March 19, 2015

8.10 am. Exhibition boot up (only two more occasions for this before it closes) and, then, onto the Old College for a day of BA, second year, painting tutorials. De Chirico would have enjoyed the building today:


On this occasion, I’m shadowed/stalked by Tali and Marie — two MA Fine Art students who are undertaking teaching observation as part of their Vocational Practice module. Kamila was our first ‘patient’:


Some principles and observations:

  1. We paint more than we know! For some artists, intuition and instinct proceed cognition. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s incumbent upon us, nevertheless, to understand what we have done and the reasons for so doing, afterwards.
  2. The anticipation of confronting a problem is far, far worse than actually engaging with it.
  3. If a particular process of making a painting feels wrong, then it probably is (for you, now). At some level, there has to be a fit between our who you are and what you do.
  4. Never say ‘never’! To do so is presumptuous, and undervalues your potential for one day doing what might, at present, seem impossible.
  5. A solution found to a problem encountered in one module can often be the applied to a problem encountered in another.
  6. Just one more picture can may make all the difference for the good. So, don’t give up.

Some notable absentees, which one anticipates on the penultimate day of term. My troupe of ‘junior doctors’ and I bundled ourselves off to the Cabin on Pier Street in the gaps for some take away refreshments.

1.00 pm Tracey Harper (née Ms Williams) a former BA student and secondary art teacher at Penglais Comprehensive School, Aberystwyth was the guest at the lunchtime Vocational Practice class. She is ace. As a School, we’re very proud of her achievements and reputation (which I know from impartial report.) Tracey is a fine ambassador for her profession, and provided a vivid insight into the work-a-day world of the school teacher. Afterwards, she showed to my class samples of GCSE and A-Level course work, as well as marking criteria sheets:




A lunchtime well spent. 2.10 pm. A little late … I recommenced second-year tutorials. I continue to be impressed at the general level of maturity among the second year painters. They’re getting to grips with the problems of art rather than those of being a student only. 4.00 pm. Only two turned up for the third-year painters’ group tutorial. Nevertheless, we went ahead and discussed preparations, and the examination process, for the final show. (54 days and counting. But it’s enough time for miracles to take place.) 4.30 pm. An impromptu tutorial with an MA painter to close the teaching day.

7.30 pm. Email catch up, scope report inserts, and further sub-domain association business. One of the sub domains has now been successfully pointed towards a site related to the R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A  disc. The site is, in effect, the CD’s lyric sheet. 9.45 pm. Practice session 2: back to the Fender Stratocaster.












March 18, 2015

8.10 am. On my walk up Trinity Road: the rear of the east window of Holy Trinity Church. I’m intrigued by to the backs of stain glass windows. The individual panes appear incarcerated by the leading. Through them, darkness (rather than light) pours. As such, the windows summon an inverse spiritual metaphor — an ‘alteria’ expression of a distressing dimension of religious experience (the acknowledgement of which is too often suppressed): a sense of doubt, abandonment, lifelessness, soul loss, and hopelessness, and the suspicion of self delusion:




9.00 am. Back to the SIP Report and to the more interesting questions regarding futures and potentials. One significant realization that has emerged from my time at the NSSAW, in respect to the relationship between recorded sound and  notions of memory and history. (The archive is a kind of brain; its deposits, sonic recollections.) I’ve also been drawn to recordings associated with coal mining in south Wales during the 20th century. (This returns me to a preoccupation with which I was engaged at the beginning of my academic career.) In some way, I need to encourage a confluence of these two concerns in the next few years. 12.30 pm. My part of the report form is now complete. Now the NSSAW must do its bit.

12.45 pm. An earlier lunch before returning to the School. 1.30 pm. A telephone tutorial with a PhD Fine Art student who is curating a forthcoming show at the School as part of their practice-based research:


3.00 pm. A visit to the exhibition from Dr Catrin Williams and Prof. Martin O’Kane of The School of Theology, Religion, and Islamic Studies, University of Wales, Trinity St David’s. Now, these folk really know their bible. Martin (a Hebrew Bible scholar) and I collaborated on several conferences between 2005 and 2007 in the Bible & Visual Culture series:


4.00 pm. Back at homebase, I press on with research admin related The Bible in Translation CD, resolving website sub domains (yawn!), completing class registers (yaaaawn!), and the mandatory tidy up of loose ends that attends the end of  term (yaaaaaaawwwnnn!)

6.20 pm. Practice session 1: making the most of a single note, and moving from one note to another with great deliberateness and attentiveness. 7.20 pm. I’m moving towards the finalisation of the Supporting Report for the SIP project. In tandem, I reviewed the content of several tracks that’ll be included on The Bible in Translation CD, and sought scholarly help in translating the first clause of the Second Commandment in William Morgan’s Welsh Bible of 1588 into English: ‘Na wnait ddelw gerfiedic’. This is in preparation for the coming compositional event at the National Library of Wales:


 The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1937 (courtesy of Wales On-Line)


March 17, 2017

8.15 am. Exhibition boot up and admin mop up. 9.00 am. Once I’d organised Stephen Hughes to deliver the Chapels in Wales lecture, I commenced the first of the day’s tutorials with a ‘drippy’ (in the best sense of the word) MA painter. The full time Masters and the third year fine art students are moving towards that period where hard and definite decisions, commitments, and determinations have to be resolved and put into action. Under pressure, it’s too easy to make the wrong choice, underestimate the amount of time available, and overestimate one’s capacity to deliver on promises. Caution, the counsel of many, and courage are required.

10.10 am. Running late, I gave a ‘shorty’ tutorial with a second MA Fine Art student who’s making inroads with incisions. Afterwards, I returned to BA level to deal with essay and project work queries, and a student making a brave move towards image/sound codifications. Later, I uploaded material to Blackboard, corresponded with postgraduates, and eased emails into ‘sent’. A routine sort of morning, all in all.

Tree denuding continues on my road. The site residue looks like the scene of a crime:


2.00 pm. Following lunch and a battle to remove a confectionary that had got stuck in the automatic dispenser (later, cunningly extracted by our able porter), I had a productive tutorial with Ms Neild, one of my PhD Fine Art tutees. She’s moving into fascinating and unchartered territory:


3.00 pm. Further BA Fine Art tutorials for those who, for good reason, could not attend either last or this Thursday’s sessions.  4.15 pm. Further admin until the end of afternoon.

6.20 pm Practice session 1: sustaining notes with the aid of a compressor pedal. 7.20 pm. I returned to the scope report. This is one of life’s dull but mandatory requirements — the treadmill of accountability. It must be completed by the end of the week. (The deadline is my own, but binding nonetheless.)

My father, Trevor Harvey, died suddenly at his home in Abertillery sometime after 10 o’clock on this day in 1991. At the time, I was in Aberystwyth watching a drama about ghosts when, unexpectedly, the TV signal was immersed in static and high-pitched feedback howled from the speaker. The device had never behaved like that either before or subsequently. The coincidence was striking and inexplicable. He was 62 year olds, and had survived my mother by only three years. (She died at 60 years of age.)

Dad was a gentleman in every sense of that word: courteous, mild mannered, but strong in opinion. He was conscripted into the army towards the end of the Second World War, where he served as a chef:


On being demobbed, he trained as a mechanic and drove buses between garages at Abertillery and Llanhilleth. Oddly, he never learned to drive a car. (I inherited his pedestrianism.) After he married, Dad became a factory worker, first in ICI Fibres, Pontypool and, thereafter, at Dunlop Semtex, Brynmawr as a ‘colourman’ overseeing the pigmentation of rubber-based tiles.

One of his greatest pleasures was the shed at the bottom of our garden:




It was his bolthole. In the summertime, he’d disappear from the house for hours to repair electrical goods and make useful things out of wood and aluminium. It was there, when I was six years old, that he built for me a large and robust ‘Yankee fort’, as he called it, out of hardboard and balsa wood held together with nails and Bostik. My friends had not seen the like of it. And I have not seen the like of him.







March 16, 2015

8.15 am. After exhibition set up at the School, I returned home to address my timetable for the last week of term. The Orcs have returned, and are lobbing off large sections of trees along St David’s Road:


The noise of the chain saw and wood chipper in unison borders on the intolerable. This is legalised noise pollution of the highest order.

10.00 am. Following my reconsiderations of while at Oxford,I began revising the concept development of the sound piece based on the Second Commandment, which I hope to undertake at the National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales shortly.

2.00 pm. Closing in on the conclusion of the SIP Report, I began to draft the contents of the second CD in The Aural Bible series, while battling to establish associations between web sub-domains and external sites. On such occasions, one does need professional help. 3.30 pm. Took a breather, and sourced equipment appropriate to The Aural Bible III: Talking Bible project, which is been buzzing in my head for the last two years. My thoughts are now drawn towards disc technology (the successor of the wax cylinder), experimental turntablism, fusing and cross-referencing oral readings of the Old and New Testament, and the principles of biblical typology. This will be a project development for the summer, when I’ll have finally caught up with myself:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. On with the SIP Report form. It has to be done, if I’m to get my reward. The pdf form that I’d been filling in refused to save due to an email corruption. Back to ‘Go’ (sigh!).

March 14, 2015

8.30 pm. Following breakfast, I headed into the city where I found a Starbucks and a free wifi, and began planning out my day. I wanted to see exhibition installations associated with the Audiograft festival, beginning with one in the grounds of the 03 Gallery that proved so subtle as to be indiscernible. Mercifully, the other venues were close by. No time or energy was wasted. On, then, to the Modern Art Oxford to see a music/image video installation:


Later. Outside: What happened to her next?:


This was followed by a view/audition of a piece about a whale’s voice box, hidden in a darkened room in a motorcycle repair shop at the back of The Story Museum. One had to touch a metal rod and knob together in order to hear the sound and to see the filaments of light bulbs glow:


From there, I walked to OVADA — an independent art studio/project space situated in a 1920s industrial building, which had also been a market and then a garage in its day. Wisely, the curators hadn’t scrubbed up the interior too much. Instead, they’d occupied it like a hermit crab a vacant shell:


By lunchtime, I was ready to return to the wifi zone in order to process my experiences. 2.00 pm. I had intended to travel out towards Headington to visit Oxford Brookes University, where a further two sound works installed. But the buses never turned up. So, I headed back to base camp (it was getting cold) to recuperate, cogitate, and prepare for my evening of hardcore noise making. I have a room by the riverside:


6.20 pm. Dinner: I found an unbusy pub offering an acceptable lasagna. 7.00 pm. Back at The Story Museum:


The doors weren’t yet open due to the technical preparations still underway in the upstairs room, where tonight’s performances would be given. We were offered earplugs, with the warning that some of the artists would be playing very loud:


This had the feel of a rave for the intellectual and cultured, where we would stand around nodding our heads approvingly, rather than banging them in ecstasy. The event was being live-streamed. Camera operators, like benign Daleks, scanned and scrutinized the performers and the audience’s reactions.

The first artist’s work was very quiet. We were encouraged to sit on the (hard) floor:


(I don’t think that I’ve sat cross-legged for quite so long since primary school.) It was a longish piece, which if I was listening to it at home on a comfortable couch would have been entirely acceptable. As it was, my backside yearned for it to end long before my mind did. How long should a sound work last in public performance? Listening shouldn’t have to be a feat of endurance, always.

Being an audient is an important aspect as being an artist. We need to be aware of what it’s like to be on the receiving end, even as we deliver. (The same principle pertains to teaching and learning.)


Professional musicians are trained in the protocols of walking on and off stage, acknowledging the audience, and carrying them along. Too much informality in the performance on the part of the artist encourages a too casual attitude to hearing on the part of the listener. Some sound artists don’t do enough in situ to justify — and appear uncomfortably self-conscious about — being the focus of visual-perceptual attention. Like the Wizard of Oz or a cinema projectionist, they’d be better placed engineering the occasion while hidden.


I stood next to a larger thunderous subwoofer. When the sound was very loud, my trousers rippled as the air pressed past them; my bones trembled. The turntableist was last on. She was neither too long nor too loud in her operations, but never really got into the ‘groove’, as it were. In improvisation, sometimes the creative imagination doesn’t find a pattern to follow or the internal logic of the moment. Nevertheless, she delivered a performance that was engaging and technically dexterous. That’s professionalism. (She was audience aware too.):


The proceedings concluded after 11.00 pm. What a rich day.









March 13, 2005

9.30 am. En route to Oxford to attend the Audiograft series of experimental sound performances and audio-visual exhibitions. (There’s never been anything like this organised in Wales. What to do?) Dr Cruise is on the same train. Back to scoping. My mind is preoccupied by the sounds of coal mines (or at least, as I remember them). Some were unearthly — in the sense of being both subterranean and suggestively supernatural.

2.15 pm. I arrived in Oxford. It takes me a good half-a-day to acclimatise even to a familiar city before I can see it, photographically. Oxford is too iconic (already framed) to offer easy surprises:


It’s not as delicate or prissy as Cambridge: a jostle of towers and malls, churches and eateries, depth and surface. For the remainder of the afternoon, I was a tourist — poking my head into college courts, shuffling through back alleys, seeking out grassland, walking into the sunlight:


6.30 pm. Cheapo dinner at an Oxfordified Burger King:


Most things are Oxfordified here:


7.00 pm. I attended a performance of ‘Cutting into the Continuum’ by an ensemble called [rout], at the Holywell Music Room:


Music like this doesn’t attract large audiences. It demands a great deal of one’s listening — in the most rewarding sense. The musicians performed as artists. (Whereas I, as an artist, perform as a musician.) In the opening piece, the squeaky floorboards of the converted chapel were themselves converted into a musical instrument for feet. I was hooked. The musicians deployed standing, moving, and gesturing alongside and, sometimes, instead of music. The music extended beyond the realms of traditional instrumental sounds in other ways, to embrace the almost inaudible noise of a face being stroked, the creak of a wooden chair, and a ‘pop’ made inside the mouth.

The performance ended after 9.00 pm. On the way home, I rethought my plans to stage the Graven Image III event at the National Screen & Sound Archive. It wasn’t due to anything that I’d heard or seen. But the example of others can sometimes inspire determinations, confirm intuitions, and clarify one’s own intent. Which is one of the reasons why we should engage with the work of others.



March 12, 2015

8.15 pm. Exhibition boot up. I then completed a number of email responses before moving to the Old College to begin my morning’s teaching. A singer is ‘crooning’ sheep calling songs in a nearby room. I’m reminded of Estonian folk music. A welcome, sonorous backdrop.The studios are full of incidental, accidental wonders — for those who have eyes to see:


‘Wrapped in plastic!’:


Some principles and observations:

  • Do not be quick to pass judgement on a new piece of work. First impressions are notoriously unreliable.
  • Work when you have the opportunity so to do, and not when the inclination takes you.
  • It’s never the painting that requires the most work; it’s us.
  • A reliable sense of self-confidence is predicated upon one’s past success: a proven ability to overcome difficulties. Expressions such as ‘I know I can do it!’, in the absence of a track record, are merely aspirational and often delusional.
  • Failure is a state of mind long before it becomes a fact.

12.00 pm. A trip to the train station and then an early lunch at my, now, habitual Thursday watering-hole:


12.45 pm. A period of admin catch up and polishing the new ‘Abstraction’ module, which will be offered in 2015-16. 2.00 pm. Further one-to-one tutorials. 3.30 pm. A second year group tutorial. More and more students are making tentative incursions into abstraction. I feel that a revival is on the horizon. Notions such as ‘freedom’, ‘force of expression’, and ‘feelings’ were aired. They chimed with the rallying cries of Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s and 50s. When I was an undergraduate, a discussion of one’s inner life and personal life was actively discouraged. But in those day, men taught other men for the most part:


7.30 pm. I packed in preparations for tomorrow, undertook admin and blog updates, finalise appointments for the coming week, and gathered together material to keep me busy on the train. (I enjoy a roving office.)

March 11, 2015

8.10 am. I set up the equipment in readiness for the 9.00 am workshop on stretching a canvas. My technique involves imbibing a liberal quantity of Jaffa cakes:



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11.00 am. An informal, inquirers meeting for those considering the PhD Fine Art. (Further Jaffa cakes were consumed.) One needs to be straight with people regarding the difficulty of the undertaking. This degree is not for the fainthearted. Before lunch, I dealt with a pastoral matter, and with one student who’s bravely moving into sound editing.

2.15 pm. A Staff Meeting, and a salutary one at that. We must knowingly move forward into the unknown. Oddly, uncertainty regarding the future intensifies the present and one’s determination to act. Now, we have the capacity to do something; then, we will not. We’re faced with the possibility of immense change. Adaptation is a key to survival. But one must survive in order to adapt.

6.20 pm. Practice session 1: walking the fretboard in all directions … fluently. 7.30 pm. On with the scoping report. An end is in sight.


March 10, 2015

8.30 am. At the School, I set up the Chapels in Wales lecture equipment for Stephen Hughes (recently retired from the Royal Commission), who is giving today’s lecture:


9.15 pm. Thereafter, it was a morning of tutorials of a more or less informal nature, ranging from an update with one student taking time out from PhD studies to a group of earnest MA students wanting to ensure that they were on track with their teaching-experience projects.

2.00 pm. Back to SIP scoping. I can only secure a cursory sense of the holdings on this first pass:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.20 pm. On with scoping report. I’ve engaged more interesting projects in my time. 9.40 pm. No more!

March 9, 2015

8.30 pm. On returning from my exhibition routine at the School and responding to yesterday’s emails, I arranged tutorial slots and classes for the week. 9.45 am. I make my ascent up the north face of Penglais Hill in the drizzle for a morning’s study and a meeting at the National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales. (Living within 10 minutes proximity of both the School of Art and a copyright library makes life so much easier for a pedestrian, like me.):


After a wide-ranging discussion with the Archive Manager about matters related to the scoping project, a future CD project and its release, and the forthcoming Drwm event, I was taken to one of the archive’s ‘cells’ and shown the collection of 78 rpm records. Unlike books on library shelves or pictures in a museum stack, the content of sound media is unknowable without first playing it. So, it’s difficult to determine its relevance to my search. (The label on the record is not always a reliable guide either.) With the cooperation of one of the archivists, I shall, next week, search through the archive’s internal database (as distinct from the public interface) of the media.

11.00 am. The copies of the  CD have arrived from Berlin. Now the long haul of getting the thing promoted and reviewed:


The remainder of the morning was set aside for writing up the minutes of the meeting (before I forgot the details) and creating a plan of the way forward on this project.

1.45 pm. Back to SIPS database-search strategies. Now, I’m facing the dreadful limitations of a global database search engine which ably buries sound artifacts among books and pamphlets, even after a filter has been applied.

6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.20 pm. A review of a student submission was followed by another attempt at a tedious rummage through the National Library’s, only to find that their server had failed. Am I frustrated or relieved?:

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I made a snap decision to attend the Audiograft series of sound concerts in Oxford on the weekend. I need to see how sound artists perform, how venues install more complex and rough and ready configurations of equipment and, as importantly, how they amplify them appropriately.