September 30, 2017

7.50 am: I awoke, but sleep hadn’t been satisfying. Too many thoughts, conflicting feelings, and uncertain motives, and too much orange juice drunk too late in the day, had kept Morpheus at bay. 9.00 am: To my study and the much that needed to be done.

I learned something new at the Dementia Friendly workshop on Wednesday. Some folk who live with dementia experience an auditory disturbance; they hear white noise, more or less loudly, constantly. Rather than impose that sound on one of the I. Nothing. Lack. compositions from without (for example, using the output of a white-noise generator), I’ll find it within the source material. Cassette-tape hiss is a sufficiently high-frequency noise to stand-in for the real. I must rejuvenate my tape-editing skills. They’ve lain dormant since I was in my late teens. But can I find, for love or money, a UK supplier who sells an aircraft-grade aluminium tape slicing block?

The reel of ¼ ” magnetic tape, above, contains examples of my first foray into experimental music, sound, and noise, made when I was 17 years old. I rediscovered them, accidentally, in 2009, having sent off the reel to a commercial tape-to-digital transfer company in order to extract recordings of several songs that I’d composed back then. When the material returned, there they were also. Most of the pieces were based around electric guitar improvisations played through distortion devices (such as the celebrated ‘Harveytron‘ pedal). There’s one notable exception: ‘Ion on Iron’, which deployed the instrumental potential of a short-wave radio. The tracks were made publicly accessible on an album entitled The Last Things (1977). Their duration is short, for the most part, reflecting the influence of Brian Eno’s ground-breaking album Another Green World (1975). (Bowie took a lot from that album too.) My rediscovery of my own work (my former self) triggered a side-ways shift from visual art to sound art that I’m still acting upon today. Lesson: learn to return; the past is never over.

11.30 am: A little teasing and caressing of dials and sliders, cables and conduit. Electronics is a curiously sexualised technology. Whoever first gendered jacks and plugs has a lot to answer for. As one explanation has it: ‘The “female” connector is generally a receptacle that receives and holds the “male” connector’. There are also ‘male to male’ and ‘female to female’ connectors, as well as ‘male to female’ and ‘female to male’ converters. The whole panoply of gender and transgender identity and orientation finds its metaphor here:

There was a little module admin to finish before I commenced writing up my preliminary report on the PhD Art History thesis that I’d been external examining. This will inform the viva voce in late October.

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I pressed on with my write up. One should always write critical evaluations in the knowledge that the candidate may read it. What would I feel to be at the receiving end of my own judgements? The examiner ought to be fair, uncompromising, and thorough while, at the same time, humane and supportive:

4.00 pm: A visitation. An ailing member of our church congregation was owed some encouragement and chivvying. 5.30 pm: Power down.