August 4, 2017

Yesterday. The projects related to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales’ and School of Art’s collaboration, Explore Your Archive: Memory, came onto my horizon. I’d had in mind contributing a sound ‘performance’, to be held in one of the local chapels sometime during the Explore Your Archive week (18–26 November). The idea is to replay an audio recording (a technological mode of creating and storing memories) of a Bible reading (and/or sermon) that was delivered there many years ago. This would represent, metaphorically, an act of recollection.

The source material would be subjected to processes analogous to the characteristic conditions of dementia (being the underlying theme of the Commission’s approach to the topic of memory). The symptoms, appalling as they are, are readily convertible into sonic processes: erasure, confusion, fragmentation, disintegration, disordering, loss of continuity, slowing, failure to recall, repetition of the same thing, getting lost, breaking down, lapses, misplacement, language impairment, and behaviour and mood changes, among others. By the close of the afternoon, I was fortunate to locate a source recording, made in an Aberystwyth chapel thirty-eight years ago. The theme of the preacher’s sermon was Psalm 23: ‘The Lord is my shepherd’.

The Psalm is particularly appropriate. In being well-known, short, and learned from an early age, it’s a text that senior sufferers can often recall even while their more recent memories fade. The Psalm addresses the experience of the soul – that which abides intact, even when those aspects of our personality and sense of self which are regulated by the brain deteriorate.

Today. 9.00 am: A review and articulation of yesterday’s work, followed by resource and research correspondence. 11.00 am: Studiology. Back to the decks:

Two floors below, my sons were together learning a pair of jazz standards on piano and saxophone:  Some Day My Prince will Come (1937) and Autumn Leaves (1945). This is one of the joys of living in a musical household.

Me … I began with the simplest conceivable proposition: dropping the tone arm of the record player onto the disc and looping the sound, and, then, introducing a delay modulation and EQ modification. Throughout the proceedings the relative balance of the sound, in recording and playing mode, was equalised across the effects chain, with care being taken to prevent ‘clipping’ at the end-stop device.

1.40 pm: Following lunch, I opened my instruction manuals in order to develop a more ‘mature’ understanding of my system’s sub-menus (of which I’m no fan). I learn quickly, but forget even faster. Knowledge only sticks when its applied repeatedly. A weakness in the system was revealed; it was only noticeable once I began working with it extensively. The modulation units modify the sum of the looped material at the end of the output chain. Thus, when a unit was switched on or off, the whole is affected. I need to be able to also modify the signal before it enters the looping section of the system. But where?:

7.30 pm: Experiment and implement. Life would be that much easier if all effects pedals had stereo connections, both in and out. Between the Roland and the Boss (a rock and a hard place): that’s where a delay unit should go. The Roland buzzes alarmingly when fed into the deck mixer directly. Is the output too ‘hot’? (To be continued …)