March 20, 2015

8.25 am. Awaiting the eclipse:


8.40 am. The beginning:


9.15 pm. Approximately 80% totality:


The low-light of an eclipse is quite unlike that of a dawn or a dusk, or even the mellow tonalities associated with the onset or retreat of a storm. I recalled Magritte’s The Dominion of Light (1954): the plausible paradox of simultaneous night and day. The sunlight appears polarised; the world seen as though ‘through a glass darkly’. Physics alone cannot account for the experience. Poetics and aesthetics must play their part. I felt a melancholy, such as one might anticipate at the close of Earth’s final day — both beautiful and fearful:


The birds were agitated by the departing light — flurrying, gathering together, twittering loudly, moving from branch to wire, unable to settle. I hadn’t considered how cold it would become as not only the sun’s light but also its heat diminished. 10.15 am. Once the moon shadow had passed, I walked in the emerging light (now defused by the incoming sea mist) to the National Screen & Sound Archive at the National Library of Wales for a final morning of scoping their database:


1.00 pm. Lunch and, being the day of an eclipse, a suitably doom-laden discussion with Prof. Trotter at the Piazza Cafe, The Arts Centre. We prognosticated possible academic futures. I had a Madras curry, which was not so hot in any aspect.

2.15 pm. On my return to home base, I inserted material gleaned from the morning’s search into my final report while listening to Philip Glass’ magisterial opera about Egypt’s only monotheistic pharaoh, Akhnaten (1983). Again, very apt. The Egyptologist William McMurray writes:

For many years, I have been interested in the ‘Heretic Pharaoh’ Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty who instituted worship of the sun (Aten) as the only god. I have speculated whether he might have been influenced by witnessing (or hearing first-hand reports of) a total eclipse of the sun, which he might have interpreted as the death and resurrection of the god, just before or soon after his accession to the throne. In Egyptian mythology, a royal succession is likened to the death of the old king Osiris to join the nightly journey of the sun through the underworld, and the rising of his son Horus to rule as king in the world of the living. The chronology of his reign has not been accurately established, but the period of interest is sometime in the 14th Century BC.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1: playing very quietly at high volume. 7.30 pm. I uploaded my morning’s field recording of birdsong and made preparations for my contribution to next week’s Postgraduate writing conference. 9.45 pm Practice session 2: playing very loudly at low volume.