July 12, 2017

What a difference a day made,
Twenty-four little hours.
Brought the sun and the flowers,
Where there used to be rain (Maria Grever).

Sunshine! 8.30 am: Off to school to help prepare for the first Open Day of the new recruitment round:

9.00 am: An emergency pastoral meeting. 9.30 am: I was stationed on the help desk for the course of the morning. Our visitors began pushing past the door shortly afterwards. I recalled taking my own children around the country to attend such events. As an academic, you know too much about what lies beneath. No HE institution is perfect; indeed, its flaws and idiosyncrasies are part of what makes a place distinct and loveable. My baseline of expectation was always: ‘Will this place enable my children to find and be themselves? A solid curriculum, pastoral and administrative support, learning facilities, campus context, good job prospects, and social amenities do not, in themselves, guarantee this. What I remember best, and appreciated most, about my own art school education were the teachers: their integrity, confidence, inspirational example, commitment to their subject and me, and compassionate intelligence. I would rather be educated in a shack with mentors of their calibre than in a pristine, bells and whistles university by mere professionals.

I dealt with several MA Fine Art inquirers after 11.00 am. At this level, applicants are searching for something else. Having found who they are as human beings, they’re intent on securing the same confidence as emerging professional artists. Their appetite for education is formidable. They want to go beyond. (PhD applicants, for their part, want to go beyond beyond.)

Over the lunch hour, an AS-level student asked: ‘How can I distinguish my application to this art school?’ The question alone demonstrated an earnestness and a commitment to ambition. What distinguishes an applicant is neither their personal statement nor the teacher’s reference, principally, but, rather, evidence of objective drawing in the portfolio that they bring to interview. Too few secondary school students have the opportunity for prolonged, intensive, and instructed drawing at GCSE and A level. This is not the fault of the teachers; the subject’s curriculum precludes the opportunity. Objective drawing reveals the student’s attitude, aptitude, intelligence, and personality like nothing else. ‘Draw, draw, draw, draw, and draw’, I say. ‘And … start writing. ‘When you visit an exhibition, observe with a notebook in hand’; ‘turn seeing into thinking’; ‘articulate your perceptions to yourself, verbally’.

The afternoon was quieter to begin. Time for some admin catchup. MA applications keep pouring in. Mid afternoon … the sluice gate opened. I conducted a continual series of BA and MA application consultations until 5.00 pm. A peculiar spirit of high seriousness descended on the discussions, such that I’ve not experienced often before in this context.

‘In a glass darkly’:

5.00 pm: For the next hour and a half, a member of staff from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and I discussed plans for a forthcoming partnership collaboration on the topic of memory, dementia, and archives. My mind was awash with possibilities. I’m hoping that our PhD and MA contingent will be able to participate in the delivery of workshops and events.

6.30 pm: My other life. Off to the parish rectory for a Holy Trinity Church Committee:

8.30 pm: Homeward and dinnerward.



July 11, 2017

But what if the way loses you?

The story so far …

Yesterday. I presented my paper ‘One-to-One-to-Many: sharing the fruit of individual instruction with the learning community, using social media’ at B20 Llandinam, as part of the university’s annual learning and teaching conference. The audience’s response and the discussion that followed were positive and generous. Several ideas that arose were worthy of further elaboration:

Digital technology and social media extend the possibilities offered by analogue technology and modes of communication. The former does not obviate the latter. Indeed, we appreciate the peculiar characteristics of analogue equipment, processes, and products in the light of the digital equivalents far more than we did before the revolution. The ideal is to remain open, and creatively adaptive with respect, to both systems. In my experience, significant opportunities lie at the intersection of the two.

On this occasion I took with me a portable music stand to serve as a lectern. (It’s presence suggested that I might sing the lecture.) The ‘Star Trekky’ consoles, in the lecture theatres and seminar rooms of HE institutions today, don’t provide space for a reading stand on their table tops. The furniture prioritises the needs of the technology rather than those of the speaker. An ill-considered design. Job done!

Today. 6.00 am: A wakeful morning. I published the sound samples composed for Mr Ruddock’s artwork 2A. 9.00 am: studiology. I reviewed the first complete section of ‘The Blind Leading the Blind’ sound piece. This may yet turn out to be the totality of the work. I’ve no sense whatsoever of the shape and structure of the whole project. This unnerves me. All that I can perceive is the way in which one part touches another. But, better to be in unchartered waters than repeating oneself. There are times when those securities to which we cling need to be ripped away from us in order for the unexpected and unlikely to occur.

Steve Parry made contact with me via FaceBook. Like me, he’s an experimental guitarist, originally from the south wales valleys.

He lived in Pontypool and I, in Abertillery. Our towns were divided by a mountain range – the Coety. Steve would have grown up looking at one side of it and I, the other. Two complimentary perspectives on the same thing. This is the seed of an idea:

Mynnyd Coety © Google Earth (fair use provision)

11.00 am: I began a sound work based on the two accounts of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10.46–52, Luke 18.35–43). The texts are interlaced in such a way as to reveal commonalities and differences. The process involves segmenting the recording of each account and mapping the pieces together, alternately. This method of harmonisation can produce some astonishingly poignant results.

A new microphone for field recording:

I’m planning to record the sounds on top of the Arael Mountain, which overlooks Abertillery. I have not listened there for decades:

Steve Parry’s evocation of the acoustic sonorities of the valleys chimes with my own experience and memories:

The mountains where sound echoed throughout the valley, hair on the back of your neck sounds where bird-song often would be accompanied by the sound of an industrial hammer and the chiming of a distant church bell. This remained the sound of youth – the sound of church and choir and an environment with heavy industry (Steve Parry / Hwyl Nofio 13 Questions).

During the evening, I familiarised myself with the microphone and its connection with my digital recorder. Whoever wrote the manual …. !!!!!