May 18, 2018

Death of Deaths (William Williams (1717–91), ‘Guide me, O Though Great Jehovah’)

6.45 am: A communion. 7.30 am: Admin: emails to read, post, and consider.

This is blog post number 920. After the thousandeth publication, the Diary will cease in its present form. In preparation for that day, I’m considering my options for a mode of description, self-reflection, and disclosure (for want of a better word) that, while unlikely to maintain the day-by-day, blow-by-blow structure of the present blog, will cover the same territory and other domains beside, as well as integrate the occasional extended blogs published under Blog: Intersections of Image, Sound, and Word. In essence, I feel the need to write in greater depth about matters. This isn’t possible within the confines of a daily stucture.

8.oo am: I began a small, self-commissioned sound work on behalf of one of our exhibiting postgraduate students, following a brief discussion that we’d had yesterday. The student had played me a YouTube video of the sound of planets recorded by NASA probes. Every star and planet emits radio signals or electromagnetic vibrations and interactions, which cannot be heard in the vacuum of space. These have been translated into frequencies into the audible spectrum. Copyright issues prevented the student from using the source files and, in any case, they weren’t sufficiently and imaginatively processed, in the manner of their visual artwork which it would accompany. My effort may prove to be unusable. Nevertheless, I’ve found that responses of this nature, which may push me beyond the boundaries of what I might otherwise do for myself, sometimes throw up ideas and methodologies that, later, play into the work that I do do for myself:

Pluto, photographed by the New Horizons spacecraft, July 14, 2015 (courtesy of WikiCommons). The planet was discovered in 1930.

The soundtrack (again for want of a better word) is a very small sample taken from a cleaned-up and re-equalised recording of Gustav Holst’s The Planets (1914–16) made in 1926 and, therefore outside copyright restriction. The movements, one for every planet (bar Earth) in the, then, known solar system, were stacked (superimposed), and the aggregated mixdown stretched by 200%. Thus I’d applied methodologies that were developed for the recent Nomine Numine composition. Nothing new in that respect, other than the source material. And that can make all the difference to the character of the output. Extract:

It reminded me of ‘The Face of Moses Shines’ from my The Bible in Translation (2016) album: a shimmering ecstasy. I enjoy making ‘pop-up’ compositions.

9.30 pm: On with the Vocational Practice teaching component submissions, before preparing to attend a funeral for a friend, at Holy Trinity Church after lunch:

There’s something utterly monstrous about death, particular when it comes before time. Inevitably and understandably people have asked ‘Why?’ and ‘To what purpose?’ I suspect that they don’t expect answers. In the Gospels, Christ addressed a similar inquiry in response to a local disaster that took place in the southern part of Jerusalem’s old city. A tower had fallen killing eighteen people. However, in this case, his interrogators (always eager to trip him up) wanted to know whether there was a causality between great sin and great tragedy. Did those who were killed get what they deserved? Christ would have none of this simplistic, heartless, an self-righteous folk theologising. Instead, he used the incident as an object lesson. What happened to those poor people awaits, in a far more profound sense, all who don’t repent while they still have breath, he warned (Luke 13.1–5).

Tragedy can appear pointless and arbitrary. Bad things may befall good people, out of the blue, and without rhyme or reason. Some calamities need not happen, of course. For example, the Grenfell Tower fire was wholly avoidable; gross human negligence was to blame. Likewise, the fall of the Tower of Siloam may have been the consequence of Roman jerry-building. But such events ought to prompt us to consider our readiness, should we, one day, fall victim to a disaster. This may be the only sense of purpose that we can impose on such awfulness.

3.30 pm: I bashed on with with my responsibilities on my return home.

7.30 pm: To begin: Tom Waits’ Kentucky Avenue. It’s one of the great and most off-beat love songs (of sorts) of the twentieth century. On with marking and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. I can’t think of another piece of music that evokes the essence of the English landscape so vividly and poetically.

The morning’s composition – Annunciata: Jesus Sumpur Remus (Envy Turner) was released in advance of tomorrow’s undergraduate and postgraduate exhibition opening.






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