December 3, 2016

8.45 am: I’m already behind on my schedule for the day. These days, Saturdays are just another working day. ‘More tea, please!’:


On with the SteelWork conspectus. I’m aware that the type of sound work I produce is classified as ‘academic art music’, in that it’s both produced within the academic context of a university and is driven by a research agenda. The work is also an ‘intellectual art’, so called. The term has nothing to do with its level of cleverness or challenge (if such there is). Rather, it implies that ideation (as opposed to feeling or instinct) is the machine that mobilises the compositions. The term also suggests (in my case) that the work must be subjected to a disciplined and rational evaluation in the process of its construction and upon completion. I need, in other words, to understand what I’m doing … what I’ve done … and the relationship of both to who I am.

For me, there’s nothing arid or constricting about this approach to making things. On the contrary, my commitment to principle, awareness, and focus has been entirely necessary, enabling, and, indeed, exalting. I’m of the same mind as the composer Igor Stravinsky in this respect: ‘The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self’. Elsewhere he elaborated upon this conviction:

Art … demands of the artist before all else full consciousness. His primary concern, Stravinsky insisted, was to establish order and discipline on the purely sonorous level to which I have always given preference over emotional elements … All order demands restraint, but it would be wrong to regard that as an impediment to liberty. On the contrary the ‘style’ and restraint actually contribute to its development, and only prevent liberty from degenerating into licence … An artist’s individuality stands out more clearly and in greater relief when he has to create within definite limits of a convention. 

I’ve taught too many students who’ve wanted to ‘express themselves and develop their own style’ without any understanding of what those ambitions will require of them. All creative people need a measure of native talent, instinct, and intuition, but none of these attributes will get you very far for very long if you don’t subject them to training, crafting, extending, deepening, and directing. Untrammelled expression (if there’s such a thing) and a distinctive and repeated way of doing things (which is the essence of style) will take a great deal of time, effort, and self sacrifice to realise.

Discipline, order, and awareness. If these principles are appropriate for the production of art, then they should undergird the way that I live my life too.

10.30 am: Further sustenance:


11.30 am: A short trip into town to do those things one does in the lead up to Christmas.

1.20 pm: More, further sustenance, to brace myself for a radical relocation of the studio’s main sound rack. (This is the equivalent of the Tardis’ console.):


Knee time, as I crouch under table tops pulling cables from one end of the room to the other with the deftness and determination of a ship’s rigger. (‘This move better not be a mistake’, I hear myself saying … inwardly.)


3.15 pm: Done! An auxiliary power board was then set up on the right hand side of the table, to deal with analogue equipment. 5.15 pm: After a little tweaking of my developing conspectus, I enjoyed the simple pleasure of plugging a guitar directly into a tube amp and playing introspectively. 5.15 pm: Power down! 6.30 pm: Practice session 1. 7.30 pm: An evening with my wife.

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December 5, 2016