June 14, 2017

8.30 am: Off into a surprisingly warm (given the hour) day towards the Promenade and Old College, for the first of two PhD Fine Art tutorials:

Stone circles; rock surfaces; Irish politics; and the novel form. Sail your boat in different waters. The pressure of inner necessity. Distinguish between what is essential and what is desirable. We each have a finite resource of creative energy; therefore, we must invest it strategically and focally. Our past interests and experiences form the bedrock of our present activities and attitudes. We are each more capable, rounded, and interesting than our academic study alone might suggest (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook’ (June 14, 2017) 250–51).

10.00 am: Back at the mothership, I caught up with emails and prepared for the finalist board meeting:

I find the marking practices of my colleagues to be always instructive and formidably rigorous. The triangulation of the perspectives by the first marker, second marker, and external examiner guarantees (as far as it’s possible) an equitable and justifiable outcome, where marks and degree classifications are concerned.

Mrs Macklin’s course is developing in leaps and bounds. Joy is not the end of art; but without it, art will end. Her students’ enthusiasm and commitment appear to be palpable:

12.00 pm: I went back to homebase – in order to perform some preparatory domestics – before turning my feet towards the Old College, once again, to give the second PhD Fine Art tutorial and two MA Fine Art tutorials. Small, found, abstract landscape painting (West Classroom):

A mysterious post-birthday present from an enigmatic postgraduate student:

‘As soon as I open it, the mystery will unravel’, I mused. (Hesitation.) I was reminded of Man Ray’s L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse (1920).

Encouraging oneself is far, far harder than encouraging someone else. Our lack of confidence is fuel for the engine of determination. We may begin a painting in ignorance and end it in enlightenment. The time in which we allow ourselves to complete a painting can be just as clearly prescribed as the dimensions of the support. ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself’. Likewise the problems that you face with painting presently are more than a match for your attention and ability. Fight tomorrow’s battles tomorrow, therefore. What is the nature of the pleasure that you feel when painting? It’s the things that we discover for ourselves that have the most lasting value. Some good teachers were once poor students. The degree is called a Masters of Art for good reason. The acquisition of mastery is hard won. Which is why the MA Fine Art is such a challenge (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook‘ (June 14, 2017) 251–52).

5.00 pm: Homeward via a shoe shop and Boots (coincidentally). 6.15 pm: The evening was absorbed in resolving the last of the admin (for now) and domestic preparations. 8.30 pm: A rest from work, and the beginning of the annual diary sabbatical.



June 13, 2017

Why should I want to be anyone other than who I am?

My first birthday party, Abertillery, 6.00 pm, June 13, 1960

According to the Chicago Tribune for June 13, 1959, the temperature for London was 61 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, it’s 64.  I entered the world at 6 lb and 5 oz on a Saturday during the Changing of the Guard. While I’ve no truck with horoscopes – for theological and purely intellectual reasons – the following characterisation of those born on this day is surprisingly accurate in my case:

Gemini natives have a horoscope predisposition to suffer from illnesses and ailments related to the area of the shoulders and upper arms. A few of the possible illnesses and diseases a Gemini may need to deal with are listed in the following rows, plus stating that the chance to suffer from other health problems should be considered too:

June 13 1959 astrology Esophagi is which is characterized by difficulties or pain when swallowing, heartburn, nausea & vomiting.
June 13 1959 astrology Multiple personality disorder which is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality types.
June 13 1959 astrology Brain chemistry imbalances that are considered to be one of the first causes to contribute to mental illnesses.
June 13 1959 astrology Nasal catarrh which is mainly the feeling of stuffy and runny nose plus facial pain and loss of smell.

9.15 am: I (or, perhaps, it should be ‘we’) limped to School (suffering from a good deal of the above in concert), determined to take the day one hour at a time. References dispatched and tutorial arrangements put in place, my thoughts turned to my contribution to the forthcoming Aberystwyth University Learning and Teaching Conference.

Mrs Macklin (good to see her back in the building) began her four-day, Life-Long Learning course on Figure to Landscape at the School today. The studio awaited:

11.00 am: Special Cases board meeting. Either we didn’t talk about those insuperable problems that some students face presently, when I was a student, or else such problems are far more prevalent these days:

12.00 pm: An MA inquirers meeting. 12.30 pm: A Postgraduate Monitoring Committee to discuss and finalise the submission of reports. Thereafter, I concluded the minutes of the meeting and formatted the forms for dispatch to the Institute’s monitoring committee. 3.20 pm: Pressed on with finalising postgraduate marks in readiness for tomorrow’s finalists’ board meeting. It has been so cold!

7.00 pm: An evening with my family.

June 12, 2017

9.00 am: A sluggish start; various intolerances to foods over the weekend, which have left me yawning, mentally diffused, and with aching limbs. But, we pressed on. To begin: a student reference needed to be written and postgraduate correspondence and admin, undertaken. After which, I briefly revisited my proposal for the [Bible and Sound] conference/book and, then, created several test pages derived from biblical texts for the image>sound conversion project:

Before lunch, I began creating an album for the sounds to Mr Ruddock’s 2A: Earth Core artwork on my Sound website. The suite of works (each sample being 10 minutes long) includes the track that accompanied the visual work, and others that’d been rejected:

2.00 pm: Another type of drill hole was made — into the chassis of the Stylophone on this occasion. 2.30 pm: On with the conference conspectus for a while and, then, on to assemble the publicity for a public lecture, to be given in November, at the National Library of Wales, on the Image and Inscription composition. I had great difficulty keeping awake at my desk; the lassitude and aches had persisted and intensified. It’s an old ‘friend’ in the face of whom I’m impotent to ameliorate my condition.

7.30 pm: A light read and a heavy rest.

June 10, 2017

Yesterday. 12.15 am:

3.08 am:

4.00 am: There was in inexorable drift towards a muddle. I went to bed.

8.30 am: Radio on. As I’d anticipated. But the end is not yet. The negotiations will rumble on (rather violently) for some time. These are unprecedented times. Times of change. And change for good, at least in principle. Good to see young people voting in numbers. Good to see that mature people can get it wrong. (Always a salutary lesson.) We may not all wish to be party-political, but we’re all political — all members of the polis (the community) and responsible for its affairs.

9.30 am: Off to School to clarify postgraduate admin. 10.00 am: I can’t turn off the news. My laptop will be tuned into BBC News Live all day, I suspect. To work …

I began by installing dehuming junction boxes between the two turntables and the mixer. Problems resolved. On, then, to the Stylophone in order to insert the new potentiometer and begin putting the device back together again:


Today. 9.45 am: On with the Stylophone assembly:

Tricky. The plastic grill on the device is soft and, as such, unable to support switches and other controls on its surface securely. A large metal washer and a file were required:

This was going to be a slow, problematic, and irritating process, without guarantee of success, requiring brute force and, sometimes, crude but effective solutions.  I acquired skills and dispositions like these from my father. He neither instructed me in nor demonstrated any practice. Rather, he allowed me to watch his hands as they turned the tools and manipulated the materials, and work out how it was done for myself. Thus I learned from him and taught myself simultaneously. This is my ideal for education. (Today, I used some of his tools to do the job.) My school was his workshop (‘the shed’). It was, literally, filled to the rafters with lengths of wood and board; containers of paint, varnish, solvents, and lubricants; brushes, bottles, and seed trays; saws, files, hammers, and electric drills; coils of wire and off-cuts of string and tine; Sun Valley Finest Quality Light Tobacco tins full of assorted nails and screws; broken things that would never get fixed, and nondescript bits and bobs. This was a wondrous place:

6.20 pm: Time out! 7.30 pm: An evening with my family.


June 8, 2017

Yesterday. A waking dream:

An American motorcar (like a 1950s Chevy), maroon and dusty (like Kerouac’s), seen from high up, sped across the Brooklyn Bridge; then, ochre sunlight reflected off a field of frosted grass; then, a narrow, tall, and dimly lit gallery corridor with smooth walls of satin cream emulsion; then, dust fell slowly against a background of great darkness.

Today. 9.00 am: On my way to the bus stand, I passed by the Buarth Hall to view the Polling Station. I met our former Mayor Sue Jones-Davies, who was concerned about the slow show at that time of the morning (when one would expect people to vote on their way to work). Of all elections, this is not the one people should choose to be apathetic towards:

I took the 9.40, T1 TrawsCambria bus to Glangwili General Hospital, Carmarthen. Rain was periodic throughout the journey:

En route, I listened to the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, fifty years after it’s release. To my mind, George Martin’s contribution was co-equal with that of the band. Moreover, it was the limitations of the recording equipment at the time that was, in part, responsible for some of the most significant breakthroughs in creative analogue manipulation. In principle, the more sophisticated and capable a technology, the less room there is for innovation. The Beatles’ music was never dark enough for me. It lacked a sense of sublimity, anxiety, anger, and transcendence.I turned to progressive music, jazz, and classical music for an expression of those dimensions of reality.

12.30 pm: Today, I suffered the same fate as my Stylophone of late. My body was circuit bent. An upwards of 100 mA electrical charge passed through the nervous system of each of my lower ams. My hands convulsed like galvanised frog’s legs. Fascinating and painful in equal measure. Electricians were the worst patients, I was told, because they spent all their lives avoiding electrocution; (and this was nothing short of that). The consultants had such interesting kit in the examination rooms. Now, this I must try one day, when I need my head examined (which folk have often advised). Which socket can I plug my guitar into?:

7.00 am: Time out means catch up. Back to the mundanities of academic admin until the beginning of the election coverage and a protracted night and early morning moaning and groaning in front of the television. I fear there’ll be little cause for cheer. Pot noodles and other combustibles to the ready:

11:59 pm: I predict a hung parliament if the outcome is anything like that suggested by the Exit Poll. (To be continued …)



June 5, 2017

Borough Market, London (2015)

From the intercession, the morning Holy Communion service, Holy Trinity Church:

Our prayers are for the police and special and intelligence forces as they seek to alert us to, and protect us from, danger. Bring the wicked and lawless to justice, and dismantle the apparatus of terrorism in this country. We remember those who are suffering, and the inconsolable grief of parents, families, and friends at the loss of loved ones in London last night and Manchester recently. Our platitudes and sentiments evaporate in the heat of such a dreadful providence. Bring succour through the agencies of counsellors, medical staff, and faith leaders. Heal in thy time. And quell the bitterness that could too soon fill their absence.

9.00 am: I looked unanswered emails in the typeface. Draft reports to consider, application appointments to be made, and queries to resolve. 10.30 am: Off to School (once Noah’s flood had abated) to continue with admin, now piling up in my pigeon hole. 12.00 am: A meeting with Professor Zwiggelaar and one of his students from Computer Science. The intent was to take stock of the work undertaken on the image to sound conversion algorithms. The results were encouraging. There was, now, an evident correspondence between what I saw and what I heard, and a number of ways in which the image could be interrogated.  The next step is to apply the system (which is elegantly simple) to translate text (printed words). Sample pages will be prepared in the coming weeks.

1.40 pm: Up the hill, in the rain, to welcome Mr Ruddock’s two (yes two) external examiners outside his exhibition at the Arts Centre in my capacity as Postgraduate Co-ordinator. Because I’m his also his supervisor, the obligation was to remove myself pronto thereafter. Down the hill, in the rain:

2.30 pm: Adminy things — completing what had been begun this morning. A list of jobs for today and the morrow was drawn up. I assembled the various versions of the drill core sound piece that I’d made with Mr Ruddock for his 2A work. After his show is over, these will be made available on my Sound website.

7.30 pm: An evening of observation, looking at videos of abstract turntablism in performance. Otomo Yoshihide is exemplary. An artist of my own generation. But I’d ditch the hat. What was I looking for?:

How does the artist walk onto the stage and approach their equipment?
Do they acknowledge the audience?
How is the equipment arranged and what is it set upon?
To what purpose?
Is there anything about this arrangement that distracts?
How does the artist leave their equipment and walk off the stage?
Do they acknowledge the audience?




June 3, 2017

Yesterday. Studiology. I returned to circuit bending the Stylophone, establishing switchable circuits on top of the existing scheme. Is this ‘glazing’, of sorts? I want to move the potentiometer governing the tuning control from the base to the face of the device. This will require an additional potentiometer and some drilling. The movement of the control (which either adds or removes resistance to the signal) introduces some quite unexpected results in the context of a circuit mash-up. I was reminded of the sounds produced by Keith Emerson’s ‘intervention’ with a Hammond L100 organ:

I had a very helpful email from a respondent regarding a quest to purchase my first ever effects pedal. I’d thought that it had been manufactured by Jim Dunlop. Apparently not:

I never ran into any Dunlop made pedal of the 1970s [,] since Jim Dunlop only got in the effects pedal business in the mid 1980s by acquiring the Cry Baby wah wah brand. There was a Cry Baby based fuzz-wha by the name of Jen Double Sound (also available under different brand name such as Arbiter and FBT – these were Italian made) in the early 1970s.

The interior of the Jen looks like this and very familiar:

It sells at over £225 on ebay, and is rare. Not the sort of things you buy in order to gradually debilitate by circuit bending. Sacrilege.

In the evening, I prepared intercessions for Sunday’s service of Morning Prayer at Holy Trinity Church.

Today. Before continuing to find new and compelling circuits on the Stylophone board, I took stock of, and mapped, what I’d achieved yesterday. It’s unclear what mileage I can get out of rerouting two interacting (in vibrato mode) rudimentary square and sine wave oscillators. But uncertainty is compelling. 10.50 pm: A pelt into town for a hairdressing appointment (which, I was convinced, was an hour later).

11.30 am: Back at homebase, teacup in hand, the mapping continued beyond lunchtime. I was determined to explore all possible combination and establish all useable connections by the close of the afternoon. Squeals and hoots abound. But I wanted sounds that could still be modified by the keyboard. By 2.30 pm, the end of this process was in sight/hearing. Two alternatives remains. The creation of new circuits, wherein: 1. an external and additional voltage is added; and, 2. the internal voltage is permitted to pass through my body, which would act as a massive resistor. By the close of the day, I’d resurrected the sounds that I associated with my experiments back in the early 1970s.

The map:

5.20 pm: Close circuit! 6.30 pm: An evening with my wife.