January 16, 2017

8.15 am: This week; this day; this hour; this moment, laid out before heaven. 9.00 am: There was an important letter of administration to post, several emails to consider, and a computer file loss problem to understand, before I could begin to move forward the business of the next few days. 10.00 am: I dug out my paper on the Image and Inscription composition, which I’d been working on before the Christmas holidays. This needs to be completed and polished by the close of the month. In order to get back into something that I’ve laid aside for a period, my trick is to dust down some part of the text that I’ve already written reasonable well. It’s a limbering-up exercise of sorts. Time away from a project helps to bring into relief those integral problems and solutions that were not immediately recognisable, previously.

Over the weekend, I completed the effector array comprising PB III and PB V, a looper, and a pitch-bending device All inputs and outputs are buffered:

I await, now, the return of several repaired power supply units in order to rouse again PB I and PB III. Then I can fortify the former and introduce the latter into the application system’s send and receive loop. ‘Something for the weekend’, as gents’ barbers were want to inquire.

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I read through several pages of a diary written in 1985, covering my life in Cardiff and Aberystwyth between the close of my MA Visual Art and the beginning of my PhD Art History studies. My particular interest was in the description of places from a visual and sonic perspective:

I waited [at Newbridge, in anticipation of a bus to Abertillery] for half-an-hour in the doorway of a derelict Co-Op … standing, watching the rain glisten on the amber-orange surface of the road, looking at children in Lowryesque poses, tracing the necklace of jewels around and through the valley … Such an experience may, in the future, represent that haziest sense of something which will compel me … to make it concrete and permanent. This is my home in a deeper sense than language alone can convey … The contours, the distances, the indigo and orange, the drawn curtains of darkened houses, the buses that drive into the distance (the sounds of which continue long after they go out of sight) (Diary > 8.00 pm+, August 23, 1985).

Diaries can make for fearful reading. The writer has no inkling of what is to come in their life: on the one hand, there were hopes dashed; fears and failures realised; mistakes repeated; debilitations, weaknesses, and indulgences left unchecked; love lost; loved ones, lost; friendships abandoned; misunderstandings, disillusionments and disappointments; foolish acts and words; dreadful revelations; ambitions thwarted; illusions and delusions; inabilities exposed; conflicts and questions unresolved; and the seeds of calamity sown. On the other hand, there were unimaginable changes of circumstance; unlikely opportunities; undeserved restorations; rich conversations; remarkable discoveries; and moments of joy, fresh insight, and dizzying clarity. But not one of these things (bad or good) was either unnecessary or wasted in the providential economy.

Aberystwyth (August 1985)

The present is too often too thick with uncertainty, predictability, and aching inertia, too barren of event, too mediocre and fruitless, to appear significant. However, from a future perspective, it may be possible to perceive a golden thread woven into this drab cloth. If there is, for me, a further thirty two years, how, then, will I reckon upon now?

3.50 pm: Slow but certain progress had been made on the article. I’m back in the race once again. I edged forward, paragraph by paragraph.

7.15 pm: Some postgraduate admin to shoo away. There was a turbulence in the night sky. Spirits drifting:

Spectral anomaly:

On with the article.

 

 



January 13, 2017

9.00 am: Waiting at the pharmacy:

On the way down Penglais Hill, I could almost lean into the wind like Marcel Marceau. Woah! 9.30 am: Dedication on medication: I completed the updates of my CV and profile sites before building a page for The Bible in Translation release on my personal website. Time invested in these activities is never wasted. (In the background, I listened to a BBC Chorale Evensong broadcast. One for Epiphany. In Anglicanism, and some other Christian traditions, Christmas goes on well after the bauble-decked pines have been felled. 12.30 pm: Respite.

After lunch, I fed my chorale evensong addiction further with a broadcast from King’s College Chapel, London. The chapel is situated on the first floor of the King’s College building, on the Strand. I discovered it while presenting a paper at a conference there, having walked to the end of an otherwise unexceptional corridor of the Religious and Theological Studies Department. The experience was as surprising as it was sublimely surreal — like walking into the Tardis for the first time:

2.15 pm: The slow process of extracting sample sound clips from The Bible in Translation album began. The aim was to create an indicative content, or a set of ‘teasers’, in common parlance. 4.00 pm: Complete:

Respite. 4.20 pm: I watched several YouTube videos about learning braille. I’m looking for an opening into The Aural Bible III project:

From the study window, facing the front of the house. (Maybe the answer has always been staring me in the face.):

To the sighted, braille appears elegant, minimal, and pure. To the sight-impaired, it’s an entirely tactile experience. (Reading by touch.) The reader uses two hands: one to feel, the other to direct (not unlike in guitar playing). In braille, numbers and letters share the same signs (as in the Hebrew language). There’s much to tease out, here.

6.15 pm: Practise session 1. 7.15 pm: Studiology. A trussing up and test drive of Pedalboard V, and an assembly of a new version of an old array.

A voice inside me said: ‘Nothing is full’.

 

 

 

 



January 12, 2017

7.15 am: I woke feeling nauseous, cramps, and unsure footed — a condition exacerbated by an early-morning preambulation to and from my surgery. A day propped up at my desk at home was called for. Tomorrow, conditions may improve. 9.20 am: Re-planning the morning. Re-listing tasks. Resting periodically. ‘Steady as she goes, Mr Harvey!’ 9.45 am: Postgraduate correspondence to PhD inquirers, external examiners (present and prospective), and tutees. 10.45 am: Respite. 11.15 am: Some initial considerations regarding a braille/guitar string coding:

Lunchtime: A little pedalboardery, as I put together PB V — a extension to box PB I and PB IV, which will sit between the effector boards and the inputs to a stereo amplifier:

2.00 pm: Respite. I sense a decline. 2.20 pm: I looked for tasks small enough and sufficiently contained to match my attention span. CV and associated website updating it was, then. It was tedious but undemanding work. An icy rain dribbled down the window panes:

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: As strength and mental wherewithal allowed, I pressed on with the CV and profile site updates, while tinkering, periodically, with PB V. 9.30 pm: Enough! More than enough. The body fails me.

 



January 10, 2017

9.00 am: Back on the marking trail, with every expectation that I’ll be off it, finally (for this module), by the end of the day. I’ve been battling with a few non-standard submissions — those that have been made on other than MS PowerPoint. I was forced to reverse engineer from the document file type to the software that generated it. Thus, I engaged OpenOffice for the first time. It’s freeware, rudimentary, but adequate for most purposes. 10.20 pm: The sky darkened subtly. My mood shifted moderately, in response. (In the background: Keith Jarrett’s Hymns and Spheres (1976)Suitably melancholic and introspective.):

This suite of organ improvisations invariably summons feelings associated with particular moments in my past that lie beyond memory. That’s to say, I know assuredly that they took place, but I cannot recall where or when or, indeed, what they were. Such sensations (always tender and poignant) are abstractions of experience: emotional echoes of events that would be otherwise inaccessible were it not for music. (This is one of the powers of art.)

Outside my study, in keeping with the torporous weather and still air, there was silence, broken only by the passing and parking of cars and the occasional shriek of a lone gull in the distance. (I’ve been here — known this experience — before. Tomorrow, this will be a memory of a memory.)

1.40 pm: To School to deal with a little business:

2.00 pm: Home:

After I’d resourced some equipment purchases of small degree (retail therapy), I continued marking. Four more to go. There’s light at the end of the tunnel (as in a near-death experience, perhaps). It’s a mistake to think that all young people are enthusiastic about, and instinctively capable with, new technologies. The problem with technological revolutions is that, eventually, you’re either forced to join them (he said, being a most reluctant, Johnny-come-lately, mobile phone user) or else risk getting left behind.

3.40 pm: The best of the day came as it closed. Now there’s a lesson in life:

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: The final(ish) lap. The night stains like ink:

Once all the submissions had been marked, I return to both those given the lowest marks and those that I’d marked first. This was in order to ensure that I can live the outcomes in the light of the higher banded endeavours, and marks awarded to those that were assessed last. Thereafter, I returned to all the first-class marks, in order to confirm whether the distinctions between them were justifiable. (For example: Why is one submission given 73%  and another, 75%? What does that additional 2% represent?)

 

 



January 9, 2017

Presently, I’m determined to be interested in less and less. But in less, more and more. Throughout life, one may experience an oscillation between expansion and contraction. First, a broadening of enthusiasms, an opening up to possibilities, and an unusual receptiveness to new ideas. And, then, a pruning away of the once illuminating but, now, inappropriate, the genuinely helpful but, now, irrelevant, and the fascinating but, now, distracting. In order to achieve something, many things have to be cast off. One of the benefits of maturity is the ability to discern the domain of the ‘something’ with greater perspicuity.

Focus is required not only in the one’s life (creative and otherwise) but also in the daily operations of such, moment by moment. The interference from social media, email, messages, and calls — the incessant ‘dings’, ‘blips’, and ‘tings’ from desktop, laptop, tablet, and smart-phone devices, our insatiable desire to know what others are doing/have done, and addiction to online shopping — have created a technologically inspired attention deficit disorder on an alarming scale. The boundaries between activities have become permeable. For example, I too often find myself drawn to an incoming email related to School matters and from attending to the research at hand. In this respect, keeping teaching, research, and administration separate (say nothing of balancing this triumvirate) has now become a task in itself. Unchecked, they leak into one another.

9.00 am: I have set myself a deadline by which all the Art/Sound submissions will be assessed and the feedback dispatched:

On the window, to my left, rainfall attracted my attention and my mind to another time and a different circumstance when, likewise, the spit and rattle of droplets on those same panes drew my gaze away from the computer screen.

12.28 pm: The ‘new people’ arrive at the house across the road. Same premises; different custodians.

1.30 pm: Off again: ‘On the mark … get set … go!’ When my mind needed a moment’s respite, I’ve directed it towards the problem of devising a method for learning the notes on a guitar fretboard in a memorable, workable, and an efficient way. The key is to recognise patterns of formation, which have more to do with the tuning and construction of the instrument than they do with music theory:

But no method can be effortlessly implemented. Commitment and tenacity are also required. (Be suspicious of any system that short circuits necessary hard work. Discipline is always demanding.)

Back to it. In my ideal University, all students would study philosophy, regardless of whatever else they undertook. This is because they need to be taught how to think logically and to structure and support a sustainable argument. This has nothing to do with intellectual capacity, and everything to do with intellectual training.

3.50 pm: The light declined:

4.00 pm: I declined. (Kept going; knees buckling.) ‘One more “script” before dinner, perhaps’.

6.15 pm: Post-dinner. Theory session 1. (An implementation of today’s fretboard musings.) I’ve resurrected my old Traveler Guitar for theory exercises. 7.00 pm: Marking bad or barking mad? Hopefully, the latter on this occasion.



January 7, 2017

A curious dream. I was playing the clarinet (which is not my instrument in awake world) for a band, led by the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, at a concert held in a barn. When it came to my turn to play, I could barely produce more than a whoosh of air and a few honks. Mercifully, Jarrett (who does not suffer fools gladly in awake world) was generous towards my efforts. On rising, I remembered an experience to which many professional guitarists have testified. Namely, that they found it, sometimes, surprisingly difficult to play certain passages live which were easy enough to perform in the context in which they’d been learned. The principle is: we execute a skill best in the place wherein it was developed. The phenomenon has something to do with the associations formed between the environment and the process of education. Intriguing. Which is why painters, who work entirely competently in the studio, may go to pieces when working en plein air for the first time.

10.00 am: An appallingly late start for a Saturday. More marking, from now until the close of the day. (Elaine Radique played in the background.) The third year students, on the whole, have grasped the texture and intent of the Art/Sound module better the second year students. This isn’t surprising. An astonishing maturation may take place between the final two years, one that is significantly greater than that observed as they move from the final year of secondary school to the first year university, and from first to second year studies. The same distinctions is evident in their fine art performance. Pennies drop, somethings click, and acts are got together.

Over lunch, I began a thought project related to the range of guitar effects pedals that presently aren’t integrated on a pedalboard. Should they be? Yesterday evening, I optimised the integrity of both the amp>cabinet connections and PB IV’s dual input to such. The next stage of design beckons:

2.00 pm: Marking … again (with Bill Orcutt in the background). I listen to a great deal of contemporary music that most people I know would consider an inexorable din. The best of it makes me want to play the guitar. Sometimes it’s public and raucous and at other times, internal and reflective. At all times it’s confident and unashamed of itself. In my view, one should enter a field of practice with a view to extending, rather than merely reiterating, it. That would the nature of your contribution, if successful. Why would you want to do what someone else does, even well?

4.00 pm: A little equipment sourcing before my final ‘script’ of the day. On one feedback form I wrote: ‘Ensure that you … engage with other writers’ observations. Academic writing is a conversation rather than a monologue’. Evening approaches, but the day light is gradually extending:

5.20 pm: An end. 6.30 pm: Practise session 1 (just in case I’m called to participate in Jarrett’s band again tonight). 7.30 pm: An evening with my wife.

 

 

 

 



January 5, 2017

8.30 am: The scaffolding ‘engineers’ turned up at homebase; I struggled with Psalm 38. 9.00 am: Back, then, to marking the Art/Sound module’s PowerPoint presentations:

The concept of ‘non-instrumental sound composition’, which crystallised at the close of yesterday, defines a process that I’ve already deployed in the context of both the Evan Roberts wax cylinder project R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A and Image and Inscription composition. In each case, the compositional noises and music were created by the sonic content of materials (the fragments of a wax cylinder, the sound of a metal engraver, manipulated recordings of human voices, and sonified pictorial engravings), rather than by a musical instrument. The distinction is analogous to the relationship between collaging and, say, painting. The former is a construction based on pre-existing samples, the latter, on determined, originated, and ‘tooled’ actions. But there’ s an obvious third way. One could use fragments of determined, originated, and ‘tooled’ actions (made by either a guitar or paintbrush, respectively) as the materials for collage. An opportunity.

After completing an art work, I invariably fall out of love with it for a period. Sometime later, I rediscover my first love, and can hear/see the endeavour … as though it had been made by someone else. Only then do I begin to enjoy and learn from my efforts. In the background to work, I ordered a flip case and a screen protector for a new mobile phone. If a device is well designed (by which I mean that it not only looks good but also is fit for purpose) then one ought not to have to purchase accessories that enable it to survive the rough and tumble of everyday life while masking (and making ungainly) its appearance in the process.

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I headed out of the front door to the School. In front of me, an inversion of the Christmas tree concept (inside out, on this occasion):

2.20 pm: My social media responsibilities prevailed. This is a beast that must be fed regularly if it’s to serve you well. 3.00 pm: Mark on!

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: Mark on, and on! There ought to be a set of Oblique Strategies specifically tailored to student writing. For example:

  • Pretend that you’re a professional art historian
  • Who are you writing for?
  • What ideas relate to, and can be grouped with, one another?
  • Erase irrelevancies
  • Work more deliberately
  • Recognise your bad habits
  • Get to the point from the outset and set out your points
  • Learn to struggle unrelentingly
  • Avoid reading website articles, temporarily
  • Read deeply, broadly, and with genuine curiosity
  • Keep asking questions and questioning answers
  • Redraft as a matter of principle and urgency
  • Cut the flannel, the inelegances, thin thoughts, and tacky expressions
  • Find the centre, then the edge, and then everything in between
  • There’s no shame in doing well
  • Develop an idea that you’ve never read or heard
  • Tell the reader what you’re doing; but first, make sure that you know
  • Give your writing to someone else, whose judgement you trust, to read
  • Inability is never an excuse for shoddy workmanship
  • Remember, someone has to assess this.

8.30 pm: A little studiology. I inserted my Lexicon MX200 processor (an impressive device for the price) into the effects loop of my digital amp:

I’m not convinced. The sound is too brittle and lacks body.

 



January 4, 2017

Resolutions. With me, those of the determinative (as distinct to those of the conclusive) kind are made and affirmed at the beginning of each day, rather than at the start of each year. We can change the calendar on the wall, but we cannot change either ourselves or the world in so doing. And in order to change the world (or at least some small part of that which we inhabit), we often have to first change ourselves.

9.15 am: ‘Of making many [lists] there is no end’, too. Over the years, I’ve developed a strategy for re-engaging work after a vacation, one that is kind to myself, establishes and prioritises tasks, and seeks to comprehend the landscape of responsibilities and activities for several months ahead. Lists are crucial in this respect. I have two, essentially: one for ‘must dos’ (the domain of action), the other for ‘must bes’ (the domain of spiritual, moral, and physical being). I’m reconciled to failing dismally, in part, in both, this year, as in every other. To begin: timetables for assessment and teaching and admin meetings need to be checked and entered onto my personal dairy; research deadlines addressed; and the day’s duties defined. In the background, I uploaded my new CD acquisitions to iTunes:

12.30 pm: An early lunch before a foray into town. From Post-its to the Post Office (which is now stuffed at the back of W H Smith, next to the magazines). I discovered that the envelop that I was about to mail had lost its tack. This prompted a second excursion (post-Pritt Stickification) to the postbox on Caradoc Road, into which several important letters related to my life’s course have been dropped, previously. But this was not one of them:

1.30 pm: Extensions, hospital appointments, smartphone screen protectors, moderations, and further Post-its: a soup made up of the mundane, necessary, professional, facilitating, and potentially life changing. Onwards to postgraduate admin. Undiluted joy (with Emerson, lake & Palmer through the speakers)!

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: Back to the SteelWorks outline. In the interim, Port Talbot Steel Works has closed its doors to all visitors. I would have liked to hear and see steel being manufactured today. This restriction may, of course, be lifted if the fortunes of the company improve. Who knows? My experiences in the past have made me sanguine towards apparent bad news. For a limitation imposed on one aspect of a project may give rise to a better opportunity, which would not have otherwise occurred. There are significant dimensions to this project that have not yet disclosed themselves. So, in order to stimulate insight, I picked a card from my newly acquired box of Eno’s and Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies:

The constraints or instructions encourage a creator to, variously, consider tangents to a point, conceptualise non-habitually, and behave out of character. The proposal may not be appropriate in a given instance, but it encourages the mind to venture in an unplanned direction. ‘Non-instrumental sound composition’. Now where did that idea come from? It wasn’t printed on any of the cards. You see!

 

 



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