tutorials commence.The smell of Chinese takeaways pervades the upper studios. And it is cold, so very cold. Some principles and observations:

  • You have to, yourself, construct a bespoke art education around the needs of each painting. For example, this education may require you to search out artists (of quality) who are relevant to the painting, and to set an agenda for exploring new ways of applying paint. (New to you, that is). Push beyond the boundary of what you know you know, and can do.
  • Sometimes the subject matter finds you. You just need to be ready when it turns up.
  • There may be an answer to the problem that you struggle with in your painting, elsewhere. For example, in the work which you produce for a different practice-based module. So, review everything you create together, and regularly. Think of ways to cross-fertilise the fruit of different modules. Show the work made in one module to the tutor of your other module.
  • We paint best what we know best.
  • There is no shame in being influenced. (The very best artists have all been influenced). But there is shame in stealing the fruit of another artist’s labour.
  • We each have more ideas, more interests, more facility that we can possible develop, meaningfully, in a lifetime. One of the hardest challenges for the artist is deciding what not to do.
  • Read your emails on at least a daily basis.

The painted Earth — a ready-made spacescape. Remarkable things lie under our nose:


1.00 pm. Lunch in the Old College Quad, catching up with emails, messages, postings, and news:


2.00 pm. I imagine that this would wash out both the irritant and the eye. A healthy and safety remedy that is, now, a risk to health and safety:


3.30 pm. Group tutorial with my second year painters on the nature and expectations of one-to-one tutorials. It was an encouraging and participatory display of mature observation and balanced, thoughtful opinion on their part:


6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.15 pm.  I adjusted and formatted the text and PowerPoint for tomorrow’s Art/Sound lecture, while uploading today’s visual and sonic capture to the appropriate sites and trading messages with one of our former third-year students. They’re valiantly trying to find the path to the next station on their professional journey. How hard is that pilgrimage.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2. 10.40 pm. ‘The night watch’. I made preparations for the second part of the MA Vocational Practice module’s session on ‘Delivering a Lecture’.

November 16, 2014






My colleague’s sound sample was played and recorded as follows:

  1. Through a 5.5 cm speaker using a small microphone, with both placed in a closed metal box
  2. Through a 5.5 cm speaker using a small microphone, with both placed in a closed plastic box
  3. Through a 5.5 cm speaker using a microphone, with both placed in a closed shoebox
  4. Through a 3.5 cm speaker powered by small tube amplifier using a large microphone, recorded in open studio
  5. Through a 5.5 cm speaker powered by a tube amplifier, using a small microphone, with the speaker and microphone placed in a closed metal box
  6. Through a 3.5 cm speaker powered by a tube amplifier, using a small microphone, with the speaker and microphone placed in a closed metal box
  7. Through a 100-watt guitar amplifier, using a large microphone, recorded in open studio

The sum of yesterday’s and today’s explorations covered as many bases as were required to process the sample and secure an acceptable outcome (at the very least). On Saturday I’d begun with only an intuition that this was the right way to deal with the project. I could not, then, have rationalized my approach, had I been asked. By the close of today’s activities, the reason why I had processed the sound sample in these ways was revealed. The logic is obvious, and on this wise. The sample I’d sent to my colleague was an acoustic recording of my flatbed scanner scanning the phrase ‘flatbed scanner’. He is currently manipulating the source using digital modulation software. The sample that he sent me was created using the same digital modulation software. I’ve addressed this sample by turning it into an acoustic phenomenon. In short, our respective approaches are mirror images one of another that together (to mix metaphors) complete a conceptual circle.

How did I move from sensing (but not knowing) to fully understanding, or, in other words, from intuition to cognizance? Principally, through writing-up an the account of my exploration in this diary. In so doing, I entered into a discussion with myself: the mind interrogated the heart. As a consequence, my ‘feelings’ and instincts solidified into thoughts and ideas. What can be learned?:

  • Trust your intuition (or at least give it the benefit of the doubt)
  • Not knowing what you are doing does not mean that you’re doing the wrong thing, or doing nothing worthwhile, or won’t know what you’re doing eventually
  • Have faith in the creative process: it will lead you.



November 15, 2014

10.00 am. Having returned from my foray to the Farmers’ Market, I drew together audio equipment and prepared to respond to the noise sample that my colleague had sent me recently. Initially, I endured a rather frustrating several hours trying to resolve an input/output routing ‘issue’ (read ‘problem of the intractable kind’, ‘headache’, ‘mess’, etc.) involving my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and audio-digital interface (A/DI). It all sounds a little abstruse when described like that. Put simply, I wanted the playback from one track to exit the DAW via the A/DI, and to return again through the A/DI to be re-recorded on the DAW as another track. (To the uninitiated, the meaning of that iteration of the ‘issue’ is almost as impenetrable and the first. This is unabashed ‘geek speak’.) :

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 15.17.31

By 12.30 pm, I’d successfully established the route, only to discover that the output signal (when passed through external effectors) squealed and wailed mockingly on its return, but only when monitored through the speakers. (At least you know where you are with a brush, tube of paint, and a support.)

1.30 pm. I wanted to explore the potential of the sample without recourse to digital modulation or effects, if possible (or, at least, to begin). This will be an exercise in acousto-analogue processing. An amplifier (through which the sample was played) and a recording device and microphone were set up in various contexts inside and outside of the house, in order to re-record the sample along with the natural ambiance of the setting:


The sets ups were as follows:

  • amplifier and recorder both in an undecorated and unfurnished bedroom
  • amplifier at the top of the first flight of stairs, recorder and microphone at the bottom
  • amplifier at the top of the a 3-storey stairwell, recorder and microphone at the bottom
  • amplifier in the bathroom with the door closed, recorder and microphone outside
  • amplifier in the kitchen with the door closed, recorder and microphone outside
  • amplifier in the house with the door open, recorder and microphone in the garden
  • amplifier, recorder and microphone in the garden (middle distance)
  • amplifier, recorder and microphone in the garden (far distance)


On playback (and without prior cognizance of the set ups), it’s impossible to guess the conditions under which the sample was recorded. With the exception of the exterior capture, that is: the presence of birdsong and the distant shouts and hollers of rugby players at the Vicarage Fields in the distance are superimposed upon the sample’s sound. Tomorrow, I want to record the sample through tinny, tiny speakers.

4.30 pm. Automated drawing in honour of the Rosetta mission:

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5.00 pm. Closure. 6.20 pm. Practice Session 1. 7.30 pm. An evening with the family.

November 14, 2014

8.45 am. I undertook one MA tutorial at the School before the beginning the day’s research. While walking home, an idea for a more-or-less instantaneous, machine-aided drawing occurred to me. When something like this arrives complete, you must honour the gift and act immediately. As Captain Beefheart would say: ‘If you got ears / You gotta listen’.  The outcome has graphic qualities that I associate with drypoint, and the illusion of ‘see-throughness’ reminiscent of airport X-ray systems. (The images portray my inner ‘demons’ … perhaps.) The material subject is inspired by an approach to still life advocated by one of my third year painters. As such, the drawings represent an involuntary collaboration on their part:




10.15 am. Verse for the day: Matt. 19.12 — a ‘biggy’, with the expectation that I was in for the long haul all morning. It was completed by the close of lunchtime:

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 14.09.32

2.00 pm. I began to set up an initial input/output patch between the analogue/digital interface and external effectors in readiness for sound project work, tomorrow:


In parallel,  I dug into the plan chest and pulled out the designs for Image and Superscription — a series of paintings based upon the gospels’ four independent accounts of the wooden plaque (Lat: Titulus) that was nailed to the cross above Christ’s head. The source object integrates Greek, Hebrew, and Latin texts. The conceptual development alone has been a significant challenge:


For anyone who has read or heard me berate students for over-planning the outcome of a painting even before it has begun, my procedure may seem contradictory at best. (‘One rule for you, and one for me.’ A saying that, whatever else it might suggest, has always struck me as being perfectly clear and consistent in the distinction that it draws.) However, my precept is addressed to those who do not espouse a systemic and concept-led approach to image making. In my practice: ‘The idea becomes a machine that makes the art’ (Sol LeWitt).

8.30 pm. After an extended dinner with friends, I returned to the schematics and systems for the visual work, and completed the set up of sound equipment in the studio. 11.00 pm. Closure:


A pillow beckons.


November 13, 2014


8.15 am. I set up for the next two hours of lectures. In Art/Sound, I demonstrated feedback using a guitar and a 75-watt amplifier. How cool is that! I can’t imagine that there are too many pretexts for making such a dreadful din in the delivery of art history. 10.00 am. A surreptitious photograph of me during the second lecture of the day:


11.10 pm. Onward to the Old College, and a day of third-year painting tutorials. I detect a collective movement towards understanding among my group. I can be no more specific than that. Some observations and principles:

  • We don’t have to determine the rules of the game before beginning a painting. More often we find the rules of the game in the process of painting.
  • The question: ‘What do I want to say with my painting?’ is redundant. Painting is incapable of saying anything. If you must say something … say it.
  • Most problems in painting have a reasonable chance of finding a solution if the student establishes a consistent pattern of working. It’s in the mundane and habitual practice of our discipline that an answer often presents itself. So, we, too, must be present and available to greet it.
  • An interesting subject does not, of itself, make for an interesting painting.
  • A dull subject may be interestingly painted.
  • Returning to an early preoccupation (be that a subject or a way of painting) may suggest either an appalling lack of imagination on the part of the student, or that this interest remains significant for them. In any case, its better to repeat one’s own, rather than someone else’s, work.


1.00 pm. A lunchtime, researchy-type meeting with my colleague in sound at Treehouse. 2.00 pm. Back into the fray.

6.20 pm. Practice Session 1. 7.30 pm. In the evening, I uploaded today’s teaching materials to Blackboard and launched the new FacePaint community page. It’s dedicated to the exchange of ideas, opinions, news, profiles, and links related to the study of painting at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University:

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9.40 pm. Practice Session 2. 10.30 pm. ‘The night watch’. I completed uploads, notifications, emails, and registers.

November 12, 2014

8.30 am. Postgraduate Open Day. I’m stationed at the School to receive redirected student from the Arts Centre. 9.00 am. A pastoral tutorial. Sometimes, it’s enough to merely affirm one’s support for the student. I completed formatting the text for tomorrow’s Art/Sound lecture, before wading into administration, sorting of a general nature, and preparing a box of tricks for my colour mixing demonstration tomorrow:


11.30 pm. I enforced my ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on absenteeism from lectures and tutorials. They aren’t many problems in this respect, but enough to keep one vigilant and issuing shepherding emails to the lost sheep. I wonder whether there are a few students who feel that it’s legitimate to be lax with their studentship because they’re now paying for it. However, if I miss a dental appointment (which I pay for) without due cause or notification, I suffer a financial penalty.

2.00 pm. I was on advisory duty at the School, awaiting potential postgraduate applicants seeking advice. The sunlight burned through the School mid afternoon:


4.00 pm. I recalled Vermeer’s View of Delft (c.1660-1):


As I waited for no one, I finalised the handout for tomorrow’s demonstration on colour. Thereafter, I used the last hour of the afternoon to put away files that have been lying askew for months and to clear tabletops of ‘dead’ mail. In a cupboard, I came across the class notes I wrote during my first year of teaching, in 1985-6, at Pontypool College in south Wales. They cover ‘O’- and ‘A’-level Art History, Painting, and Printmaking. I think I distilled everything I knew then into those courses, and a great deal that I didn’t too:


6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. Onto Matt. 19.11, while fielding emails, professional messaging, and uploading files to Blackboard.

9.40 pm. Practice Session 2.

November 11, 2014


8.30 am. Having upgraded to Mac OS Maverick Yosemite, I can no longer make a Bluetooth connection between my MacBook with the external amplifier. (My prediction, last week, was correct.) No doubt the companies wishing to connect their devices thus will gets their heads together and issue an upgrade.

10.30 am. A visit to Occupational Health situated in the Human Resources offices at the university’s Science Park. I detest the term ‘human resource’; it serves only to depersonalise and commodify university employees. The offices are, similarly, impersonal and inhumane. Observations (from ‘The Black Notebook’ (Jan. 2, 2008 – , 181-3 )):

I’m sit among boxes of boxes, corrugated flat packs, and clear-plastic bags of shredded paper / old, dented filing cabinets form a partition between ‘them’ (the office workers) and me / the place feels like a cross between a Job Centre and a doctors’ surgery — doubly unsettling, in other words / I overhear one side of telephone conversations, and chit-chat. Someone says: ‘I’m a bit narked, to be honest’ / someone else asks: ‘Are we getting a bus to Conwy?’ / tame framed prints of the Welsh landscape on the walls, alongside white-boards and shelves of unkempt photocopy paper / why would anyone print on deep tangerine copy paper? / I, the visitor, sit in semi-darkness; the office workers, in the light / reason the metaphor:


11.20 pm. An impromptu pastoral meeting followed by an invited tutorial. 2.00 pm. An MA tutorial with one of my students who is turning a corner, followed by a rescheduled BA painting tutorial at the close of the day:


Principles and observations from the day’s teaching:

  • Some students stay in the race, persevere, and achieve academically in spite of insuperable personal or contextual difficulties. It is they, and not the most gifted, necessarily, that incite my greatest admiration.
  • A lack of self confidence is more likely to stymie our progress in the discipline than a want of technical and conceptual proficiency.
  • We habitually position ourselves along lines between two opposed/supposed opposites: abstraction – figuration; determinacy – indeterminacy; avant garde – academic; esoteric – populist; colourist – tonalist; loose – tight, and so on. What would a map that integrated those plotted polarities look like?
  • Sometimes the best you can do for an art student is to point them towards another artist.

7.30 pm. Matt. 19.10: my process-verse for the day. In the background, I played the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds of Fire (1973) – the album that changed my whole outlook on jazz and rock, freedom and structure, and intellect and spiritual devotion, and the possibility of their meaningful integration. The music’s fusion of ecstasy, conviction, facility, and beauty is almost unbearable.

9.45 pm. Practice session 2. 10.50 pm. ‘The night watch’: I inspected the PowerPoint and formatted the text for Thursday’s Art/Sound lecture.

November 10, 2014

8.30 am. I broadcast emails setting up, confirming, and re-arranging tutorial times, meetings, and Skype calls. Tugging at my elbow was the imperative: ‘Make this week count!’ If that ambition is to be realised, then each day (this day) must count. And, if that ambition is to be realised, then each hour (this hour) must count. 9.30 am. Back to, and on with, The Floating Bible file processing. Matt. 19.8 was the verse of the morning. The operation is mechanistic but not mindless. One needs to be constantly vigilant about the omission and duplication of words which, when stretched, are hard to differentiate one from another, and bear no visual relationship to their source.

One of Friday’s eager painting and Art/Sound students re-emerged. We’d begun a discussion about synchronicity and synaesthesia. I reflected:

It struck me that synaesthesia could be classed as a mode or variety of synchronicity, insomuch as two normally disparate phenomena are related meaningfully. However,  the main different between the two ideas is that synaesthetics would claim a causal relationship between the two phenomena, whereas synchronics (?) would not. Perhaps it’s the difference, rather than the likeness, between those ideas that is illuminating. 

11.40 pm. Verse complete. Now … a forage in my plan (aptly called) chest  to uncover schemes and stratagems for paintings that I’d set in motion several years ago. Their progress had been postponed when I developed an acute intolerance/allergic reaction to turpentine and other petroleum-based derivatives and additives:


Alpha-numerical texts, in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, were awaiting conversion. Now, I have to identify all the bits and put them all together, before scaling and commissioning the supports. It’s all coming back to me:


Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 15.10.41

Mid afternoon, I began Matt.19.9 and completed the process by 5.00 pm. I ticked off words as I proceeded, like an inmate, the days of their incarceration:


6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.20 pm. At the eleventh hour, I finally managed to track down an audio recording of Morris’ Box with the Sound of its Own Making. (I’ll deliver a lecture with that title tomorrow morning.) I formatted and prepared its text and PowerPoint. It’s very difficult to gauge how effective my presentations are. My enthusiasm for them waxes hot and cold. I wish they had greater gravitas. But too much material and too deep analysis is often impenetrable in a lecture context, and alienates the audience. In the end, all one can reasonably hope to do is prepare the soil for the students’ own learning (which is of far greater importance than anything I can teach them). I’m tired of myself today.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2.

November 8, 2014

9.15 am. Dispatched several tutor-tutee-type emails and began processing Matt. 19.7. I must complete at least one verse a weekday for the next three months. This is not necessarily what I want to do, but it is what the work requires me to do. 11.50 am. Verse complete. Next: into the studio to set up audio equipment for the La Mont Young project, which will, in turn, prepare the ground for my New Songs suite of compositions. (Always maximize your efforts):


My principle, with respect to most endeavours in life, is to begin small and simple and work towards the more complex. While the pedalboards look busy, generically they’re each fairly straightforward. Pedalboard 1 (PB1) (on the right) is made up of distortion effectors, for the most part; while Pedalboard 2 (PB2) (on the left) is dedicated modulation: delay, harmonizing, reverberation etc. One step beyond, and the array’s routing gets wonderfully complex:


The schematic of a possible floorboard and handboard arrangement:


Make a bit; test a bit. I began with PB1, played two notes — B and F# — together on an electric guitar, sampled them, and sustained their harmony. Young’s Composition 1960 #7 was , then, ‘in performance’. This is the most fundamental expression of his idea that I can conceive. The guitar output is not treated in any way, just sonically ‘photographed’ and digitally frozen. As my ears became attuned to the drone, I found myself listening, focally, to one or other of the notes. Eventually, I became aware the harmonics, and a subtle unevenness in the volume (like a wave ebbing and flowing). The sound appeared to be changing, although, objectively, the sample is a fixed and immutable recording of a microsecond of audio material that loops (repeats) indefinitely. The experience was equivalent to looking at a static photograph that somehow shimmered. I need to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. My audio perception, too, changed, as I became more adept at close listening over time. Remarkable!

5.15 pm.  A cessation of work. 6.30 pm. Practice session 1.

7.30 pm. An evening with the family.