November 29, 2017

6.00 am: I awoke before the alarm. Of all people I, as trip co-ordinator, could not be late for the bus. I’ve a strident bedside clock. But it doesn’t prevent me from falling asleep after it has alarmed me. 7.15 am: In the dark and frosty morning the student and I stood outside the railway station waiting for the coach that would shuttle us to Cardiff. A few weak stomachs and bladders slowed our progress. We arrived at the National Museum Wales at 10.30 am:

The students and I spread throughout the upper galleries and two exhibitions, principally: Bacon to Doig and Who Decides?. For the purposes of the exercise, the students undertook to examine the objective, display, curatorship, and works in one or more exhibition (with an focus on abstract painting) with a view to writing a journalistic report. This will be submitted for assessment in the context of the Abstraction module:

 

It was my parents who first brought me to the Museum. School trips stretched only to zoos far further afield. So much for a breadth of education. I’ve many good memories associated with it and Cardiff. My first ever publication was a review of an exhibition of Welsh landscape painting entitled The Dark Hills; the Heavy Clouds, which I saw in 1981, in the months after graduating from the art school in Newport. That was my initial and tentative step towards a PhD in Art History, which I began in 1986. When my vinyl-buying friends bussed down to the capital from Abertillery, we’d always stop in at the Museum before returning home, to take in a gallery or one of the natural history exhibition rooms. You did that sort of thing in those days:

On my trip into the centre over lunch, I found Spillers Records – the oldest record shop in the world. I wasn’t going to either buy or browse; it was just reassuring to know that the shop survived. I like continuity. Unlike Cranes music shop – the city’s only half-decent guitar retailer – which appears to be relocating, I knew not where. The area around by St John the Baptist Church had been ‘Christmas Marketed’ – overwritten with a vaguely pixie-ville aesthetic.

On passing Tabernacl Welsh Baptist Chapel in the Hayes, I noticed that one of its four front doors was open to enable the Weight Watchers club members to enter. I’d never been in the chapel before; I took the opportunity. It’s a magnificent example of its type. Externally, it could pass for a theatre or cinema. Inside, the façade windows present themselves in a curiously asymmetric fashion. The occasion was an unexpected treat:

I returned to the Museum at 1.30 pm, to catch up on departmental business and my thoughts. I’ve revived a habit of sending picture postcards to friends. Email and the likes of FaceBook have more-or-less made the custom redundant. (‘Video killed the radio star’, as it were.) However, the effort expended on choosing an appropriate postcard, buying both it and a stamp, composing a sentiment, writing an address, and finding a postbox (no mean feat), signifies a level of commitment to the recipient that merely dashing off a one-liner and pressing ‘send’ cannot.

3.30 pm: I returned to the Swaps: Photographs from the David Hurn Collection exhibition. Hurn’s office (the hub of ‘Doc Phot’, as his course was known) was next to my first-year studio at Newport. We passed one another but never spoke. I’d little interest in photography at the time. That grew, along with a passion for architecture, in the following decade. Now I find the art form utterly beguiling. 4.00 pm: I took a final spin around the two other exhibitions. Museums and galleries are falling over backwards to ingratiate themselves with a broad general public. (Footfall in funding, after all.) But there’s a danger of implying that the artwork’s meaning is entirely up for grabs: ‘THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG’ opinion about art, one exhibition board boldly (or capitally) proclaimed. Relativism rules. The expert is dead. I demur. As a maker, I’m not content for my own work to be interpreted will-nilly. Which is why I go to lengths to hedge it about with statements of intent and exposition. It should not mean anything to anyone.

5.15 am: The coach returned to take us home.



November 28, 2017

7.45 am: A shadow was cast over the landscape.

8.00 am: A communion. ‘Finding the way’. 8.35 am: I moved against the brittle breeze,  under a theatre of a dark-grey cloud, warm raking sunlight, and light rain showers that, in partnership, orchestrated a spontaneous rainbow over the sea. (A promissory.)

9.00 am: I’m the equivalent of power-walking through the day in an attempt to keep a step ahead of my own game. Thursday’s classes had to be prepared today, since I’d be away all day tomorrow. And this was ordinarily a full day too. I’d not washed my tea cup sufficiently – a mouthful of soapy PG Tips as a consequence. 10.00 am: The first of a number of MA Fine Art tutorials today. 11.10 am: Vocational Practice. We were looking at the vexed issue of applying criteria assessment in an tutorial feedback context. It’s one of those areas of discussion that, naturally, students have strong opinions about. (They’ve suffered under it.) When I was an undergraduate, we were never told how the marks that we’d been given had been arrived at. Nor were we bold enough to inquire. How things have changed:

12.30 pm: An MA advisory session (over my lunch). Someone at the crossroads. 1.15 pm: A personal tutorial. 2.00 am: MA tutorials recommenced. Brigitte’s colour box:

In the spaces in between teaching, I worked away at admin implied by pretty much every incoming email that cluttered my inbox. Today, on my broader rounds, I’ve encountered students in the department who are trying to cope with insuperable problems. Their tenacity and determination were inspiring.

5.15 pm: Homeward:

7.15 pm: Preparations for travel tomorrow and myriad minor admins to put to rout. The remnant of emails will have to be dealt with on the bus.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Objectify > clarify > identify > recognise > discern > decide > determine  > repeat
  • There’s a line. At one end is a ‘classical’ sensibility, and at the other, a ‘romantic’ sensibility. The ‘classical’ (rationale, cerebral, clear-cut, linear, geometric, light, achromatic, cool, restrained, and preconceived); the ‘romantic’ (intuitive, instinctual, dark, chromatic, tonal, emotional, diffuse, evolutionary, improvisational, and spontaneous). Most students are somewhere in between, and often inclined to one end rather than to the other.
  • We must each have a vision for ourselves as much as for our work. This should be: confident, without being immodest; certain, with being restrictive; and consistent, without being inflexible.
  • There are times when the irresolutions of either the heart, mind, or soul may take us to the very brink.
  • No one should suffer outside of a supportive community.
  • There are many voices in our head when choices have to be made. Why do we listen to one more than the other? Why do we tend to heed the negative more than the positive voice?
  • If we are physically uncomfortable with the means of making, does that suggest that we are going about it in the wrong way?
  • Looking > excavating > finding > recovering > discovering
  • Rehearsal isn’t the same as preparation: One might prepare for an act that is related to, but substantially different from, the final outcome.

 



November 27, 2017

Saturday:

It hailed, like dried peas poured onto a metal baking tray. 9.30 am: My hairdresser told me about a paranormal experience they’d had in a local hotel room recently. It betrayed a number of classic features associated with ghostly encounters: intense cold spots, interference with electrical equipment, and the sudden and violent movement of objects. Apparently, a university students had died in the room back in the 1920s. I don’t doubt the witness’s experience. But how does one begin to interpret these phenomena?

Throughout the day, I unpacked and stored the equipment that I’d used at yesterday’s I. Nothing. Lack. event, and generally tidied up and reorganised the studio in readiness for the next phase of work, that would begin Monday afternoon. ‘I’m getting there’, I said, to reassure myself. Quite how all the composed material fits together as a coherent album has not disclosed itself yet. It will. It always does. But I must pay attention to what the compositions are telling me in the meantime:

Ed Pinset sent me a link to his review, on The Sound Projector radio and internet magazine, of The Bible in Translation album. It’s always encouraging to receive an intelligent and genuinely supportive response to something one has done. I’m under no illusion: the work that I produce in either the sonic or the visual field has a very limited audience. I’ve no interest in making it more palatable. But I do exert a considerable effort to explain to the public the difficulties involved in encountering the work. That’s not a concession; that’s a responsibility. Bowie once said, something to the effect, that if he’d been totally uncompromising about his music, then he’d have had no audience at all.

Today. A morning of admin – culling responsibilities that still hung in the air following last week’s busyness, and preparing for the week ahead. By 12.30 pm, my attention had moved from the School’s to my own research admin. My CV and websites needed updating. I made a start:

2.30 pm: Studiology. Then I began to sift the acoustic recordings that were made on Friday at Bethel, beginning with the loud and chaotic samples based on white noise predominantly:

 

Very little had to be done in terms of equalisation and stereo enhancement. I’m pursuing a policy of minimal intervention in this respect. Those samples that captured MacMillan’s voice only, summoned a very authentic sense of him being, once again, preaching in the building. After all, originally, his voice would have sounded out through a PA system, although not a 1000-watt version, like I was using. 5.00 pm: Evening fell:

7.30 pm: I put together a handout for the Cardiff trip. I’ve not had a pretext for taking the students there since the days of the now defunct Chapels in Wales module. 8.30 pm: Back at the mixing desk, with a view to exploring how the more chaotic samples (nicknamed ‘Horror 1-4’) might be integrated with the overlaid sermons sample (which conspicuously fails in its present condition). The sounds of the final Monday evening fair drifted on the wind towards me as I did so.  My sonic invention and the real world strangely mimicked one another. By the close of the session, a solution had tentatively begun to suggest itself.

 



November 24, 2017

This has been a fulsome week:

Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to preparations for the Explore Your Archive event, held at the National Library of Wales on November 22. Teaching carried on around and about the construction of a script, PowerPoint, and workshop materials. It’s difficult to quantify how much time and effort the MA students had invested in the project. It had been considerable, and showed. In pairs, they presented an engaging breadth of ideas and potentialities with the panache of seasoned professionals. The School could be rightly proud of them; this was a fine example of public engagement:

Thursday. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: My phone was almost exhausted of charge and I’d forgotten my camera and iPad. No photography, then, until I returned home this evening. Only words. These would need to be (and could be) sufficient unto the day.

S: ‘I didn’t know what to paint, so I painted the Venus at the top of the stairs. I go passed it every day’. Van Gogh’s painting of Gauguin’s boots: an attitude of curiosity about the ordinary. Using the mundane and familiar aspects of our lives as a resource. Preferring the aesthetic of a damp patch to a Titian. Automatic writing. Patty Smith’s poetry. Send a postcard to yourself every day. There’s nothing wrong about working on paper. T: ‘But do you know why you like pattern?’ Buy better brushes that are more appropriate to the task. Don’t over emphasise a contrast; look to the whole before determining the measure of the part. Commit yourself to several paintings on the same subject. (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook’ (November 24, 2017) 1).

Today. 8.00 am: Boxes were transported from the studio to the front passage. 8.50 am: Off to School to meet Mr Garrett (my ‘roadie’) who drove me (with table and stand installed) back home to pick up the boxes and on to Bethel chapel. Dr Williams had already opened up. From 9.30 am until the advertised beginning of the event, I set up furniture, attached cables, plugged in patches, and booted up computers. It’s hardly worth frightening oneself by thinking about all the things that could go wrong at this stage. Any one piece of equipment or connector might fail. I’ve always taken as many precautions as my imagination could conceive. One day, I’ll be caught out. 11.00 am: I began an operational test:

Everything was fully functional. Thereafter, I could throw myself into my agenda for the day:

11.10 am: I’d prepared a number of samples to play through the PA. These were recorded using a microphone set in the central aisle at the rear of the main room, downstairs. I wanted to capture the sound of the samples in conjunction with the building’s ambience. In all likelihood, these recordings will be mixed in with the studio recordings:

I walked around the chapel interiors (downstairs and upstairs), listening to the acoustic properties of the playback as it interacted with the capacious interior. I hadn’t reckoned on how solemn, stirring, and eerie the voice of the Rev. Douglas MacMillan would sound, once more resounding within that building as it had done 38 years ago. This was, too, the voice of a now dead man, reanimated … resurrected. As the recordings proceeded, the noises of the world outside bled into mix – just as they had done when the original, analogue capture was made. At 12.30 pm: I began recording only the external noises: children and seagulls screeching, cars passing, doors banging, footsteps passing by the front and sides of the chapel. Those sounds had their own melancholy. They’re the noises, so I recalled, that’d inhabited the silences between prayers in chapels. The absence of visitors during the morning was welcome in this respect. (Not that I’d assumed there’d be any, either then or after lunch.) This was not a performance; this was chapel as studio. I was at work.

12.40 pm: My hands only were cold. Before lunch, I relocated the microphone in the pulpit:

I’d become aware that I was hearing a particularly resonant reflection of the PA output, as  the sound bounced off the gallery facade and the rear wall. This would be the preacher’s perspective on their own voice. Over lunch (some mini sausage rolls and a packet of Pombear), I was the audience for my own work. I’ve been curious about volume levels in a public environment. I like loud. (Cinemas rarely present films loudly enough. Sound must be felt as well as heard.) At higher amplitudes, the building resonates (collaborates) more noticeably. The composition entitled ‘Intervals’ sounded formidable.

1.20 pm: Once the recordings were made, I moved towards unknown territory – heavily processing sounds played from the cassette tape recorders through modulators at high volume, and capturing the acoustic on the microphone. I developed a sound that was clearly influenced by that of the fairground as it had drifted on the wind from Park Avenue and into my studio on Monday evenings over the past fortnight: menacing;  hellish. Throughout, I asked myself the question: ‘How does the sound articulate the theme or concept of the work?’ It’s not enough that it appeals to the ear alone.

By mid afternoon, I’d realised most of the chaotic noises that could stand in for a mind ravaged by dementia. The final endeavour of the day was to record a modulation of white noise at very high volume. Those living with the disease often suffer from this sound in their head as a constant. Dreadful!

5.00 pm: Packing was well underway. This had been a fruitful day. 5.20 pm: Homeward.

 

 



November 20, 2017

7.45 am: A communion. This would be a heavy week on all fronts, and I entered it with a virulent cold. 8.30 am: Administrations were put into place in order to ensure that my commitments for the week could be honoured and the additional layer of activities superimposed effectively. Many people needed to be kept in the loop.

9.00 am: Back to the Archive to Archive project and to the finalisation of my PowerPoint and introductory talk:

The presentation needs to be short and to the point. 11.30 am: Against the weather and, I’m sure, against the doctor’s advice, I headed for Bethel Baptist Church to survey the context of Friday’s presentation. Just knowing where sockets are, and what pieces of the furniture (like the communion table) cannot be moved, helped me to visualise the set up. I will be based in the sêt fawr [big set], below the pulpit …

… looking towards the magnificent organ:

12.20 pm: Homebase. My voice is severely scotched. Back to the presentation. This will not be a day for reflection. After lunch, I began preparing illustrative sound files.

7.30 pm: Ever onwards, until the evening’s end:

 



November 17, 2017

8.00 am: A communion. I began reading Isaiah, chapter 9, verses 1 to 7 in preparation for my Advent Light talk at Holy Trinity Church on 8 December. For me, its important to live inside a text for some time before inviting others to enter. 9.00 am: Studiology. I reviewed Monday’s tentative beginnings of the jazz/hywl composition before re-opening Turn Table. My encounter with Basquiat’s work on Wednesday had enabled me to see opportunities within the composition that were previously obscured. Quite how his influence has affected my work has more to do with an attitude than an idea or a process. But it just goes to show how important is the habit of exposing oneself to other artists’ work. 10.45 am: I directed a copy of the mixdown of the composition to my discerning ‘external ear’ for a critical review.

Back, then, to the earlier pierce. I’d learned something from the revision of Turn Table that gave me greater confidence when it came to opening it up again. Progress (or, at best, evolution) was painfully slow; it had to be, this was a difficult and delicate operation requiring me to listen attentively from the beginning to the end of the composition every time a new element was added:

Thoughts about PhDs in Fine art and Art History, extracted from a Messenger exchange during the morning:

  • Do you have to be self-reflective to be in charge of what you’re doing?
  • If you’re an intuitive and instinctual artist, and that works for you, why screw it up by trying to be intellectual and systematic?
  • The idea of self-reflective research in fine art practice would hardly have occurred to artists such as Cézanne, Picasso, and Braque. They’d have preferred to ‘theorise’ over a bottle of wine in a cafe rather than on paper.
  • Self reflection: a self conscious, critical analysis with a view to discerning what was, is, and is to come.
  • Sometimes the issue is not one of aptitude but, rather, of necessity.
  • The right thing at the wrong time.
  • What I wanted to do was to develop a context for me work. That’s always been pre-eminently important. I don’t need to do a PhD to reflect upon my practice. That takes place in situ.But I do need to know the traditions in which I work.
  • Two parallel streams (art history and art practice), converging only within oneself.
  • Borderers (like those on the Welsh Marches and the Salopian edge): living and crossing over between two countries and counties. One can be a borderer between disciplines. too.

2.00 pm: After lunch I made a dash for the finishing line of the text-to-beat alignment. Along the way, small adjustments were made to the duration of the samples. It takes an inordinate amount of time to generate just three minutes of composition. But, then again, some of the best singles ever released were shorter. 5.00 pm: The evening began to draw in:

7.30 pm: I began work on my introduction for The dementia project at the Royal Commission on Wednesday. Once I’ve written the first paragraph, I know where I am in respect to the tone of the piece, its density, pace, and unfolding.

 



November 15, 2017

A 7.00 am rise. We were out of the flat and onto the commuter track by 8.00 am, moving like drone ants towards a hole in the ground. By 8.45 am, I was at the Barbican once again, where I waited for the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition to open at 10.00 am. There was time to review and respond to emails over a cup of hot chocolate. (I do miss coffee.):

9.45 am: I was let in early. (An obvious keeny.) Basquiat was as conspicuously gifted young artist. Too many art students equate art education with what they receive by means of tutorials, lectures, and so forth. But this is the smallest part of it. Basquiat educated himself through an intelligent observation of art and life. He subjected himself to the work of past masters and his contemporaries. Reading broadly and deeply was a further means of not only grasping the spirit and values of his own and former times but also investing his own visual work (and poetry) with gravitas. Music, too, was a love and inspiration. (Rarely is it one without the other.) Painting and drawing were his means of combining and making sense of the richly informed culture that he’d created around him. Basquiat’s work provides a remarkable index to a period in recent visual and musical culture marked by diversity. He was able to reconcile and represent those differences without diluting them. One cannot just paint. The artist must prepare themselves first; there must be something out of which to paint.

At the heart of the Barbican Centre is the church of St Giles Cripplegate. The present building is over 400 years old. London has grown up around it subsequently. It now seems surreally out of time and place – like the Tardis in a desert – surrounded by glass, steel, and concrete skyscrapers, apartments, and cultural centres. Somethings don’t adapt to their environment, and yet they survive. And sometimes the environment must adapt to them too:

11.00 am: I headed to the Tate Modern in the mistaken belief that the Rachel Whiteread exhibition was on show there. (This was at Tate Britain, rather.) But there were new hangs, and galleries in the Blavatnik extension that I’d not seen before. The Tate’s curatorial approach is too self-consciously educative for my taste. I feel that I’m being led by the arm. Whereas, I want to make the connections for myself. But I enjoyed the Darth Vader’s bathroom aesthetic of the building and seeing school children genuinely and quizzically engaging with challenging works:

12.45 pm: I met with my elder son in Chinatown for lunch in an acceptably decent Malaysian restaurant:

Afterwards, we parted company and I travelled to Oxford Street to window browse. This was one of the rare occasions on which I shop in the real world. It was a challenge.

3.30 pm: Onto the Glasgow Central bound train, alighting at Birmingham International. I rarely want to leave London. Yes, it had been a tiring, sweaty, jostling, and driven day and a half (that seemed so much longer), but also a welcome retreat from the habitual and familiar round of life and work back at home. Even the problems that I’d to pack into my rucksack and brought with me took on a different complexion here. From Birmingham International, it was a straight-through journey to home.

Lessons learned:

  • I associate elevated feelings with a false or delusional frame of mind, and downcast feelings with a true perspective on things. I’ve never before realised this. But the principle is utterly consistent. I don’t trust joy. Perhaps I see better in the dark.
  • Hypocrisy: a contempt for the obvious failings of others, while harbouring the same in oneself.
  • It’s wise to be suspicious of even the best motives. ‘The heart is above all deceitful’.
  • Cowardice seeks the easiest, simplest, and most straightforward solution, regardless of the cost to others.
  • Bravery resists rash judgements, takes time to weigh up contrary opinions, and chooses on the basis of their other’s best interest.
  • A course of action should not be either deemed wrong or abandoned because it’s difficult, painful, frustrating, inconvenient, and apparently futile. Likewise, a course of action should not be deemed right just because it fulfils a need, brings satisfaction, and is popular and beyond criticism. Only by the application of a moral and ethical perspective can right and wrong be determined … and sometimes not easily at that.

 

 

 



November 14, 2017

5.45 am: An early start in readiness for the 7.30 am train for Birmingham and, then, London. The streets glistened; the rain diffused; the town awoke, baker by baker. (Ah! The smell of freshly-baked bread.) At the station (I arrived too early, as ever), seagulls hollered and dived overhead. Professor Grattan was taking the same train, as he embarked upon one of his ambassadorial tours of far flung places on behalf of the university. I really don’t envy him. On board, I plugged in my iPad and settled to write correspondence and draft ideas for more substantial things. That unnerving sense of having forgotten something was beginning to recede. I tried to nap for a while en route. Too restless for that. So, I awaited the trolley with the unconscionably expensive tea to arrive. [‘John, you’re pathetic!’]:

A grey tarpaulin covered the route once the sun, which had threatened to burn off the morning mist earlier, had lost its battle. Beyond Shrewsbury, the red brick remains of a once prosperous midlands manufacturing industry became more conspicuous. I’m always struck by how much green pasture there remains between the great industrial cities of Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Canals, corrugation, parking lots for unsold cars, and out-of-town supermarkets pretending to be castles:

I arrived at Euston shortly after noon. Oyster Card topped up, I headed for Leicester Square and walked from there to Piccadilly and the Royal Academy. My pre-booked, time-booked ticket didn’t arrive on my phone last night, so I bought again. I was about to see the Jasper Johns and Duchamp/Dali exhibitions. This was a lot to take in. Johns first:

A great painter of greys. Temperate greys over saturated chromatic. Works that are conceptual but also sensual. He held onto an idea and motif far longer than most artists can. A man of conviction. Memory tracings. He was not enslaved to his past or the expectations of others. Reworked past imagery: his own and of other artworks. Interest in classical mythology. Great artists are invariably well read. ‘The Seasons’ reminds me of John Selway’s work from the late 1970s. ‘Perilous Night’ (I know this title from somewhere else [?]). ‘Watchman’ – made with so few moves. (Painting as a well conceived game of chess.) At his best, he was Rauschenberg’s equal. But R was more consistently good throughout his career. JJ: intelligence and aesthetics in unison. Great wit. He makes me smile. ‘Painting Bitten by a Man’ – I laughed, audibly (‘The Black Notebook’ (November 14, 2017) 276–7).

My estimation of Dali grew considerably today. In the context of Duchamp’s work, the exhibition highlighted the intellectual roots of the former’s imagery and, too, of his technique.

Mid afternoon I returned to Leicester Square and made my pilgrimage to Denmark Street. One day all these great guitar shops will be gone, and with them a significant chapter in British music history. Some genuinely important guitarists and guitars have been walked out of their doors. I’ve an ambition to buy one from this street one day. I took refuge in a coffee house (where I drank tea) in order to catch up on mail and other correspondence. I’ve eaten light throughout the day; now I was getting peckish. (Bring on the self discipline.)

4.55 pm: I met my younger son at Euston and, from there, we travelled to Barbican and a local restaurant, where my elder son met us. A Harvey Boys’ night on the town. Always a treat. Pensive selfie:

7.30 pm: A concert by the jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and his band. Hancock began his career, like so many other colossi of that generation, in the stable of Miles Davis back in the 60s and 70s. Davis’ stamp was still evident in Hancock’s fascination with electronic tonalities and boundary pushing. It was a tight set. The drummer played punishingly (there were evocations of Billy Cobham) without respite for a good two hours. The boys should do this more:

 



November 13, 2017

When interior decorators work, they can often spend far more time preparing than finishing a room. Layers of old wall paper, going back decades sometimes, have to be teased apart until the base wall is cleared for preparation. The older the layer, the harder it is to remove. Rather than scrape off the earliest layers aggressively, the decorator patiently soaks them until the paper is softened and malleable, and the old paste loses its adhesion. Thereafter, holes and cracks in the walls are filled and the room’s surfaces, sanded evenly. If walls had feelings, the latter would be a painful, if necessary, part of the process. Thus, to begin a new life, the redundant and unhelpful parts of the old need to be removed, piece by piece. You can’t just paper and paint over them. The good decorator will remove the residue of the past cautiously, caringly, consistently, and, in time, completely. There’s a tradition in the decorator’s craft wherein the master and apprentice signed and dated their work on the prepared wall before commencing. Unlike the painter’s autograph, the decorators’ identities were eclipsed by the work that they undertook on top of it. I like that idea.

8.30 am: Off, in the biting cold, for a PhD Fine Art tutorial at the Old College. 10.00 am: I walked from the promenade down the stone steps towards the shoreline to record the sea at low tide for a foreigner abroad:

Here was a place where I could think, look outwards and towards, remember, and rejoice.

10.20 pm: Homebase. Admin had accumulated over the weekend. I’d not be able to return to the studio with an easy mind before dealing with it. 11.30 am: Into the still cold studio:

I wanted to reassess ‘The Silences’ (and the title too) and resolve the premature climax at the beginning of the piece, based upon convictions arising from an unfocussed audition, Friday evening. By the close of the morning, the piece was a few minutes shorter; the harmonic track, a little more assertive throughout; a single climax at the end, asserted; and the tail-off, shortened. Altogether, the piece had more dynamic punch. 12.30 pm: I returned to several other ‘resolved’ tracks in order to either confirm my previous conviction or repent of them.

1.4o pm: I wanted to test whether, what I refer to as, the ‘jazz loop’ (due to its rather ‘cool’, laid back, finger-clicking beat), and the more hwyl-like musicality of some of the extracted samples, could be integrated in a single composition. The first trial went well. The spoken text took on a rather confident swagger. I was back in R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A territory, mapping text samples to a rhythmic spine. Familiarity can be both comforting and unnerving at one and the same time. I don’t wish to go where I’ve already been. But, by the same token, I recognise that a degree of repetition is of the essence of one’s habitual ‘style’ or manner of working. I would have to walk a tight-rope, and balance between two possibilities, while trying to remain upright and not to rule out either. (This is the dominant motif of my life, presently.)

7.15 pm: At evening, I began nailing the texts to the spine, on and off the beat. The words are spoken, but I have to treat the speech as though it was sung. Out of doors, in the background, I could hear the sound of the annual Monday fair, which will take place on this day of the week for the next three. My brain has learned to mask sounds that aren’t emanating directly from the monitors. Every so often I’d scuttle around the house putting together bits and bobs in readiness for my cultural excursion tomorrow morning.

 



November 10, 2017

7.30 am: A communion. Yesterday felt cruel and relentless. I took it hour by hour, asking for strength to be measured out accordingly. There are times when many and fierce cross currents converge upon one’s life. This morning brought with it a renewed resolve. 8.30 am: Homebase. The decorators arrived with lining paper. Always a good sign. There were a few small admin matters that required my attention before I bit into the meat of the day.

9.00 am: Studiology. There was still the residue of equipment to be put away, now that the Turn Table composition was finished. I’m a stickler for studio discipline. Discipline begins from within, extends outwards, and returns to its point of origin. Discipline, properly conceived, gradually and progressively embraces every aspect of our lives: how we think, what we allow ourselves to feel, what we say in speech and writing, what we take into our bodies, how we cherish those bodies for ourselves and for others, and how we respond to our shortcomings, as well as to those of others.

I reviewed Monday’s resolution to the Turn Table composition. I still liked it. (Always a good sign.) However, the initial composition, which I’d rejected, still beckoned. Perhaps it required a complete rethink. What I’d got was fine, but only fine. And too complete to improve upon, maybe. I permitted myself an hour to re-engage it. In my mind’s ear, I kept hearing a psychotic electric guitar improvisation accompanying it. Should I bite that bullet?

I began making electronic sounds when I was 14 years of age and playing for Hunter. This was a front-room band, as distinct from a garage band, and completely non-viable as a performing unit. It, and my subsequent bands, gave me an education that far outstripped anything that I’d received in school at the time. Not that I paid that much attention to teachers back then. For I’d descended to the level of their expectations for me. Big mistake! (It took the Creator of the universe to pull me out of that deep pit.) Sound and music helped me to hear and define myself for the first time. In this realm I was confident, even though untrained and unable by any standard definition of musical competence. For I knew that I possessed an instinct and determination that would overcome the deficits.  All I needed to do is determine my own rules and values rather than follow those that’d been already established. One ought never to lose faith with oneself. What once we were, and are, doesn’t determine what we may yet become.

The next outing on the horizon was the I. Nothing. Lack. presentation on 24 November. Mid-morning, I decided to review all the samples that’d been already resolved for this project. But, first, I chose my Oblique Strategy at random:

That confirmed my decision. I’ve never applied this method of aided decision making to any other aspect of my life. I wonder what the outcomes might be?

I’d forgotten how much I’d achieved before breaking off from the project. Presently, I’m preparing more or less completed compositions for presentation on the day. However, my expectation is that the indeterminate outcomes of my efforts on the day will provide further material with which to work in the studio. For the remainder of the morning, I remixed sessions and brought them into a condition suitable for PA projection in situ. I was dealing with massive files (3 GB+), which took an age to process. (Watching the paint dry.)

1.45 pm: I’d been asked to submit photographs, related to the I. Nothing. Lack. project, to publicise the paper that I’ll deliver at the Digital Past 2018 conference. 2.20 pm: Job done:

I’d intended to be pushing real-world faders by the afternoon, but I’d not anticipated how much new material there was for the project at hand. That was an encouraging discovery. Knob twiddling would have to be postponed until the evening.

But it never came to pass. I’d got caught up in critically evaluating the samples processed throughout the day. Certain problems and their solutions sometimes  become far clearer to me when the sounds are heard at the periphery of my attention while in a state of contemplative ease. On these occasions, I’m far more alert to their textural consistency and transitions. If I’m lulled by the work, then it works. If I’m distracted, then I know something is amiss.

 

 

 



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