March 31, 2015

8.30 pm. As soon as we left the hotel, it began to rain. Having picked up an on-the-run breakfast for my son, we headed for the Subway station. After four stops, we alighted at Glasgow University. There, an Ambassador, decked in purple (who could not hold a candle to our yellow terrors at the School of Art), directed us to the Natural Science buildings on the campus:

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We attended three talks that introduced the faculty, the degree schemes, and animal sciences, respectively. Helpful, but academics are now too desperate to get applicants to sign on the dotted line. ‘Your all extraordinary people!’. No. A few may be, some will be … one day, but most are, presently, hard working but entirely ordinary students who are trying to make a very difficult choice. 11.30 am. A coach trip to the Student Village. ‘Look!’:

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It’s a replica of a police box that was once on this site. There are a number of other replicas and one original situated around Glasgow.

2.00 pm. Back at the hotel, we marvelled at the sudden snow blizzard:

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2.30 pm. Once the sun came out again (briefly), we headed west to see the School of Art, which was badly damaged by fire last year, and is now undergoing restoration:

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The School of Art hosted me in 1983, when I studying Welsh chapel architecture as an MA student. (Prof. Anthony Jones — a valley boy (like me) and the authority on the subject — was then the Director.) I slept in a Mackintosh room and bed. To be within that building was to be inside the architect’s brain. 4.10 pm. We returned eastward, to the city’s Gallery of Modern Art:

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Two galleries were closed and the others showed a rather uninspired exhibition of works chosen by artists, drawn from Scottish collections. After warming at a coffee shop, we shopped before taking dinner back at last night’s watering hole. Tonight, I ate haggis, neeps, and tatties:

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6.15 pm. Back at the hotel — an evening spent catching up on work.



March 30, 2015

5.45 am. I made an early start in preparation for a trip by train to Glasgow with my younger son, in order to at attend Glasgow University’s Applicants’ Visiting Day. 7.30 am. En route, I revised and commented upon a number of undergraduate exhibition statements. It’s hard to condense a year’s endeavour into 100 words. Still harder to avoid silliness and verbosity – as though the student must of necessity be other than themselves and make unsupportable claims about their work. That done, I wrote out a list of projects that I want to complete by 2019. Finally, I’m catching up with myself. Saturday’s conception of a ‘sonic culture of religion’ was taken one small step further in notes towards a notional book on the topic. These days, publishers want broad based discussions. My preference is for a focused account. Somehow, a compromise has to be reached.

10.40 am. On the slightly delayed train from Wolverhampton to Carlisle, I began notes towards the currently titled ‘NoisePROJECTion1’ – an extension to The Noises of Art conference (2013), in the form of a one-day symposium inspired by the 17th century Welsh alchemist and clergyman, Vaughan Thomas.  Arrived at Carlisle nine minutes late; but so did the connection for Glasgow:

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1.30 pm. Lockerbie. My eyes instinctively trace a path from the sky to the earth:

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There’s nothing special about places associated with tragedy until they become such.

On with drafts and conspectuses of ideas as we trundle through the Lowlands. Dark clouds gather. There’s snow on the hillside:

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The train had made up for the ‘time deficit’, as it was referred to over the loudspeaker, and arrived at Glasgow Central around 2.30 pm. The interior reminds me of the stern of a magnificent eighteenth century frigate. It has been very sensitively modernised. One passes through it too quickly:

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Every time I’ve been to Glasgow, it has rained. Against hope, today proved to be no exception. We arrived at the Premier Inn for one of those uncanny PI, déjà vu experiences:

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It didn’t stop raining all day. We duck an dived in and out of bookshops and coffee shops, and walked up and down, left and right, of the main shopping precinct for the remainder of the afternoon, finally resting at the Drum and Monkey. The quality of a pub can be measured by the standard of its bangers and mash; (I believe Aristotle was of the same mind). This pub is good. (But only good.):

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6.30 pm. Back to hotel to kick off our shoes, plan tomorrow’s itinerary, and dry out. A little email pruning before a cuppa and a shower and an early night.



March 28, 2015

9.00 pm. While clearing the draining board of crockery, the thought ‘sonic culture of religion’ came to mind. I’ve probably considered the idea before on several occasions; but only now is it timely.  (Idea + opportunity + necessity = a determination.) The term not only defines the field of my practice-based activities in sound art but also is suggestive of an area of historical research that, to date, has not been looked at with any particularity. 9.45 am. I cleared emails, updated sites, switched on machines, purchased cables, and decided to launch into town (now that the rain had stopped). 11.15 am. Back to the sound studio to hear again yesterday’s remix session with greater discernment, distance, and clarity. ‘I like it’:

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I do remember one thing.
It took hours and hours but..
By the time I was done with it,
I was so involved, I didn’t know what to think.

I carried it around with me for days and days..
Playing little games
Like not looking at it for a whole day
And then… looking at it.

To see if I still liked it.
I did.

I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.
I repeat myself when under stress.

I repeat…
The more I look at it,
The more I like it.
I do think it’s good.

The fact is..
No matter how closely I study it,
No matter how I take it apart,
No matter how I break it down,

It remains consistent.
I wish you were here to see it.

I like it.

(King Crimson, Indiscipline (1981)

Occasionally, there are aspects of an artwork that appear to be amiss at first, but which persuade us of their virtue once we’ve become accustomed to them. In such instances, the artwork overrides our tastes and sensibilities: it encourages us to broaden our aesthetic sensibility and to accept the unexpected. That’s one of the ways in which we are tutored by our own work and grow as artists.

I bumped my little finger on my left hand, but felt the sensation in the big toe on my right foot. We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. 1.30 pm. I return to matters related to sub-domains and sub-websites, and their relations:

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It’s all getting rather complex. Complex is not a qualitative measure; rather, it is a description of a type of structure and its components. Thus, simplicity is not superior, or to be preferred, to complexity, where the latter is the ideal condition of the relationship between many parts. There cannot be one less site in my network of websites and sub-websites. Consequently, complexity (however, hard it is to manage) is appropriate and to be honoured.

3.30 pm. Done. Now, back into the sound studio to modify Pedalboard 1: a valid complexity of a different order:

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I’m removing two effectors and replacing them with a Zvex Fuzz Factory and WMD Geiger Counter bit brusher — thus upping the appalling-noise making capacity of the board considerably. Completed:

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5.00 pm. Enough! 6.40 pm. Practice session 1: testing the modifications made to PB1. 7.30 pm. An evening with the family.



March 27, 2015

8.30 pm. At the School, I packed the ACW material in readiness for the postman. Job done:

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9.00 am. Back at home, I caught up on student references and a little PhD admin, updated and made consistent my album websites, before returning to the sound mixing desk to begin a production revision of tracks that will be incorporated into The Aural Bible II: Bible in Translation CD. The CD (which is earmarked for release in late summer) is one half a larger whole that also includes The Floating Bible: Miracle of the Risen Word. This sound work is too long (57 tracks, lasting over 7 1/2 hours) to fit on the CD. (In fact, it would take two sound-only DVDs to contain it.) Therefore, realistically and affordably, the suite can be made available in a streamable/downloadable format only.

11.30 am. A problem with the analogue/digital interface drivers. (Ah, hum!) I’ve encountered this before, and fixed it. No success this time. I fear that the iOS has been compromised. I’ll try, for the first time, to reinstall it over the internet. In the meantime, and on a different MacBook, I have success with the driver installation, but not with the configuration of the software mixer. (More hum!):

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2.00 pm. While dealing with these operational ‘issues’, I’ve been remixing and recomposing tracks from the Free Deliverance (Deliverance) End-Time Deliverance Ministry suite of tracks. 3.15 pm. Success! The software mixer is working again. But the interface has a somewhat different layout and connectivity. 3.30 pm. On to the remix of You’d Better Not Listen to Him (If You know What’s Good for You). Tortured ‘demon’ voices holler from the speakers. A good start. From that, I moved to Catatonic (You’ve Been Found Out), and, finally, to the heartfelt Come on Out (Sealed Emotion), the title of which sounds like a Motown song.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1. 7.40 pm. I returned to the first remixes of the afternoon. One’s initial enthusiasm for a solution can sometimes be blunted on a second hearing. And that can only be good thing. One’s judgements about the quality of the work must stand up to repeated, intensive scrutiny over time. There’s usually something in the mix — a flaw — to which I’m presently partially deaf. But there’ll come a moment, in the future, when the whole will sound to me like a cracked brass bell. Only then will I be able to make amends.

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9.40 pm. Practice session 2.



March 26, 2015

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8.00 am. An open lesson to the third year, encouraging those (the few, it must be said) who haven’t completed this year’s National Student Survey:

You’re going to cast your vote in the General Election aren’t you? Of course, you are. It’s one of the duties of responsible citizenship and a right that has been bought for you. In South Wales, where Bob and I come from, the Chartists laid down their lives at Newport, Gwent to secure a People’s Charter that would make for a more democratic country. In particular, they fought for the right of every man of twenty-one years of age to vote. That was in 1839. It took nearly eighty more years for women to secure that entitlement for themselves, following the stalwart and self-giving work of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Last year, we honoured the dead of the First World War — those that quite literally put themselves in the firing line to protect those freedoms that we have, perhaps, become too familiar with. 

Voting in the NSS will not change the world. That’s not the point. It’s more the principle. You have the opportunity and the obligation to speak, if not for yourselves then for those who come after you. The NSS is a small example of the general liberty that has been blood bought. Remember, the survey is not there to serve the interests of the gripers. Honest, thoughtful criticism is always welcome at the School of Art. So don’t hold back. However, the survey is also for those who wish to celebrate the quality of education and care they have received. So, if you’ve benefited, if you’ve been enriched, if you want to commend an art school which has given you the best possible introduction to your subject and the world of work …  take 1 minute, and fill it in. Not much of a sacrifice, right?

8.20 am. Off to the School to pick up headed letter paper, then back home to administrate. The SIP Completion Report was signed, sealed, and posted. By the end of the day, I hope to have the ACW report in the same condition in readiness for dispatch tomorrow morning. Noises gather in my head. They need to be exorcised; and I need to be at the sound mixing desk on Friday. 11.00 am. On schedule (for the moment). 11.45 am. Off to the School to complete a little financial admin, and then into town for a decent haircut.

2.00 pm. On with book keeping. Receipts. Receipts. Every item of expenditure has to be accounted for:

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7.30 pm. Back to the accounting. An end is in sight. 9.20 pm. Complete (I think). Now I need to shape up the post-exhibition website and add several photo galleries of its installation. 9.40 pm. Practice session 2.

10.30 pm. The ‘night watch’. Inserting photographs and text into the post-exhibition page:

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1.15 am. Completed!



March 25, 2015

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8.30 am. Looking seaward: the anticipation of a day of unremitting niceness ahead (weather-wise, at least). But who knows ‘what the day may bring forth’. I anticipate bad weather ahead (metaphor-wise), and sooner rather than later. On with the ACW Report. I want this off my desk by close of Friday. The sound studio beckons, and I’m itching to get back among my cables and buttons, bleeps and whirrs. I need to further prepare the equipment and sound source for the Image & Superscription (formerly Graven Image III) sound piece that, I hope, to compose at a publicly inaccessible event, held deep within the National Library of Wales. Alongside this, I want to initiate The Aural Bible III: Talking Bible project (based on the original vinyl recordings of the Scourby Bible (1953) (now available on line)), which will see/hear me deploying techniques adapted from DJing and dub culture. I await the delivery of the disc set of the bible from the USA in the next month or so. It’s something of a rarity:

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11.45 am. A trip into town. First stop, a trophy engraver’s shop that, now, is no longer there. (Horror!) I need to record the sound of the Second Commandment being engraved in metal for the Image & Inscription sound work. Instinct kicked in: Look for a trophy and key cutting shop. Every town has one. My eyes were drawn to Merlin[‘]s Heel Bar at 12 Bridge Street (not far from the site of the original shop). I explained my requirements to the proprietor: a) I wanted to record the sound a the text being engraved; b) he could keep the metal plate afterwards. (It wasn’t interested in it.); c) the sound of the engraving would be processed through synthesisers in situ at the National Library of Wales, because the building had been subject to flames and smoke in 2003, and Moses had received the commandments under similar conditions. He took it well. Had I said that I was an alien visiting from another planet and wanted the name of my spacecraft inscribed on a plaque, I no doubt believe that he would have accepted the account with the same probity and professionalism. (Although, I’m not sure which story is the more unlikely.) Mr Turner, the engraver, then proudly demonstrated his machine. It makes a useable, subtle ‘zzrrrrrrrrmmmmmzz’ noise when incising:

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In a town like Aberystwyth, folk are unusually patient and obliging on the whole. 12.30 pm. A eye-ear type research committee meeting over a vegan meal at Tree House with Dr Roberts (my accomplice in noisy activities). (I’m neither a Vegan nor a Vulcan, nor any other off-world type. But I do like the food.) Plans are afoot. It’s all very strange. Mum’s the word. Watch this space. ‘The Noises of Art‘ conference may be about to see its first offspring.

2.00 pm. One Visiting Day student at the School to process, before a return to home base to pick up the threads of my lunchtime discussion and emails about other research initiatives underway. Then, back to the final question on the ACW Report form. An easier one. Nevertheless, one goes the second mile. 3.30 pm. Q: Could I work on a sound processing project for over 20 hours without sleep? (I’ll only be able to provide an answer if the National Library of Wales permits me to work there overnight.) My DJ two-channel, stereo mixer has arrived. Let the cross fade begin!:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1: note bending, runs up and down the fretboard, and explorations of the bit crusher effector. 7.30 pm. Forward with the ACW report and to the conclusion of the final question. 9.45  pm. Practice session 2: effecting modifications to Pedalboard 1.



March 24, 2015

8.00 am. On with the WAC report before battling with the School photocopier. The problem (I think) is caused by a mismatch between the Mac Yosemite iOS and the printer’s driver. Will Mac, the printer manufacturer, or the university’s Information Services facility be the first to respond to the problem?

In the ‘old days’, the vacation period was a time for moving into second gear. These days, one stays in first and pushes the accelerator pedal to the floor in the drive to enhance one’s research reach. A periodically wet, dirty, and cold day:

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11.30 am. On with question 3: ‘Please tell us what your project contributed to the arts in Wales. Please describe and evaluate the impact your project had on the people of Wales’. The self-deluded have no problem responding to these requests.  However, a sober man is reserved and circumspect in his evaluation. Draft 1:

Prof. Mary Lloyd-Jones remarked, at the exhibition’s Opening, that she knew of no other artist in Wales working in the area represented by the work. I concur with that observation. The reason, in part, is due to Welsh society’s secularisation and its historic drift from the particularly Christian consensus that prevailed up until the first-world war. Neither the public nor artists possess a familiarity with other than the most notable biblical stories. For all intents and purposes, the Judaeo-Christian text is as remote from everyday life as Greco-Roman mythology, today. Consequently, few artists have a knowledge of the scriptures sufficient to deploy them meaningfully as the basis of artworks.

In this respect, the project represents the recovery of a significant aspect of the nation’s heritage that, even in Welsh art during the nineteenth century, was at best a secondary commitment; artists were, for the most part, more interested in depictions of the industry, folklore, history, and mythology of the country. At the close of nineteenth century, during a period of cultural as well as religious revival, one of the prognostications regarding the future of Welsh art is that would be a religious art. In particular, it would be the visual corollary of Wales’ tradition of preaching (which was thoroughly grounded in biblical exposition). Thus, at the beginning of the twenty first century, the project (inadvertently) fulfils an agenda that was not realised in the last. In so doing, the project reinvigorates the ‘old wine’ of a moribund artistic subject matter, and re-presents it in the ‘new wineskin’ of contemporary art forms and media.

The project is, presently, too immediate and too localized to have any significant and broad impact within or outside of Wales. Any claim to the contrary would be an expression of unsubstantiable hubris. On the basis on the Visitors’ Book comments, however, one can discern certain trends in the public’s response to, or reception of, the works. (Technically, impact can only be measured in terms of artwork’s capacity to bring about a change in the public – be that of attitude, mind, or action.) Several distinct trends of appreciation are recorded in respect to:

  1. a new integration of religion and art;
  2. the care evident in the execution of the works, the organization of the show, and the sound installation;
  3. the intellectual challenge posed by the works;
  4. the rigour of sound work’s conceptual underpinning and creative quality;
  5. challenging new perspectives on biblical interpretation presented in the works;
  6. the emotional intensity of the collective work (which I never envisaged);
  7. the level of mental, visual, and emotional engagement engendered by the totality of the works;
  8. the helpfulness of the information on individual works provided at the exhibition (on laminated sheets and via QR codes).

A number of visitors that I’d engaged had returned to the exhibition on several occasions and spent a good deal of time there. While this sample is undeniably small, it may nevertheless be indicative of a prospective broader response. Personally, I was struck by the exhibition’s ability to transcend age, background, and experience. Young and old people, some with a knowledge of art and others without, were in attendance and appeared to engage similarly.

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12.30 pm. An early lunch before a walk to IBERS to deliver my contribution at the Graduate School Research Writing Week:

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I held two workshops (both of which could have benefited from an additional half an hour), the first on ‘Writing a Conference Paper’, and the second on  ‘Critical Reflection in Practice-Based Research’. The latter generated a great deal of lively, thoughtful, and intelligent interaction. I learned more than I taught.

On the ‘white board’: the fossils of erased thoughts:

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4.00 pm. Back at home base, I dealt with incoming emails, uploaded the afternoon’s documents to Blackboard and, afterwards, returned to the WAC report.

6.20 pm Practice session 1: improvisation within 4-fret block. 7.30 pm. I completed the penultimate question and began the final one. I’m providing more information than is required by the WAC report, but as much as I need to form an initial evaluation of the project for myself. (I’m listening to Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach.) 9.40 pm Practice session 2.



March 23, 2015

8.20 am. My elder son, Sam (who hadn’t yet seen the exhibition), and I went to the School and booted up the machine for the final time. I photographed the gallery before the works were dismantled, equipment was packed away, and the space vacated in readiness for the next show:

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It feels like the end of a gig … when the roadies (of whom I am one on this occasion) move in:

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By 12.40 pm, the job was complete. Having made trial of the works under conditions over which I had complete control, I now need to push concept into the wider world, up the ambition, and begin writing down my reflections on the whole process. The Welsh Arts Council grant application final report is as good a place as any to begin. I suspect my response will be fuller than that of most returns.

6.20 pm. Practice session 1: pull-off and hammer-on exercises. 7.30 pm. I returned to the WAC report. My answer to the first question on section 1, has exceeded 1,500 words. And, I’ve no idea whether the electronic form will permit such a large response.

My elder son and I are looking forward to …

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… at Salford in September. I listen to Philip Glass’ sublimely simple, elegant, and moving opera Satyagraha (1980), about the principle of non-violent resistance. By the close of the evening shift, I’d completed the first question on the WAC form. (Sigh!) 9.45 pm. Practice session 2.



March 21, 2015

9.10 am. I needed to cull my over-full email account. It was reaching its max. On, then, to website updating and twittering project publicity for myself and this afternoon’s Visiting Day. The weather in reality is as good as its representation, today:

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12.00 pm. Off to the School for Visiting Day via the pasty stall at the Farmers’ Market. The pork and apple variety is unbeatable:

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My afternoon in tweets:

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(I indulged only after business was concluded, of course.)

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Tali W (MA Fine Art) and I had some informed and productive conversations during this afternoon’s interviewees. Some are choosing the School for very specific and intelligent reasons. A glorious day of sunshine from beginning to end:

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4.15 pm. Homeward to await the arrival of my eldest son from his university. Hooray!! His earlier train had been cancelled. 6.20 pm. An evening with the family.

 

 

 



March 20, 2015

8.25 am. Awaiting the eclipse:

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8.40 am. The beginning:

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9.15 pm. Approximately 80% totality:

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The low-light of an eclipse is quite unlike that of a dawn or a dusk, or even the mellow tonalities associated with the onset or retreat of a storm. I recalled Magritte’s The Dominion of Light (1954): the plausible paradox of simultaneous night and day. The sunlight appears polarised; the world seen as though ‘through a glass darkly’. Physics alone cannot account for the experience. Poetics and aesthetics must play their part. I felt a melancholy, such as one might anticipate at the close of Earth’s final day — both beautiful and fearful:

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The birds were agitated by the departing light — flurrying, gathering together, twittering loudly, moving from branch to wire, unable to settle. I hadn’t considered how cold it would become as not only the sun’s light but also its heat diminished. 10.15 am. Once the moon shadow had passed, I walked in the emerging light (now defused by the incoming sea mist) to the National Screen & Sound Archive at the National Library of Wales for a final morning of scoping their database:

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1.00 pm. Lunch and, being the day of an eclipse, a suitably doom-laden discussion with Prof. Trotter at the Piazza Cafe, The Arts Centre. We prognosticated possible academic futures. I had a Madras curry, which was not so hot in any aspect.

2.15 pm. On my return to home base, I inserted material gleaned from the morning’s search into my final report while listening to Philip Glass’ magisterial opera about Egypt’s only monotheistic pharaoh, Akhnaten (1983). Again, very apt. The Egyptologist William McMurray writes:

For many years, I have been interested in the ‘Heretic Pharaoh’ Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty who instituted worship of the sun (Aten) as the only god. I have speculated whether he might have been influenced by witnessing (or hearing first-hand reports of) a total eclipse of the sun, which he might have interpreted as the death and resurrection of the god, just before or soon after his accession to the throne. In Egyptian mythology, a royal succession is likened to the death of the old king Osiris to join the nightly journey of the sun through the underworld, and the rising of his son Horus to rule as king in the world of the living. The chronology of his reign has not been accurately established, but the period of interest is sometime in the 14th Century BC.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1: playing very quietly at high volume. 7.30 pm. I uploaded my morning’s field recording of birdsong and made preparations for my contribution to next week’s Postgraduate writing conference. 9.45 pm Practice session 2: playing very loudly at low volume.

 

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