April 30, 2018

Beneath the wind turned wave
Infinite peace
Islands join hands
‘Neathe heaven’s sea

(Pete Sinfield, ‘Islands’ (1971)).

6.00 am: The Promenade loop (again). It’s a 3-mile round trip, with a pause at ‘the bar‘ to take in a view of the Irish Sea. Today, it was calm (but not passive); still (but in motion); at ease (but not complacent); yielding (without submitting); inviting (without asking):

8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: Admin, and a look at the week ahead. It’s the last teaching week for undergraduates for the academic year. At the close of week, the studios will start emptying in readiness for a complete structuring in advance of the exhibition. I’ve postgraduate classes, tutorials, interviews, and assessment preparations in abundance to clear during the next four days, along with undergraduate tutorials, two medical appointments, and a degree-scheme review on Friday. But today would be for research.

9.40 am: A sprightly walk up Penglais Hill for an appointment with my new GP at 10.00 am:

A consultation that inspired confidence. I felt looked after. 10.45 am: Studiology. To begin, I returned to the ‘Write Up the Vision’ technology, with a view to testing the stethomicrophone using a 3 volt plug-in-power input. If this worked, I could, then, feed a monitoring output from the digital recorder into the mixer. I was surprised by how few of my various recorders had that facility:

None, however, would permit me to run a monitoring output while recording. I’d have to find a canny way of recording the stethomicrophone on a separate recorder and synchronising it with the two other mic outputs after they’d been recorded on the DAW. Not impossible; but, tricky. I’d wanted to attach the stethomicrophone to the surface of vinyl while it’s playing. This would be a post-lunch procedure.

12.30 pm: Back to ‘Saul>Paul’ and, also, a review of ‘The Lesser Light’, in the light of the new suite. They are close neighbours in terms of their means of production. But they’re wholly different in respect to emotional tenor: ‘The Lesser Light’ is fearful; ‘Nomine Numine’ (the title of the new suite) is mournful and reflective.

After lunch, I made a provisional, off-the-cuff, test of the stethomicrophone on the surface of one of the Scourby vinyls:

The weight of the device on the disc, prevented the latter from rotating. Moreover, the sounds produced, when I spun the table manually, were disappointing. Next, I secured it to the chassis of the deck. That produced a sound reminiscent of my first ever tape recorder – a Sony reel-to-reel (c. 1967). It had an appallingly insensitive microphone, with a very limited frequency span:

I, then, fixed a contact microphone to the tone arm:

Again, there was little gained that I’d not already acquired by close-mic recording. Sometimes, good ideas don’t yield good fruit. 4.00 pm: I returned to postgraduate admin for the remainder of the afternoon.

4.20 pm: A visit from the Vicar. 5.30 pm: Sundown:

7.30 pm: On with ‘Saul>Paul’. This beat track in section two had been pared back to a basic thump. It now needed some elaboration. Gulp! I’d undone a beat to text sync. All samples needed to be realigned throughout the second section.  That was my commitment for the remainder of the evening. So often, redoing work leads to betterment. These are among the mistakes in life that I don’t regret.

 

 

 

 

 



April 29, 2018

And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
then they find that selfsame aching
deep within the heart of God (Timothy Rees, ‘God is Love’ (1922)).

I’m maintaining a seven-day, 6.00 am rise policy. This way, my body and mind will settle to a rhythm or cycle. The run to Llanbadarn Fawr and back passed almost effortlessly, and I could focus my mind, in thought and prayer, on the issues of the day. It was an enriching half hour. Responsibility for public intercessions at Holy Trinity Church fell to me, today. The congregation was in mourning, following the sudden and tragic death of one of our members a week ago. To my mind, church life cannot be ‘business as usual’ after an event like this. We needed to adapt, be flexible, and talk about the elephant in the room. One has to know the heart of the people and speak to them from the heart. My sentiments, I was told, had hit the mark. Something that should have been said, finally found a voice.

It was my turn to man the tea and coffee stall after the service. I have my uses:

After lunch, I made an aborted attempt to change the failed lights in the bathroom ceiling. They’ve been coming to the end of their life like ‘Ten Little Indians’. One went ‘phut!’ last week, and then there were three. I need the advice from a trusty electrician and, also, to come to terms with my creeping greyness. (The bathroom light is unforgiving.) Grey hair can distinguish a person. But it makes me look only old. (‘”All is vanity”, John!’):

A healing walk down Plas Grug Avenue. It’s a place I often go to when seeking solace. Why do some scenes draw my attention? Not for formal reasons alone, I’d vouch? I was reminded of Magritte’s Empire of Light (1950). Art History is everywhere, if you’ve the eyes to see it. Some scenes serve as a metaphor for either a state of mind, or a truth one is searching for within, or a answer to a question that’s not possible to articulate, even to oneself. Their meaning is not interpretable in a straightforward sense. They serve, rather, to intimate the possibility of, variously, a hope, resolution, or reconciliation to come. The light shines in the daylight, and the daylight has not overcome it:

This is Diary entry number 902. I had intended to cease publishing in this form at the thousanth. The plan may be repented of.

 

 

 

One constant bond;
two hearts apart.

Loss and longing,
counterpoise.
Kindred souls,

sympathetic
resonance.



April 28, 2018

6.00 am: Floor exercises. I’m now 0.4 Kg off my initial weight target (68 Kg). Once I’ve hit that mark, I shall work towards a further 4 Kg reduction. Then, I’ll be as heavy as I was in my early 20s, well within the ‘healthy’ zone, and far enough away from the ‘underweight’ category. My two sons have been an inspiration. Both have exemplary attitudes to fitness and eating. I’m in their debt. In a fortnight, I hope to be in the swimming pool at this time on a Saturday morning. 8.00 am: A communion. The spirit requires its own exercise:

8.30 am: The final 5 seconds of ‘Enn’ required an adjustment to the fade. The Suite was now complete. My instinct is to incorporate the composition into The Aural Bible III album, as part of a double CD package. All ‘The Talking Bible’ compositions will, then, be on the other disc. I moved onto the Habakkuk project. There are two initial challenges: the one, conceptual and procedural; the other, technical. Ideally, the two should grow out of one another and together.

To begin, I needed to extract a text from the Book of Habakkuk to provide the substance for my inscription. The governing verse is this:

And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it (Habakkuk 2.2).

The vision is, more properly, a series of oracles, some of which are spoken by God before this verse and others, after. My focus will be on chapter 1, verses 5 to 11 and chapter 2, verses 2 to 20. Habakkuk would probably have written the vision in wax on boxwood tablets large enough to be readable in a public place. ‘Plain’ implies that the writing was to be clearly legible. The final clause is problematic. It can be translated in several ways. I’m inclined to think that it refers to those who would run passed the tablets in, say, a market square.  They would need to be able to take in the message at a glance. The themes of the text is are those of judgement, condemnation, comeuppance catastrophe, death, violence, and woe. Pretty grim:

Technologically, I’ll develop a rig capable of recording the act of writing using large scale, lower-case, non-cursive letters. Block capitals aren’t easily read at speed. The intention is to capture the sound of a pencil on paper (an inscription into wax would be almost inaudible), using three microphones. One would be attached to the pencil, another placed under the support to which the paper is secured, and another above the support. These sources (perspectives) could, then, be mixed together. However, I was short of a 3.5mm TRS to XLR converter. Experimentation would have to wait until one was procured.

There was an improvisation undertaken at the Turn Table: The Cleansing of the Temple open-studio event, held at the School of Art Gallery last year, that I wanted to upload to my Studium account and make publicly available:

1.30 pm: Into town to fulfil some domestics, and enjoy the sunshine and blossoms. The wind chill was odds with the day:

2.30 pm: Back at home, I reviewed the two ‘TestStylophonics’ samples on the Studium site. These pieces have mile to go. They were improvised using a Stylophone played through MoogerFooger effectors. Perhaps the idea can be developed as a longer improvisation event at the School of Art Gallery, next academic year. I’ve in mind developing a rolling program of lunchtime sound art events for this venue.

Towards he close of the afternoon, I began setting up a test-zone for my contact microphones, in preparation for ‘Write Up the Vision’ to get underway over the next few weeks:

In vain, I tried to record my heartbeat with my new electric stethomicrophone. I need either an impedance converter or to run the device into a 3 volt plug-in power source, and then onto the mixer. Or else, I have no heart:

5.20 pm: ‘Switch off, John!’

 

 

 

 

 

 



April 27, 2018

I awake, alert, around 5.15 am every morning, these days. Perhaps I should get up then, rather than stare at the strip of light between the gap in the curtains for three-quarters of an hour. 6.00 am: Drizzle. Thus … floor exercises: head to toe, by muscle group. Some of the stretches are now comfortable to do; others remain excruciating. Getting the abdominals taut is truly a pain. ‘And don’t forget to do your pelvic floor exercises too, John!’ 8.00 am: A communion:

8.30 am: Teaching admin: registers and tutorial notifications for the week ahead. 9.30 am: Studiology. The new suite completed, I reviewed ‘Saul>Paul’; I’d not heard this since last Friday, and so came to it with a fresh ear. It still sounded good. The new suite – an entire album’s worth of work – was conceived and executed in three days. (The biblical resonances proliferated.) The ‘Blind’ suite, on the other hand, has required many hours of dedication in order to complete just one minute of composition. The new suite was an unexpected gift (a blessing) from above, in this and many other respects.

11.00 am: To quote a line from Lou Reed’s ‘Heroin‘: ‘I don’t know, just where I’m going’. And I like it, where composition is concerned. There’re times when the process of creation carries you with it, to goodness knows where. Each work possesses an inner impulsion – a drive and a logic; you just have to find it. I listened to ‘Heroin’ and Reed’s magnificent ‘Perfect Day‘ (my unfulfilled dream) over tea:

You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else, someone good.

(‘You did that too, buddy!’) Onward. There was still a great deal of text to dissect and distribute along the beat spine.

1.40 pm: Following lunch, I walked to the School. Friday’s are quiet days, usually:

I met with other Fine Art staff. We carved up the territories like victorious generals, and allocate spaces in the studios for the coming undergraduate and postgraduate show. This is always a good-natured and considered negotiation. Mr Garrett had, again, ably prepared the way for our thinking and decision making:

3.30 pm: Back at homebase, I reviewed the morning’s work and commenced the third and final section of the composition. Ananias’ conversation with God is, in part, a restatement of the incidents narrated in part one. This will afford me the opportunity to interleave parts of it with the later text, and be wonderfully tricky to pull off. By the close of the afternoon, the dissection of the remainder of the Acts texts was completed, and the two accounts ordered. On Monday, I hope to substantially complete the ordering of the third section and, thus, the first draft of ‘Saul>Paul’.

7.30 pm: I endeavoured to complete the text for the new suite.

 

 



April 26, 2018

6.00 am: The Promenade loop. At this time in the morning only the reflective, sleepless, and joggers were on the streets. As such, my thoughts could extend beyond my head in all directions. Now that I’m not focussed so much upon my body’s complaints about being pushed hard (I’ll pummel it into submission, eventually), the environment broke upon my consciousness far more readily. 6.45 am: A shower, and then a modest breakfast. (There’s a heap of healthy granola under that scattering of Cocoa Pops):

7.45 am: Diary and admin catch up, followed by a short communion. 8.30 am: Off to School for a morning of third year painting tutorials. The temperature had risen further within the School, even as it lowered, without. Some students are at the ‘spit and polish’ stage of completion, others have some distance still to traverse. I’ve no ideal regarding where they each should be at this juncture. Some students thrive on sailing close to the wind. My concern is that everyone finishes by the deadline.

2.00 pm: After lunch, I attended a necessary (if tedious) fire drill training meeting at the School:

3.30 pm: Back at homebase, I reviewed the new suite further to ensure that, if it was pressed as a CD, the tracks would fit within the 79 minute storage capacity of the format. These are the longest individual compositions that I’ve ever made. Their scale is of the essence. The works reflect protracted periods of correspondence, discussion, and earnest searching on the part of two parties. I’m not sure where the original impetus for the suite came from. But I suspect it was a quotation by the critic Michel Leiris, which I came across in the Picasso 1932: Fame, Love, and Tragedy exhibition in March: Everything we love is about to die, and that is why everything we love must be summed up, in something so beautiful we shall never forget it.

7.30 pm:

I returned to the text for the suite.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • When you approach the end of a long run, tired and aching, even minor inclines appear daunting. Thus, sometimes, the perceived enormity of the challenge is determined by our perceived capacity to meet it.
  • The exhibition should manifest the integrity of not only the individual components but also their relationship one to another, and coherence as a collective.
  • Push the concept, as well as the subject matter and technique. Ambition, development, and achievement should be evident in all dimensions of the work.
  • Not all decisions are for all time. The circumstances in which choices and determinations are made may change over time. Therefore, keep one eye on the environment of your resolutions, and test your decisions on those who know you well, and whose opinion you trust, periodically.
  • Avoid binary thinking. Some things are straightforwardly either right or wrong. Many things, however, are too complex and contextual to be conceived of in terms of black or white.
  • Gravitate to those who bring out the best in you.
  • Despair: Things will never be different; I’ll never change; they’ll never improve; everything will get worse. Hope: All things are possible.
  • Don’t confuse unhappiness with depression. The latter is an illness; the former, a facet of normal human experience.

 

 



April 25, 2018

6.15 am: The air was cold but the day, dry. I jogged the Llanbadarn Fawr loop, stopping off briefly at the church; (it always seems disrespectful to race through churchyards and cemeteries). The 2-mile round trip takes me 22 minutes to complete. I need to improve on this time significantly. Tomorrow, I hope to run the Promenade loop:

7.15 am: Breakfast and domestics. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Off to School to prepare for another PhD Fine Art Skype call. The topic: improvisation in music and visual art:

10.00 am: Email catch up and preparations for the 11.00 session on ‘Self-Reflective Writing’, for the PhD Fine Art contingent. This is the second class for a first class student contingent. I’d set no boundaries regarding how much of my preparations would be worked through during the morning. My objective was to go deep rather than wide on this occasion. The postgraduate students’ contributions were astute, generous, and open to inquiry. We’ll each have to give so much of ourselves for these classes to fully yield the fruit that we’re all searching after. 12.30 pm: A pastoral tutorial.

1.30 pm: Back at homebase, I listened to ‘Aitchay’ the third ‘hymn’ (for what else could these compositions be) in the new suite. The work is strong enough (and long enough) to hold its own either as an album in itself or, at least, as a CD in a multi-part publication. There were a number of teaching admin tasks arising from the morning’s delivery that needed my attention. ‘Enn’ ends the suite with an unresolved conclusion. This is appropriate, given the circumstances that lie beyond the substance of the compositions.

3.00 pm: I’m too fond of hibiscus:

3.20 pm: In preparation for an interview with Dr Chamberlain about my pedalboards this evening, I tested the functionality of my arrays. I’ve no idea where this conversation will lead. ‘That’s the way I like it’, as the song goes. All ship shape! And so they should be. I’ve worked hard to make these boards rational and reliable. Teaching admin burbled away in the background.

4.00 pm: Back to the text for the new suite. The more I play the compositions back to myself, the clearer their significance becomes. Chance music or aleatoric music throws up possibilities that the composer would not have conceived of themselves. That’s to say, I’d no idea what four speech recordings by two people, slowed down 20 times, and played together would sound like, until I heard the result. In that respect, the work feels like it was made by someone other than myself. At the same time, it’s clearly my work – the pieces have many hallmarks that are evident in some of my other, more deliberate compositions. Creativity is fundamentally a mysterious process. In part, it’s a supernatural phenomenon. And these works have exceeded any expectation that I’d had for them, by many miles. Moreover, they both encapsulate and reflect back to me the sense of passion, intensity, happiness, desolation, and strangeness associated with a period in my life wherein providence and paths of two people intertwined in a remarkable way.

7.30 pm: You have to have the right type of shoe to work a pedalboard: something slim and hugging, and soft under the sole, so that the buttons can be felt:

Dr Chamberlain arrived with his video camera and a list of questions with which to interrogate me regarding guitar pedals and practice:

We talked for over an hour about boards, arrangements, power supplies, cables, foot choreography, purchases, sound modification, influences, intentions, and methodology. Great fun! Two little boys in a toy shop.

 

 

 



April 24, 2018

I’m preparing; I’m being prepared

6.00 am: The clouds were dribbling. Another morning of floor exercises, therefore. (I’m a fair-weather jogger.) 7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: April showers! Off to School in order to set up a 9.00 am Skype call with one of my distant PhD Fine Art tutees. This was going to be a tightly managed day. As a matter of rule, I like to know how my commitments will pan out on a half hour by half hour basis:

10.15 am: I touched base with one of our secretaries. There were a number of matters related to postgraduate examinations and student transfers from other art departments to consider. My new ‘toy’ had arrived, at last: a stethomicrophone. In essence, this is an electric stethoscope capable of picking up what might otherwise be imperceptible sounds, at close range. It’ll be deployed on the Habakkuk ‘writing on tables’ project:

10.45 am: The first tutorial of the day with one of my MA contingent. Mr Baldwin took my Vocational Practice class at 11.00 am. He provided the group with practical instruction on how to photograph artwork professionally:

Today, I’d time for a casual conversation with a colleague. Those occasions are far too rare. Later, I was roped into a spontaneous tutorial with one of my colleagues and their student:

Afterwards, I’d time to pop in to observe Mr Webster’s life drawing class. The model had brought in her beautiful greyhound. He posed with her.

After lunch (a solo meeting at the Town’s Committee Chambers (for a treat)), I stopped off at St Michael’s Church to pick up printing materials for Holy Trinity Church, and then held an afternoon of further MA tutorials and consultations at the Old College and School, until 6.00 pm. It has rained incessantly all day:

7.30 pm: I addressed a life/right stereo imbalance effecting the ‘Enn’ composition, and then continued writing the explanatory text for the suite. Getting that stereo balance spot on opens up the field in a remarkable way. The other three compositions underwent the same process. I began to ponder whether or not the suite should be released as a CD album: a notational; ‘Aural Bible IV’.

Some observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:

  • Everything we do, all our intentions, hopes, dreams, and ambitions, are subject to constraints and restrictions. These need not be negative factors, however. What cannot be done forces us to explore more fully what can. The impossible disciplines the possible, in other words. And just because some options aren’t available at present, by no means implies that they won’t be in the future.
  • We may receive sudden and devastating news that threatens to jeopardise our future in the most profound and irrevocable way. Two options are before us: we can either succumb to paralysis and wait until the bomb drops, or else move forward, valiantly and defiantly, making the most of every moment. We none of us know what tomorrow may bring forth, in any case.
  • Hope dies before love does. In the absence of hope, despair obtains a foothold. In the absence of love, the heart ossifies.
  • There’s a hope that persists in the face of circumstance, expectation, reason, and the opinion of others. To the hopeful, this sense of certainty, this conviction against all odds, feels as though it has been given to, and is sustained by a force that’s beyond, them.
  • Never believe those who call you ‘rubbish’. Because, firstly, you shouldn’t trust the integrity of anyone who would say such and a thing; and, secondly, it may take you the rest of your life to convince yourself that their judgement wasn’t true.

 

 

 



April 23, 2018

One woe doth tread upon another’s heel. So fast they follow (Hamlet)

Sunday. As I entered the church for the morning service, I was told that one of our congregation, and a friend of mine, had taken their own life yesterday. No one had anticipated it. We were in the realms of the unthinkable. She was my age. I’d always admired her spirituality. It was warm, deeply real, radiant, and irrepressible. Her public intercessions were always salutary, pastoral, and full of faith. While battling with insuperable problems of her own, she always had time to respond to the needs of others. Empathy and sympathy was something she had, like the widow’s olive oil, as an inexhaustible supply (2 Kings 4). I knew that if she prayed for me, then God would surely listen.

Her influence for good touched many lives; it was an unacknowledged ministry. She was a giant in our midst. This spirituality had been matured by a lifetime’s walk with God through many deep waters. During the the last few years, she’d trod the ocean’s floor. To her had been given a cup of suffering filled with a profound bereavement and, what proved to be, overwhelming health problems. Silence and sadness are the only appropriate response in the face of such a tragedy. (Remember Job’s comforters.)  Grief has been heaped upon grief.

After lunch, I ran my customary loop around the village of Llanbadarn Fawr, stopping off at the Church in order to catch my breath and reflect upon a great many things:

As evening approached, I looked out of the kitchen window and beyond to where my neighbour was bent over, breaking up the soil of her flower beds with a pitchfork. During the week, she’d pushed, with all her might, a heavy petrol-driven mower up and down a long lawn. Over a year ago, this young woman had lost her husband to a senseless traffic accident. She, now, has to be both a mother and the man about the house. Her indomitable ‘get on with it’ spirit has been an inspiration. I’ve never heard her utter a word of bitterness or resentment. Some people are utterly astonishing.

Today. 6.00 am: Floor exercises. Now that my arm has recovered from the operation, I can return to physical workouts. As part of the general policy ‘to change what can be changed’, and to wage war with my body (in order to forestal its inevitable, slow dilapidation), I’m alternating between mornings of exercise and mornings of running. (Weather permitting.) The indoor regime, presently, begins with a warm-up routine to stretch particular muscle groups from head to toe, followed by sits ups and press ups, and a shower and breakfast to conclude.

7.30 am: A communion. 8.00 am: I conducted administration in advance of the day’s teaching, email correspondence, and messaging, and completed last week’s registers. 9.00 am: An appointment for a fitting at the opticians. 9.30 am: Kassie from Salem, Oregon was in town. She’d spent a semester with us at the School as an exchange student – a period when her life changed immeasurably in so many ways. Her vitality, good humour, common sense, and distinctive way of thinking have remained intact. We supped and caught up on each other’s lives, in Starbucks. (She was astonished that Aberystwyth, of all places, now has one.):

10.30 am: Back at the mothership, admin beckoned. The School has a Periodic Scheme Review on the horizon. There’s a good deal of documentation to prepare and summative overviews to read closely. 12.50 pm: I set up for my final lecture on the Art in Wales module:

2.10 pm: Homebase, and a working lunch (fruit salad). I pushed on to complete the new suite of compositions. Only ‘Aitchay’ was outstanding. The most appropriate extract revealed itself immediately. Each part of the whole has characteristics that are distinct from the others. The parts follow one another in the same order as the original source material proceeds. I refrained from editing within the parts. There was no reason to disrupt their continuity. Some things insist upon their own integrity. 4.30 pm: Back to the School for a pre-review meeting with the other staff.

7.30 pm: I was in a position to import the tracks into the album on my sound site, so that I’d have an initial sense of how the compositions will sound in a streamable mode. The first task was to establish an appropriate bit depth and sample rate in order to create a file small enough to upload to the site without compromising the sound quality. I began writing the album text. This would be a tough call. For I wanted both to explain, while at the same time, conceal the work’s significance. The public and the private aren’t always easily reconciled.

 



April 21, 2018

It’s as though we’d had a very long telephone conversation that was now finished. (But, at the same time, not necessarily concluded or resolved.) However, the person on the other end hadn’t put down their phone; rather, they’d only stopped talking. We remained connected. I was aware that they still listened, and so continued to speak. 

8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: The blossoms were in the bud; I await their full flourish with anticipation:

9.00 am: I knew yesterday evening what part of the source mixdown would serve as ‘Enn’, the last piece in the quartet of compositions. The extracted material represents the final twenty minutes leading up to the point when the shortest read text closes. I’d decided that the length of the whole from which I’d derived the four compositions would be determined, or delimited, by its smallest component, so that the four voices would remain in unison throughout. Only on examining the part could I hear the deficiencies in the whole. I returned to adjust the master mix in order to compensate.

There’re moments when the female and the male voices are ‘singing’ together. (‘Wouldn’t that have been a thing?’) Slowing down speech to this degree liberates and accentuates its innate musicality. Towards the conclusion of ‘Enn’, one of the female voices ‘sings’ three ascending notes. It has an epiphanic quality – as though the she’d found, almost at the last, a moment of release and abiding fulfilment. The sound was like a momentary shaft of intense light upon an otherwise dark and unreassuring landscape. I was, to quote C. S. Lewis, ‘surprised by joy’. Quite overwhelmed:

I never weary of being astonished by how a simple conceptual underpinning coupled with a chance procedure, using otherwise unremarkable material (in respect to the sound qualities rather than the content), can produce such an extraordinary outcome. This would not have sounded better had I composed it with the greatest deliberation. It has all the hallmarks of statement, development, and resolution. Or, perhaps, this is how our minds organise it, after the fact.

11.00 am: I turned to the first piece: ‘Jayess’. Ideally, I was hoping to ‘find’ this at the beginning of the three-hour source mixdown. One can but try. Throughout, there’s a slow undulation, like the waves of the sea surging and withdrawing, as each spoken word arises, climaxes, and diminishes:

The composition began, 5 minutes into the source mixdown, with a quiet section, not unlike the closing section of ‘Enn’.

2.00 pm: After lunch, I headed into town, under the sun, to acquit myself of some domestics. I took in the Promenade from the Old College towards the harbour. The high tide (an hour earlier) was receding, but still able to catch unwary walkers at the water’s edge. I’d not crossed this beach since the 13 and 19 November last year, when I recorded the incoming tide and my footfall, in part in preparation (although unbeknown to me, then) for what became ‘Sea Interlude (Still Waters)‘, from the I. Nothing. Lack. suite:

 

The compositions have sonorities reminiscent of my recent preparations for the New Songs suite for electric guitar and effectors (See: ‘test strip’ (March 16, 2018)). In its use of a governing text (albeit spoken rather than written), expansive soundscape, and slow rate of progression, this new suite paves the way for the earlier one. A paradox, of sorts. By the close of the afternoon, ‘Io’ was complete. Only one more to be done.

5.20 pm: A sufficiency.

 

 

 

 



April 20, 2018

8.00 am: A communion. On Discipline: Some years ago, I served as an External Examiner at a northern university for a PhD Fine Art submission by a young Taiwanese Buddhist student. I describe her thus, because her beliefs were integral to her practice. This principle was admirable – an ideal – in my way of looking at things. One of her research aims was to develop a sure-fired means of drawing a perfect circle, freehand, with invisible ink. In order to do so, the student submitted themselves to a rigorous regime of yogic exercises, meditation, a caffeine- and alcohol-free and vegan diet (which, for three months, consisted only of leaves and water), and up to 5,000 prostrations a day over three years. She achieved her goal admirably, again and again and again. The candidate had placed her body, mind, spirit, and lifestyle in subjection to the will, in order for the art to take place. She passed the examination, and I took away lessons that’ve remained with me.

8.30 am: I want to return to swimming in order to develop a regime of holistic physical exercise. But, to do so (having been out of the pool for over a decade), I will need lessons to get me back into my stride (or is that ‘my stroke’). There’s a waiting list for 0ne-to-one tuition, locally; so, this is likely to be a Summer enterprise.

9.00 am: Studiology. The stretched files for my chorale were ready for inserting into the DAW. I processed them on one computer and returned to ‘Saul>Paul’, on another. Once one of the beat tracks that I’d developed yesterday evening was inserted, the rhythms implicit within the spoken text samples were vivified, and fell into what felt like their pre-ordained positions on the spine:

11.00 am: Jiggling. It takes time to recognise other than the obvious possibilities of placing the dynamic stresses of the spoken word either before, on, or after the beat. My experience of playing percussion for the Nantyglo Comprehensive School Orchestra and North Gwent Youth Orchestra, as a teenager, had tuned my sensibility for the task. Some samples stubbornly refused to ‘sit down’. ‘And slaughter against’, was one of the most unruly. There were other samples, however, that worked well wherever you put them. It takes an age to draft just ten seconds of composition. 12.55 pm: I’d complete the first draft of the first section. A good morning’s work.

1.40 pm: I power-walked half way up Penglais Hill, as the (what I call, ‘Bermuda Triangle’) sea mist began to creep over the town. Even on a warm day, this vapour is deathly cold. I rejoined my old GP practice, feeling like the prodigal son returned:

2.10 pm: The second section deals with Saul’s/Paul’s road to Damascus experience: the conversion. Perhaps this should move at a faster and more intense pace. But, first, the texts had to be dissected into smaller, mobile components. 3.15 pm: There were two scratch loops that I’d generated last night that, entirely fortuitously (although I’m questioning the arbitrariness of all coincidences these days), were exactly the same length, so that they could be either synchronised or placed out of phase with each other.

7.30 pm: I assembled four recordings in the session file:

They capture two people (female and male), speaking on two occasions. The female voice is reading two texts, one on each recording, the male voice is narrating his experiences on a journey, as they took place, and a personal confession, again, one on each recording. The content of what was spoken is only of relevance to the speakers and my compositional decisions regarding the emotional tone of the work. Of signal importance, here, is that we hear them talking together at length – an opportunity they were not able to take in real life. The composition is divided into four parts: ‘Jayess’, ‘Io’, ‘Aitchay’, and ‘Enn’. (The number is significant.) They’re, collectively, an encrypted reference to the identities of the speakers. The mood of the composition is, variously, one of yearning, heartbreak, and a sublime mystery. While the content of the speech is rendered indecipherable by the ×20 stretch, the distinction between the female and male voices is retained, as well as certain characteristics of their voices when heard at normal speed.

When I first heard the four tracks played together, I knew immediately that the composition was complete, in this sense that nothing needed to be added to it and nothing should be taken away (other than its length); it’s over three hours long, presently. All the work required was for me to balance the tracks’ volumes and spread them across the stereo field. The composition recalls the slow ascending and descending glissandos heard in my rendering of Marcel Duchamp’s Erratum Musical (1913/2014), and the autobiographical underpinning of The Remnant that Remaineth (2017). Tomorrow, I’ll reduce the total length and subdivide the whole into four parts. To do so, I need a rationale.

 



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