Bank Holiday. 8.00 am: The last-minute preparations: computer updates, final emails, bits and bobs packed, and so forth. 9.20 am: Mr Garrett and I packed his spacious hatchback at my home and drove to the National Library of Wales. 9.50 am: Y Drwm. Arrival:
The process of reassembling furniture, setting up stands, and connecting power and line cables took longer than I’d anticipated. I’d set aside two hours for the task. (That’s how long it’d taken me last time I was at Y Drwm.):
It took one hour longer, this time. Setting up is, for me, the most stressful, physically demanding, and mentally taxing phase of a project like this. Would the system work as it had in studio? Careful planning, rehearsal, mapping, and testing pay dividends. All systems were ‘go’! The Tardis was ready:
1.30 pm: After a quick lunch (a delicious parsnip and potato soup), I throttled up and began testing the system with a simple proposition: the click and scratches at the tail end of two identical copies of the first side of the ‘Revelation’ record. Each filter and effector in turn processed the source signal in order not only to test their own integrity but also to understand how they might illuminated the sound. Throughout the early afternoon, I held fairly lengthy conversations with visitors. As we talked, my present thoughts about this enterprise were clarified and my former convictions about adjacent projects, confirmed. I should convene a conference on the Bible and sound. (The thought struck me forcibly.) Perhaps this should be the topic of the next book also. (I’ll need to discuss this with Bloomsbury.) I’m already committed to writing a chapter on the topic in any case.
For this 24-hour endeavour, I would concentrate on The Revelation of St John the Divine (which occupies both sides of the final record in the Scourby Bible set):
In July 1964 (when the recording was made), Britain made at nuclear test in the Nevada Desert, the first high-definition images of the Moon were received from the Ranger 7 space probe and, in the USA, race riots were breaking out in Rochester, Philadelphia, and New York. Anticipations of apocalypse, signs from the heavens, and calamities on Earth: a vision that, in some ways, wasn’t so far removed either from John’s own or the situation that the world finds itself in at present.
I wasn’t not so concerned with recording my efforts on this occasion, as I had been on the last. Instead, my attention was upon developing new strategies and skills for aural manipulation that can be developed and refined with greater care in the studio, and achieving a firmer grasp of the conceptual parameters for this project. At times, the sheer size and complexity of the source material has felt overwhelming. But there’s no better place to be than out of one’s depth.
At 5.20 pm: Mrs H. delivered half a pizza and fruit for my dinner, and a flask of milk for my tea(s). By 5.45 pm, the public were gone. Only the evening’s security contingent remained:
I ate dinner, caught up on my thoughts, and settled in for the evening’s work. I returned to the tail end sections of the records and explored their rhythmic potential when treated through a delay effector. Some of the results sound like a minor landslide of small rocks.
8.10 pm: What I’m involved with is, today, called the ‘experimental Humanities’. My aim is to break into a historical artefact (and the objectness – the physicality of the source – is crucial to my investigation) with a view to better understanding it through manipulation, dismantling, and reconstruction. 9.15 pm: After an interval for photo documentation, I considered my next move. The day’s effort was beginning to take its toll. My feet ached. A sedentary interval for writing up was the order of the hour. It was dark now. I could hear sounds in the building as the heating was turned off: chinks and creaks. There were, too, distance voices and footsteps and, then … the long silence.
I’d been given access to the Education Area’s kitchenette, where I made tea, pot noodles, and porridge throughout the night and early morning:
I considered how many ways the records could be played: backwards, at higher speed, without rotation (manually), stopping and starting, and by dropping and skidding the needle. Always, I’m seeking to discern sounds within sounds, but with the minimum of technological intervention. To do that requires, paradoxically, a good deal of technology:
11.00 pm: The security guard popped in to check on me, and wondered why I needed to undertake my goal over twenty-fours. Hours. ‘Because something will happen between 1.00 am and 4.00 am which would not otherwise take place if my waking mind was fully in gear’. (Ha!)
12.00 am: I entered the most testing phase of the event.