June 1, 2017

Bank holiday Monday. But marking deadlines and feedback reviews prevailed. During this coming fortnight, staff will make the final assault on marking, assessing, monitoring, and board meetings. Eyes down. Tuesday and Wednesday. On with marking the MA Vocational Practice report submissions and preparing of marks for the coming exam board meetings. Wednesday evening I distracted myself, periodically, with soldering and an initial consideration of a circuit-bending intervention with my original Stylophone. It’s been forty five years since I last attempted a break in. On this occasion, however, I’ll be wiring the illicit circuits to toggle switches and pushing the device to its limits (and extinction, in all likelihood). You can’t be sentimental and compassionate when it comes to circuit bending.:

Thursday. 8.30 am: Email and calendar catch up and bag packery before heading for School. On the way, I bumped into one of last year’s Fine Art graduates, who’s now cutting their teeth as a school teacher … and doing well by all accounts. 10.00 am: Putting things inside other things: MA feedback made ready for dispatch next week:

11.00 am: The final Fine Art exam board meeting with our new external examiner, Professor Peter Lloyd. It takes time for both the examiner and the staff to adjust to one another. No two external examiners are the same. No two art schools are either. Nevertheless, the outcome of the discussion was gratifying and illuminating. 12.45 pm: After a leisurely lunch together, I came home to pick up the threads of postgraduate admin. Gradually, I’m working my way to the stop of the School: PhD-dom.

3.30 pm. Respite. Creativity. Studiology. Circuit bending. First, I removed from the Stylophone the loudspeaker that hasn’t a volume control (bizarrely) in order to attach its output to an amplifier that has. Interrupting the normal course of an object takes time and preparation:

7.30 pm: Sounds reminiscent of strangulation, nasal congestion, and the mother-of-all sore throats dribbled out of the amplifier. There are noises, and there are useable noises. All possible nodes combinations on the circuit board will need to be tested systematically. Most connections don’t yield anything. Some, will simply shut the device down. A few, will sound like a low-fi, synthesiser in extremis — which is what was listening for. In 1973, synthesisers were inconceivably expensive, unless you built your own. A 14 year old’s pocket money, in those days, wouldn’t stretch to that project. Indeed, I could only just afford to buy the magazine that showed you how to make one. Circuit bending pushed the not-inexpensive Stylophone towards something more versatile, exotic, chaotic, and listenable. (To be honest, the original Stylophone, in it’s state of innocence, sounded more than mildly unpleasant.)

 

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