February 29, 2016

The ‘last post’ before the hiatus. 8.00 am. Sober, somber reflection. 8.30 am. There was a great deal of tutorial arrangement, re-arrangement, fitting in, finalising, and notifying to perform before I could excuse myself from my study. 9.50 am. Into the studio, with every intent of completing section 8 and beginning section 9 by the end of the afternoon. The finale of the present section: the two Tables of the Law.

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In Hebrew, the Ten Commandments are referred to as the ‘ten utterances’ or ‘ten words’ (aseret hadevarim). I followed the rendering of these utterances recorded by the historians Philo and Josephus, and assigned to each letter of each word of each of the ten statements a separate inscription-like sound with its own tonality:

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The statements were then arranged in order, to form a string of 10 samples:

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I formatted two versions (representing the two tables) of the string sample, one for the left channel and the other for the right. The right channel version was reversed and played against the left channel version simultaneously. The reverse mode referenced the idea that the tables ‘were written on both their side’ (Exodus 21.15). That is to say, seen from the front side, the text on the rear side would run back-to-front.

By lunchtime, the finale was as complete as it could be, for now. I determined not to listen to the section again for a week. (It’s like placing a painting with its face to the wall for a while.) When I hear it again, this part will sound either very right or very wrong, with nothing in between.

1.40 pm. Emails to answer. 2.00 pm. On with section 9, which begins with the casting and adoration of the golden calf. (As soon as the Israelites receive the commandment prohibiting image making and idolatry, they break it.) The narrative proceeds as follow:

  1. The commission, construction, and consecration of the golden calf.
  2. God tell Moses what’s happening below; God threatens to consume the people because of their disobedience; Moses intercedes on their behalf; and God repents of his intent.
  3. Moses [and the elders, presumably] descends the mount; Moses and Joshua hear the people shout and sing; and, later, see them dancing before the calf.
  4. In anger, Moses breaks the two Tables of the Law and burns the calf.
  5. Aaron explains to Moses what had happened in his absence.
  6. Moses passes a death sentence on those who were not faithful to Yahweh; the Levites execute that judgement.
  7. Moses ascends the mount to make atonement for the peoples’ sin.
  8. Moses hears God’s description of the promised land.
  9. Moses descends [this is implied rather than described]; he sets up the Tabernacle; God speak to him, now, from out of a cloudy pillar at the door of Tabernacle; God talks of a forthcoming encounter, when his ‘goodness’ will pass before Moses.
  10. God commands Moses to make two new Tables of the Law (copies of the original); and Moses ascends the mount once again.

This section ends in the same way as section 8, with the Tables of the Law. Throughout this project, I’ve found myself in the same position as a film director of biblical epics: faced with the dilemma of what to leave out, telescope, and highlight from the welter of narrative incidents. 3.30 pm. I returned to the study, to deal with correspondence:

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4.00 pm. On with section 9. I jumped in at the point where the Israelites were shouting and singing, and dancing before the golden calf (Exodus 32.17-19). The quality of my work is in direct proportion to the quality of my attentiveness.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. A preparatory email to my, albiet small, sound ensemble, who’ll be assembling on Thursday for the ‘Ways of Working with Sound’ workshop:

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It’ll be a bit of a party game. But ‘fun’ can be an effective attitude in which to conduct education, sometimes. And, if you’re going to address the subject of sound, you need to be prepared to make a colossal din. Once I had added several examples of sonic artists’ work, the PowerPoint presentation was structurally complete. All that needed to be added were some examples from my own outings in data bending and circuit bending:

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