December 23, 2015

The last working day (and diary blog) before the Christmas holiday. 8.30 am. I posted the students their feedback forms for Abstraction‘s exhibition review assignment. 8.40 am. Much gratitude for blue sky:


I walked to the campus (now quiet, leafy, and sun-raked) and the Hugh Owen Library to fix, once again, my errant staff card. The efficient staff operatives at the Library were more than hopeful that a solution had now been found. (I trust that the electronic lock on the School’s main door is of the same opinion.):


9.40 pm. Emails addressed, I returned to my assault on essays. Some Lully and other French Renaissance music. Some principles and problems:

  • Inconsistent use of verb tenses.
  • Hiding behind opaque, scholarly-sounding phrases. State ideas as straightforwardly as possible.
  • Write as you speak: simply, directly, and with a commitment to getting your point across, persuasively.
  • If you wrote with a view to speaking the text aloud, publicly, you’d write in shorter sentences and with greater clarity.
  • Ensure that the illustrations illustrate your point. If they don’t, then, they serve only to decorate the essay.
  • Ensure that the conclusion concludes. Don’t use the final paragraph to introduce new and substantive material.
  • Ensure that quotations substantiate your argument. If they don’t, then, they serve only to decorate the essay.
  • Include explanatory transitions from one theme of the essay to another. Point the reader to where you’ve come from and are going.
  • Be consistent with capitalisation.
  • Get your facts right. An error elegantly expressed is an error no less.
  • Ensure that you know the meaning of the words you use.
  • Don’t give an essay as much time as you’ve got, give it as much time as it needs.

One essay took over two hours to mark. But what can one do? Either I spend time indicating maladies and remedies, point by point, or I don’t, and the students learn little.

12.30 pm. While updating my FaceBook sound art practice images, I came across this:


Me, at 13 years of age, with my first musical instrument: the Stylophone (Abertillery, 1972). The device (which was, and remains, a rudimentary, monophonic synthesiser) was played with a pen. As such, the instrumentalist either drew or wrote on the keyboard in order to produce sound. This method is, in essence, a curious anticipation of the interaction of those three activities in my current practice. The publication of the photograph was followed by an exchange with Andrew ‘Dylan’ Price (one of my old band mates):


1.40 pm. Some Jeff Beck. Onwards and upwards. None of the most important books I read as an undergraduate were on any bibliography I’d received. They found me, in some cases, while I sought them, in others. (I spent my lunchtimes hanging out in the college library.) I sense that students no longer work on the assumption that the most significant experiences to be had in higher education are self generated. It takes commitment and time to cultivate the autodidact within. ‘In my day’, time was eked out by not watching TV or taking regular nights out with friends. (There were no internet, video games, or smartphones then.) Our first instinct as art students was to care for, rather than complain about, our education. If the system failed us, it was because we had failed the system. In other words, operational success was seen to be the responsibility of both staff and students working as a community.

6.30 pm. An early return to work. The last evening before a restorative break. Essay. Essay. Essay. 8.15 pm. Done. Done. Done. Now comes the challenge of winding down and switching off. For me, this is never as straightforward as it sounds.




December 22, 2015

8.15 am. On reflection. 9.00 pm. Mack to barking. Some common problems:

  • The absence of dates for significant periods, events, and prominent people. Art history is, among other things, art in history. And history is temporal.
  • Sentences overloaded with ideas. They need to be parcelled out separately.
  • Statements are insufficiently fleshed out with explanation, example, and illustration.
  • Statements are insufficiently substantiated with quotation, citation, and evidence. Don’t just say it. Prove it!
  • Similar ideas are either repeated or else dispersed throughout the text, whereas they need to be corralled into a single section.
  • Insufficient use other authors’ observations and understanding. One cannot travel on one’s own in essay writing. The companionship of, and a conversation with, others is obligatory.
  • Insufficient structure, unclear transitions between one idea and another, and too little sense of the essay’s direction and destination.
  • Insufficient deployment of the comma, colon, and semi-colon.
  • The definite article is sometimes missing.
  • Ideas are dropped as soon as they’re picked up, rather than developed.
  • The bibliography is under-used.

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There is, already, evidence from the submissions I’ve marked, of a correlation between module attendance and assignment attainment, and between pre-submission tutorial attendance and the students’ overall performance.

I recall how poor I was an essay writing in school. Those were the days when English grammar was taught. But too little attention was paid to whether grammar was learned. Consequently, it took me three attempts to pass my ‘O’-level English Language paper. So, I know how hard it is to reconcile ideas and words, and I’m sympathetic with those who struggle likewise.

Music for marking: in the background, I played compositions by Oliveros, Reich, and Ligeti. Occasionally, I’d also listen to my sectional drafts from Image and Inscription, in order to hear what they lacked.

1.50 pm. After lunch, I re-immersed myself in the morass of unresolved sentences, overlong sentences, and lost commas.  Some Bartók to lubricate the critical mind. FaceBook replied to my post regarding the loss of WordPress images from my dairy posts on the site:

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As vague, evasive, and deflective as this reply may read, the company has fixed the problem. So a big smiley from me.

Morrison’s are selling electric seedless green grapes. Perhaps, they either illuminate and flash like christmas tree lights or burst in the bag like pop corn, on connection to the mains:


My gran had a novelty plastic bowel of fruit that lit up. I’d bite into and tongue the waxy surfaces of the grapes and oranges when no one was looking. (What was that all about?)

4.00 pm. The forest is being felled. One of the principal reasons for a student’s inability to write art history in an academic manner is their reluctance to read art history writing. We should read not only for knowledge but also to understand how the subject may be discussed. Books are our best teachers in this respect.

Never let yourself off the hook of doing the important things in life well. Naturally, there’re things for which we have an inadequate native ability. To climb high from a low rung on the ladder may demand of us more than we are willing or able to give. But, then again, we don’t know what we are willing or able to give until we’ve begun the ascent. It’s not greater ability but, rather, more courage that we stand in need of.

I listened to Joni Mitchell’s Hejira (1976), and remembered the day trip that I’d made to Albany, New York on October 13, 2002, following a conference at Siena College. In my diary, I wrote: ‘walked around in a mood of fantasy and reverie’. There were some things in life, I realised, that were achingly impossible because they were evidently inappropriate. To strive, one must first be persuaded of the legitimacy of the cause:


6.45 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I essayed the essays once again. There was gold amid the evening’s diggings. I called for Sibelius and more Ligeti. Sometimes I feel the future pressing towards me.




December 21, 2015

The Sunday before Christmas is always a productively busy one. In the morning service at Holy Trinity Church, I was the principal narrator (only because someone else had withdrawn) for the Nativity play and, in the evening, sound engineer for, and a contributing reader to, the carol service:


Photograph courtesy of Jacqueline Harvey


Photograph courtesy of Jacqueline Harvey

The afternoon was dedicated to setting up the domestic Christmas tree (a task that all the Harveys participate in) and posting my Christmas e-card, together with an exegetical text (just in case there were misunderstandings about the intent).

8.00 am. These days, each household lives on top of a temporary mini landfill site of bags stuffed with plastic, paper, and glass bottles awaiting either collection by the ‘bin men’ (I’ve yet to see a ‘bin woman’) or transport to the local dump. I prepared the family deposit for both scenarios. 8.30 am. A time of soul reflection. One may despair of oneself while remaining hopeful. 9.00 am. I responded to a call by Mute Sound for a one-minute piece of music, which will be included on a compilation CD. My contribution is entitled Le Petit Exorcisme.

10.00 am. Back to marking. Some students fall at the first hurdle, having neither read closely enough nor grasped the aims of the assignment. This is a sign of disorganisation (about which much can be done) rather than of unintelligence. Others are bloody minded, and adapt the assignment to their own ends. The results can be excellent, but the point of the project, missed. One should think outside of the box; but one must also be able to act within it.

1.10 pm. A washing-up accident. A cracked bowl split in two and one of its razor-sharp edges cut a swathe into my thumb:


Perhaps, I should stick to drying and putting aware the crockery. 2.00 pm. Mark on; the Vale of Rheidol ‘Santa Train’ toots and hoots reverberantly in the background. I made the comment, on one submission: ‘Too Blue Petery!’ This phrase is in danger of entering my ‘Commonly Used’ bubble list. 4.30 pm. Finally, I completed first-stage mark entry, and then engaged mass PDFing of feedback forms in readiness for release on 23 December. Education is now an industrial process.

When I was young, I’d asked my Mam what she wanted for Christmas. ‘Peace and quiet!’, she’d invariably reply. This sounded rather unambitious to my ear. I now understand exactly what she meant. Those two commodities cost nothing but, then again, they can’t be bought either:


Joan Harvey, Abertillery, Christmas 1968

6.30 pm. Practice session 1. 7.40 pm. On with Image and Inscription, and a review of sections 1 and 2. No one section can be completed at this stage. Each responds and adjusts to its successors and predecessors. Relationships, likenesses, and correspondences — that were inconceivable at the outset — begin to emerge. Apposite resolutions to sonic problems are steadily being established. For example, in section 2, the voice of God now sounds like the slow growl of a big cat:

They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west (Hosea 11.10);

and like talking thunder:

Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered (John 12.29).




December 18, 2015

8.30 am. Today, it was the turn of my WordPress software to malfunction. I suspect that the server-provider was at fault. Following a stint of house tidying and empty-box disposal, I pressed on with marking assignments. I’m now creating my own ‘Commonly Used’ comment remarks. I’d like to include expressions such as ‘Blimey!’, ‘Huh?!’, ‘But … !’, and ‘Oooo!’. A smiley emoticon wouldn’t go amiss either. But, no doubt, I’d be reprimanded by the ‘higher powers’ for so doing. (There’s little humour and lightness in teaching these days.) Although, I did include the comment: ‘Oh! How sweet’, in response to one submission; the student confessed to falling in love with Jackson Pollock’s work, having attended the recent exhibition in Liverpool. A number of other students experienced a powerful and positive emotional response to the works on that occasion.

9.15 am. More marking and a little Christmas card designing until lunchtime. My collection of gratefully received, and sometimes wonderfully idiosyncratic, department-related Christmas cards is growing:

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Many students aren’t taught the rudiments of syntax and punctuation in school. (If these are not ‘key skills’, then I don’t know what are.) Without them, you cannot communicate ideas with any precision. ‘You gotta know this stuff!’

1.45 pm. Following lunch, I was on the case again. This was like eating a bowl of noodles, one strand at a time. And so on, and so on, until 5.15 pm. My eyes were fried.

7.15 pm. I performed an initial test of the new amp:


It’s quite astonishing how close digital emulation has come to capturing not only the sound but also the dynamics and player-interaction of valve amps. But, unlike valve amp, this one will perform with absolute consistency every time it is switched on. And it’s so lightweight. The cabinets are not. Nevertheless, I can hump them up and down three flights of stairs in one go, without strain or injury. They’re light enough. My Fender Twin Reverb weights 80lb. Needless to say, it rarely travels far.


December 17, 2015

8.00 am. There was time to run updates on my computers before approaching the more serious issues of this life and the next. 8.30 am. I eased emails into my outbox and logged onto Blackboard …. Nothing! The loading icon twirled like a circus spinner’s plate in deceleration, until an ‘Err’ message (which things are always appallingly designed, as though a five year old had discovered the font folder) appeared without any expression of either consolation or hope. I needed to adapt … be flexible. 9.00 am. Back, then, into the sound studio to consider my first moves with the third section of the composition. 9.20 pm. A message from IS (Information Services, that is): ‘Blackboard is currently undergoing maintenance this morning until 10am, we expect access to be intermittent as the server is upgraded’. Well … if I’d known that earlier …

10.00 am. A descent, a call, a monologue, a corporate response, a promise (Exodus 19.7-8). 10.30 am. Blackboard is restored. Not a ‘hoorah!’ moment, but … :

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On with marking the exhibition reports for the module. (John Tavener provided the sound backdrop for this morning’s marking session.) I’m listening to large, expansive music in order to train my mind to comprehend sonic scale and a slower pace of development. Having spent the last few years working within a timespan that rarely exceeded four minutes, the shift in perception required is considerable. Tavener’s directness and simplicity of expressive means is astonishing.

I liked this:

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I was able to follow the route taken by the van carrying my sound equipment as it proceeded towards my home. ‘Here it comes! Here it comes!’

12.30 pm. A flare had gone up from one of the School’s undergraduate Art History dissertation students. I’ve learned to attend to these matters swiftly:

First. I am committed to making this dissertation shine, too! Second. Stop worrying. You’re ahead of the game. That you recognise the weakness of the writing and your limitation as a writer is nothing other than good news. Thirdly, ideas will gel … I promise. But in their own time. You can’t rush them to coalesce. Fourthly, the aim of the first draft is to throw up problems early on, so that you have time to resolve them gradually. Lastly, you’ve set yourself a huge task in taking on an interdisciplinary study. One foot will always be on thin ice — the discipline in which you aren’t trained. The trick is to write about it as an art history student. That, after all, is your perspective.

On with the marking (speech-bubbling commenting).

1.40 pm. Having completed a domestic task and looked over the integrity of my parcels, I returned to the marking:

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4.30 pm. I can do no more of the same. My eyes burn; my head aches. This is no way to mark. An inspection of the new amp and cabs was called for. Now, if I was a really sad geek I’d have videoed the ‘striptease’ of opening the box (teasingly), unwrapping the plastic bag (like the Dance of the Seven Veils), and revealing the contents, slowly, one bit and a time (shamelessly). Well, I’m not (yet):


She’s elegant. (Amps are always female.) I then familiarised myself with  the 注意事項 [precautions]. These have the same status as the laminated instructions that you’re encouraged to read on aircraft before takeoff. (In other words, its too easy not to.) Over the years Yamaha (the equipments’ manufacturer) have produced a bewildering variety of unrelated products, including motor-scooters, outboard motors, pianos, sports equipment, guitars, music schools, hifi equipment, robots, alloys, semiconductors, and performance amps. That’s one in the eye of specialisation. 

6.30 pm. Off to the Arts Centre to see the NTL’s A Winter’s Tale. Dreadful! I did not survive the interval. Contrary to Kenneth Branagh’s introductory remarks, the lines were spoken in a declamatory manner that obscured the poetry of the text. The cast were actors seen to be acting. Why was the play set in Tsarist Russia? (Admittedly, Hermione did say that she’d a uncle who’d been the Emperor of Russia. But …) Moreover, the stage design was visually dull, conservative, and contributed nothing to the interpretation of the text.

December 16, 2015

7.30 am. I awoke. This was appallingly late for me. 8.00 am. There was important business to transact with the powers that be in ‘another place’ before I rebooted my more earthbound activities. 9.00 am. The marking of Abstraction reports recommenced. These are the comment options:

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‘WC’ signifies a ‘word choice’ error, and not a toilet break; ‘Commonly Confused’ describes most students’ experience at some point in their education, I suspect; while  ‘Missing “,” ‘ implies the absence of a comma, rather than of a Betty Boop emoticon. ‘Awk.’ (‘Awkward’) would communicate more forcibly if it was rendered, in young person’s parlance, as ‘TAwk.’ (‘Totally Awkward’). These days, assessors are not permitted to use exclamation marks or write expressions of disbelief and confusion (such as ‘WHAT!!!??’) in their comments, lest they cause offence to the student. My Gran would have said that this was mollycoddling. We’re in danger of growing thin-skinned and lilly-livered students in HEI. They’ll not be able to survive the cut n’ thrust and uncompassionate savagery of the ‘wicked world of work’, as exemplified in programs such as The Apprentice. (And what an appalling management model Sugar and his cronies represent too.) Criticism (a word that’s fast disappearing from the academic lexicon) needs to be savoured with salt and eased with balm. The marker must not only wound and but also cleanse and bind up the wound. (Some John Coltrane in the background: African, American, spiritual, heady). My oddest comment of the day: ‘Avoid Blue Peterisms’.

12.30 pm. An early lunch before ascending Mount Penglais to attend the first informal sound provision discussion meeting at the Arts Centre:


There were six of us present. More will attend the next session, no doubt. A small number is more appropriate for a small beginning. Nevertheless, we generated a good many serviceable ideas related to performances, events, and student-led/collaborative visual-sound projects. Something has begun.

2.30 pm. I returned to home and the Abstraction project assessment. I miss the piles of papers on my desk: the tower of unmarked papers slowly decreasing in height. Digital assessment, however, is tidier. By 5.00 pm, I’d done as much as good conscience would allow. I’ve read some excellent submissions.

7.30 pm. Yesterday’s composition of the second section for Image and Inscription sounds better than I’d anticipated. It required only a minor tweak to the fade-in point of one of the superimposed elements. The third section begins with Moses’ descent from the mountain. The pattern of the ascent and descent of both Moses and God isn’t easy to establish from the text. On some occasions, it’s denoted, while on others, only implied:

Moses ascends (Exodus 19.3)
Moses descends (Exodus 19.7)
Moses ascends (Exodus 19.8)
Moses descends (Exodus 19.14)
God descends (Exodus 19.18, 20)
Moses ascends (Exodus 19.20)
Moses descends (Exodus 19.25)

At the beginning of each new section of composition, I’ve not the slightest idea how it will proceed. That’s trilling and unnerving in equal measure.


There’s a noticeable and welcome slowing down in the drip of emails into my inbox.






December 15, 2015

8.15 am. Following a time for reflection, I confirmed my diary appointments, sketched in my ‘to do’ list for the week, and caught up on work-related FaceBook messages. Now that the JANET attack has been resolved (I assume) and Turn It In is Turned Back On, I could return to marking Abstraction submissions. I’ve no love for this software: it hampers ease of writing, slows the process of completion, and doesn’t permit a general evaluation of the whole. And, whatever happened to anonymous marking? (On Turn it In, I can see who I’m doing in.) Too easily, we cast off principle and practice for the sake of automation. Likewise, today, convenience is often preferred to quality. For example, many people listen to music only on an mp3 format. An mp3 file contains just 10% of the sound material encoded in uncompressed formats (like wav and flac); as such, it’s only an approximation of the source. But mp3 is an eminently portable format — and this is the preeminent consideration for some folk — listened to, more often than not, on nasty, tinny ear buds. That’s no way to develop an appreciation for music, IMO:


By 12.00 pm, yesterday’s failed payment ‘issue’ had been resolved. The new purchases have been released for delivery. Sometimes responsibilities fall between the cracks. Anyway … done now!, as my Dad used to say. 1.00 pm. Sufficient unto the day is the marking thereof. If you keep it up for too long, the critical edge is lost.

1.40 pm. A cursory dispatch to one of our intending PhD Fine Art students:

I encourage students to write an account of what they do throughout the degree. This avoids the inevitable ‘crunch’ time of having to begin writing. The continuous writing process also refines self awareness and clarifies the practice: one can only make clearly, what one thinks clearly. And writing aids to clarify intent, among other things. Try making a mind map in three dimensions: a map that has strata.

2.00 pm. I’m endeavouring to keep in daily contact with the Image and Inscription composition over the work period of the Christmas holidays, in order to further the continuity of both thought and action. I returned to the construction of the fearful voice of God:


3.20 pm. A strange light. It beckoned to another, better place where, unlike in Arcadia, death is not:


Such occasions are communal events in Aberystwyth; one of the glories of living here.

5.00 pm. Perhaps, just perhaps, this second section of the composition is now resolved. I’m too close to tell. A short period of abstinence is required. Until tomorrow.

6.10 pm. I attended a soirée for staff at Bob and Harry’s before we headed off, bundled into cars, to the putatively haunted Tynllidiart Arms for the annual School of Art Christmas bash:


The department is a family of sorts, for all of us. This is very rare is academia these days, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Such commitment, friendship, and loyalty must be nourished, constantly.


December 14, 2015

7.30 pm. My ‘gig’ at the prestigious Waunfawr Community Hall, Aberystwyth, yesterday, was well received. Professor Noel Lloyd (who was once Aberystwyth University’s Vice Chancellor) accompanied the congregation on electric keyboard. Whatever else the talk may have achieved, it was (for me, at least) a successful exercise in ‘public engagement’.

I’d a good deal of correspondence and business with PhD Fine Art students to catch up on. Some ruminations on the nature of the endeavour:

  • In terms of creating a hierarchy of possible research directions, I’ve always found it useful to think in terms of a Russian doll. Very often, most of the avenues of investigation that you’ll conceive will fit inside one another. Your present difficulty is in discerning which is the biggest doll. It may not be self evident at present. But the identity will emerge. Trust me! … The process of research has to be undertaken before any sense of certainty [regarding its direction] can be established. (You can’t arrive before you’ve set out on the journey.)
  • The PhD Fine Art degree has been, for many, a context and a period ‘to plant, and a time to pluck up  … a time to break down, and a time to build up … a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away’. Your experience of, and in, this degree will certainly exceed any indicative aims and objectives for it. This PhD is, at heart, a transformative process that works from the inside out. 

8.45 am. Having received initial, positive feedback on my research review, which I’d written on Saturday, I polished the text in readiness for the final submission this afternoon

9.45 am. Off to the School to hold an informal discussion with a local applicant to our undergraduate schemes, and get my head around the bits and bobs of outstanding admin. This is my ‘miraculous’ horse chestnut (or ‘conker’):


One Sunday, some years ago, on a cold, still Autumn afternoon, while searching for conkers for the seasonal family bash, we came across a magnificent tree on Llanbadarn Road. Not surprisingly, it had no collectable yield; children from the local school had harvested all the nuts that’d dropped to the ground. However, when we returned to the tree after a hour-long constitutional, the grassy area at the base of the trunk was covered with them. Stranger still, many had been removed from their cases already. The above is one of them.

10.30 am. On with the research review and outstanding reports and reviews related to the Tell Us Now campaign. 12.00 pm. Done!

12.30 pm. I’d arranged to have lunchtime meeting at Wetherspoon’s with my colleague Dr Roberts. The pub’s food dispensing ability had been completely scuppered. Consequently, only cakes were on the menu. So, we scuttled over the road to Le Figaro’s for a cheapy all-day breakfast and an hour and a half of aspirational, inspirational sound-art development discussions. We must move from vision to practicality this week, and eat more wholesome food in the future:


2.15 pm. Back at homebase, I continued with postgraduate matters, reviewing draft submissions of theses, and chasing a bill (not my fault) that the Finance Office has yet to pay. Small problems lever large implications, sometimes. An old, college chum, who was picking up her daughter from university, dropped in mid afternoon. It’s always a tonic to see her. By the end of the afternoon, I’d emptied my inbox (if only I could put a water-tight cap on it), completed and posted the research review, got up-to-date with postgraduate matters, and even arranged a dental check-up for January.

7.30 pm. In the sound studio, I returned to the second section of Image and Inscription. How does what create an approximation for the voice of God and a monologue made up of sixty-eight words (Exodus 19.3-6). The answer can only be worked towards; it’ll not arise spontaneously. In order to prepare the soil, I returned to the source, map, and story board of the composition:


The whole composition has the feel of a large-scale, 19th century, historic painting in the tradition of the Sublime. As such, I’m conscious of having enlarge my ‘brushes’ and work with broader strokes. At this point in the development, I switched source from the data-bent material derived from the pictorial engravings to the turntablist manipulations of the sonic engraving — the two 33 1/3 rpm vinyls. The words of God, spoken by mortals, will become the voice of God. A caution to myself: beware of literalism and over programatising the sound field. This is not an illustration; rather, it’s an evocation.

December 12, 2015

7.00 am. I wanted to complete ‘Piece 3’ of My Heart is Broken in Three before I set myself to engage the official agenda of work for the day. By 10.00 am, the suite was ready for release:

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Oddly, the cover images accompanying a number of my diary posts are no longer visible on FaceBook. One of the great limitations of this particular social media is that you can’t edit photographs and videos after a post has been published. Not either knowing the cause nor having the ability to remedy the effect is frustrating. Will FaceBook answer my query?

10.45 am. I’d completely forgotten about a commitment that I’d made to produce a research review for the university on the R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A project. (Sometimes, you’re obliged to feed the hand that bites you.) This needed to be off my desktop pronto. The hardest part about starting anything is starting it.


I’d completed a draft by 2.45 pm, and posted it off to the commissioners to see whether it fitted the bill. There’s little point to proceeding in the wrong direction.

3.00 pm. Into the sound studio and onto a little hardware management. Dismantlement:


Four pedalboards is one too many. I cleared the tables and the floor, readying the room for the next venture. I must take stock of my floor gear in order to formulate a disposals policy. Of course, I’ll end up selling on the one day the very thing that I’ll need on the next.

It hasn’t stopped raining all day. The train line to Shewsbury is now closed.

5.00 pm. Rest. An evening with my wife.


December 11, 2015

6.10 am. I couldn’t see myself getting back to sleep and again, so I mopped up small admin tasks. (I wanted to dedicate the best part of the day to the important stuff.) 8.30 am. A final edit and formatting of my talk about the Nativity in Art, for Sunday afternoon. 10.30 am. Back into the sound studio to review the three recordings that I’d derived from the fragments of My Heart of Broken in Three. While this was not the most important project to be going on with at present, it’s the one for which, this morning, I had the clearest vision/audition. Sometimes, considerations of this nature have to take precedence over all others, for there was no guarantee that like perspicuity would grace me on any other day. By the lunchtime, I’d made significant headway:

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1.40 pm. Onto the last stretch of the initial compositional construction. By 2.00 pm, the process was complete. The next stage was to adjust all the sound samples to maximise cohesion and to ensure that the whole work fitted within the 6 minute and 18 second time frame. The final stage of development, prior to mastering, involved a balancing of the volume across all the samples. This involved a deep listening (which is rewarding in and off itself) to the tracks’ beats, rhythms, and transitions. The process had to be undertaken over headphones; exclusive concentration was of the essence. 3.00 pm. It was time for an initial mixdown of all the tracks and a minimum of remastering. I wanted to preserve the sonic quality of the source intact. My golden rule is to interfere as little as possible with the original material.


One of the intriguing characteristics of the source recording is its stereophony. While the record is monaural, the playback cartridge on the turntable  is stereo. Consequently, scratches and glitches on the disc’s surface are rendered on two channels, thus endowing the recording with a broad left to right field presence. The only mastering required was a significant hard limiting of volume peaks produced by loud bumps and the imapct of the stylus with the edges of the fragments. This ‘warmed’ the core sounds of the composition considerably. (I’d not experienced this phenomenon before.)


After EQing the track, I launched it to my sound website in order to achieve a degree of objectivity on, and distance from, the composition — to hear in as an audient, rather than as its maker.

6.15 pm. I attended a retirement ‘do’ held in honour of Professor Len Scott, at the International Politics Department. Len was on form. His parting speech was sugar, salt, and vinegar applied with humour, panache, and decorum. He must have been a winning lecturer:


7.30 pm. It struck me with a degree of blinding obviousness that this project should be made up of three pieces or compositions, rather than one only (as I’d originally intended). One of the new pieces should be today’s completed recording digitally speeded up to the equivalent of 78 rpm. The final composition is likely to involve a recording made of all three fragments playing simultaneously.