July 24, 2015

9.00 am. A dismal night’s sleep. Therefore, I eased myself into the morning’s work by, first, reviewing yesterday evening’s harvest of samples from the ‘singing nun’ sources. I’ve assiduously avoided using sections of tracks that include singing. Under the condition imposed by my alterations to the original recording, Debbie Reynolds’ voice, while sober and plaintive, sounds like a walrus crooning in the shower. Vocalisation betrays the processes governing the recomposition; one can hear the inversion of the sound envelop and the ‘slowed downness’ too readily. 11.00 am. I actually took a tea break for twenty minutes, in the old fashioned sense of drinking without also working.

Some regulative maxims:

  • Act. The alternative is to prevaricate.
  • When you know not what to do, know what you don’t do, and do what you don’t know.
  • Keep pace with your own ideas.
  • Be aware of what others are doing as a matter of habit.
  • Obscurity may be the consequence of one’s failure to be the right person in the right place at the right time.
  • Hold your intent in an open hand. What actually happens when you let go could be more interesting.
  • There’s a world of difference between not being popular and being unpopular.

11.30 am. I’ve now called the piece I Saw Her Soul Fly Across the Clouds. The phrase, taken from Deckers’ song Dominique Luc, was inscribed on her and Pécher’s joint gravestone. In this way, the absence of Decker’s words from the musical content is compensated, tokenly, by the title, and the composition, likewise, stands as a memorial:

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My initial feeling on beginning any new artwork is, more often than not, that it’ll not rise above mediocrity. But insecurity can be a goad to endeavour and a bulwark against complacency. By the close of the morning, the spark of a compositional idea had become a smoldering ember.

1.40 pm. A hit and run job at the School before returning home to respond to some emerging and pressing admin requests. 2.10 pm. A change of gear. Back to lecture composition for the Abstraction module, and into the realm of theology and art:

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6.20 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. Constructing a PowerPoint presentation is so much easier now than when I first started lecturing. Then, you spent hours in libraries searching for illustrations in often heavy books, marking up the pages, photographing them on a retort stand, before sending them off for processing and waiting for a week in the hope that all were taken on the correct exposure. On arrival, they were inserted into plastic envelopes and decanted into a carousel every time the lecture was given, wherein one or more slide would jam and bring proceedings to a halt:

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When the School of Art was the Department of Visual Art, situated on Llanbadarn Road, we had an entire room set apart for a substantial collection of slides, postcards, and prints of artworks:

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My alma mater, at Newport, Gwent, had such an extensive library of slides as to justify employing a full time librarian to maintain it.

8.40 pm. A change of orientation was needed: I carried on from where I left off this morning with the I Saw Her Soul Fly Across the Clouds project for an hour. For many years I’ve been intrigued by the musical structure of Eric Satie’s The Death of Socrate (1917-18). The sung melodic line is hardly repeated from beginning to end, while the orchestral or piano accompaniment repeats motifs and phrases throughout. It’s the action of these contrary principles, the one upon the other, that invests the composition with momentum and cohesion in tension. What other ways are there of sustaining a non-repeating melodic line over a significant arc of time while retaining a sense of progression, development, and unity throughout the composition? This may be an inquiry that I’ll explore further with I Saw Her Soul.

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