May 4, 2015

8.30 am. What Bank Holiday? I made additions and adjustments to this week’s tutorial schedule, addressed student queries and reviewed draft submissions, looked over the final ‘Chapels in Wales’ lecture in readiness for tomorrow’s final (ever) class, dispatched instructions for the MA Vocational Practice presentations and Portfolio assessments, and wrote to the British Library’s Sound Archive, before filling the days of my diary for the next few weeks with assessment times.

In the background, I’m listening to the music of the African-American saxophonist John Coltrane (1926-67) (sainted by the African Orthodox Church) — one of the first musician/composers to ally jazz and religious sentiment:


The final part of his masterpiece A Love Supreme, ‘Psalm’, is a setting of his devotional poem, of which each syllable is given a corresponding musical note.

1.30 pm. After lunch, I reviewed further the PhD Art History thesis that I’d begun last week. A change of working environment was in order: from study to studio:


By 4.30 pm, I’d completed my reading and developed a set of interrogative questions for the candidate’s viva voce. Now, to review the accompanying documentation.

An erotic book:


6.20 pm. Practice session 1: pick-up explorations. 7.30 pm. I scrutinised and tested the accompanying documentation related to the PhD, and ended the evening looking over my book proposal. Back to the ‘Belmont Loose Leaf File’.


May 2, 2015

9.15 am. A trip to the Farmers’ Market in cold rain, the megaphonic bleat of a mobile party candidate drifting on the wind. What!?:


At the market, the ‘egg lady’ hadn’t arrived, and the ‘pasty man’ wanted to sell up and go home soon (such was the weather). A forlorn turnout.

10.15 am. My morning was focussed on rationalising handboard 1. Simplicity, economy, and functionality are the guiding principles. The introduction of a delay effector on handboards 1 and 2, and a reverberation effector on handboard 2, helps to restore the stereo ‘image’ of the sound source at the end of the processing chain. Now, too, both boards are symmetrical in terms of their final stage modulation:


It remains for me to decide whether handboard 3 (which is routed through the mixer’s effects loop) is superfluous.

The are several pitfalls to using effectors to colour a source. For example, one can be beguiled by the effect. Rigour is called for. The sound produced must articulate some aspect of either the source content or its processing. (In this case: the meaning and construction of the  second commandment’s text and its conversion into an engraving.) In this regard, the effectors are subordinate to, and interpretive of, the source — rather than an end in themselves.

1.30 pm. Following lunch, I made trial of the effects loop and direct to computer recording facility. Both are operational. 2.30 pm. On with the book proposal and a little CD propagation research. The problem with composing a problem is knowing what not to deal with, and what has not been dealt in other authors’ publications already. In short, one needs to find the hole in the subject field and plug it. I think I’m getting somewhere. (I think.)

5.15 pm. The dank air and grey clouds have persisted throughout day. The garbled, gritty sound of a public address system, now very far off, is still audible:


5.20 pm. No more! 6.20 pm. Practice session 2: dynamic expression.  7.30 pm. An evening with the family.

May 1, 2015

8.15 am. I needed to follow up the R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A  CD publicity strategy, which was initiated last week. After composing a letter to Mr Fripp with regard to such, I returned to the Image & Inscription project. I want to redo all that I’ve done so far (with respect to the multitrack mix) — just to see (hear) whether it could be done better. [John 1: ‘I don’t have time for this!’; John 2: ‘Improvement makes its own time.’] 10.30 am. Ah! Tea:


11.00 am. The exceedingly slow process of stretching sound files — from around 5 minutes to exactly 20 minutes in length — begins. In the interim, emails are condemned while MA assessment admin, reckoned with.

1.30 pm. Following lunch and a delivery and pickup mission at the School, I began creating a playback/record system to process the sound of the engravings made for Image & Inscription:


Software downloads, upgrades, restarts, settings, and reconfigurations — the irksome but necessary preparations before creative engagement. Handboard 2 will need to be overhauled in order to reverse the direction of the effectors — from input to output — in line with that of Handboard 1. And, Handboard 3 will need to be routed through the mixer’s effects loop. Ah well! … Back to the drawing book:


6.20 pm. Practice session 1: 3-finger exercises (sans index). 7.30 pm. The overhaul begins. To understand something (even something one has made), it must be taken apart and reassembled. Thereafter, every part must be tested independently, then in connection with its neighbours, and, finally, in relationship to the community of parts:


The loss of the source recording’s stereophony (due to the signal being fed through mono effectors) in unsatisfactory. A monophonic representation of a stereo source imposes limits upon all the sound’s dimensions (these being, the left, centre, and right field spread, and its position within the front to back perspective of the acoustic space). At present, the sound feels like a large object squeezed into a too small space.

April 30, 2015

8.15 pm. To the School to pick up my laptop; 8.30 pm. To the Old College for a morning of third-year tutorials. The sky and air are decidedly autumnal. My cohort appear to be either ahead of the game or destined to complete their work comfortably in time for the show. The weather is improving:


Some principles and observations:

  • Listen to your heart. Hearing the counsel of tutors and peers is both necessary and wise. But knowing when to reject that advice requires greater wisdom by far.
  • Take photographs of your work space and colleagues before you leave university. As you get older, you’ll realise that memories alone are an insufficient means of recollection.
  • Reckon on it: as you approach the exhibition, it’s likely that you’ll experience profound shifts in your estimation of the work which you’ve produced. One day, you’ll be close to ecstasy; the next, despair. Regard neither. These are responses that arise from mere feelings that, themselves, arise from tiredness and stress. A sober judgement is required — one that must be informed by the mind and a criteria and opinions external to yourself.
  • ‘Integration’ is one of my watchwords: the bringing together or fusing of the myriad aspects of who one is in a single artwork.
  • ‘Art is greatest which conveys to the mind of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the greatest ideas’ (John Ruskin). I don’t agree with, what is otherwise, a well expressed sentiment, but his emphasis on an appeal to the mind (rather than the eye), through ideas (rather than perceptual phenomena), and ‘by any means’ (rather than traditional fine art forms only) has always struck me as prophetic of late-twentieth century art.



I feel both anticipation and melancholy at this time of the year. The approaching degree show represents the consummation of three years’ endeavour. But with it comes the loss of a fine bunch of earnest, hardworking, interesting, and fun-to-be-with students. I’m about to endure my annual, mini bereavement:


2.00 pm. After lunch, I undertook a ‘micro-tutorial’ with one of our MA painters before heading back to the School:


If one’s activities are being compromised by systems set up to monitor those activities, then something is dreadfully amiss with the latter. (My day dictates my diary, and not vice versa.) This problem is endemic to UK bureaucracy. Monitoring has become synonymous with control. We must now behave in ways that are measurable and accountable. This is not so much an issue of academic freedom as one of individual liberty. But I digress …

3.40 pm. PhD and MA admin catch up and one second year painting tutorial. 5.20 pm. Homeward.

7.30 pm. ‘Death to all incoming  emails!’ On with MA assessment manoeuvres. Finding available rooms for such in mid May is hard. Back to assessing the PhD Art History thesis, begun on Saturday.

9.20 pm. Landscape with apparitional rocking chair:


Not long after this photograph was taken, three illuminations appeared on the horizon. Two were as far apart from one another as the wing lights (left and right) on a passenger plane; the other was situated in the further distance. The lights were either static or in slow motion. Less than fifteen seconds later, they disappeared. Commercial aircraft don’t fly so close low in the sky and certainly not at 90 degrees to the shoreline. In my ‘Chapels in Wales’ lecture on Tuesday, I discussed a similar phenomenon, which was observed over three hundred at fifty years ago and, possibly, again around 1904 — the year of the Welsh religious revival: The Welsh antiquarian Thomas Pennant described what, in Welsh, were called Tan Dyeithr (angelic strange fires), which moved in the sky over Cardigan Bay.