7.15 am: A communion. My back was still insecure, so I didn’t want to risk forestalling the healing process by embarking on exercises. 8.00 am: I needed to re-read, in preparation for today’s Periodic Scheme Review, the QAA guidelines on subject benchmarks for Art and Design and for Art History, Architecture, and Design. There are, I imagine, very few art schools (perhaps the School of Art is unique in this respect) whose staff are both fine art practitioners and art historians. Many of us at the School have to be cognisant of two disciplines, knowledgeable about many subjects within each of those disciplines, and dexterous over a broad range skills, while, at the same times, in possession of an expertise about specific areas related to both, and in respect to not only teaching and but also research. On, then, with a review of the School’s internal documentation. I’m very proud to belong to the School of Art, as well as to the tradition of art school education.
8.45 am: Off to that School to prepare for the morning’s discussion with the review team. I had my sober, thoughtful hat to the ready:
These occasions can, when allowed to diffuse outwards and inwards, as happened this morning, move beyond the jots and tittles of bureaucracy, to touch upon the core values of the subject. It was good to have Professor Ferry (one of our faithful former external examiners) on the ‘opposing team’, but batting for us. He has a clear sense of his domain – one that emerges from experience, commitment, and conviction. We all gave a good account of ourselves.
11.30 am: Back at Homebase. Studiology. I reviewed ‘Saul>Paul’ before trying out a much more subdued sample as the beat track from the final section. In parallel, I recorded my heartbeat using my new digital recorder, which permits me to monitor the input and, therefore, to output a signal from the recorder directly into a mixer. Last week’s problem was solved. The stethomicrophone has extraordinary sensitivity. It picked up noises from rooms several metres away in the house. My heartbeat got progressively faster. Clearly, I’d was excited at the prospect of what this device could do:
I pressed on, and began to assign sample dissections to the new spine – which was far slower in pace that any used for this, or any previous, composition in the ‘Blind’ suite.
After lunch, I continued inserting the dissections and re-introducing relevant samples from section 1. I subdivided section 3 into two. The new section 4 has the same back beat as section 1, appropriately. A bookend. ‘Saul>Paul’ deals with a very long narrative (over 8 minutes); there’s a great deal of text to set. It sounds like a mode of extended recitative. 3.30 pm: I’d got to the end of section 4. Having listened to the whole, I put it aside and moved on to review the ‘Nomine Numine’ tracks (listening for balance across the stereo field), and take stock of the ‘Write Up the Vision’ technology.
‘Nomine Numine’ is sometimes unbearable for me to listen to. There’re passages that I can’t hear other than through a veil of tears. (Lygeti for the heart, as it were.) I’m reminded of the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. That I can be so moved by an artefact which I’ve made is utterly perplexing to me. The composition has been a salve, comfort, catharsis, and an embodiment of a truth, which I’ve received as a gift as from the ‘Father of lights’. And only in him is my hope. If each of these four pieces were a canvas, they’d be the size of Barnet Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950–51). Scale is integral to this work. The combined length of the works (nearly 80 minutes) gestures towards eternity.
7.30 pm: I tested a range of powered microphones – such as a condenser and the stethomicrophone together – on a variety of digital recorders. I’ll try and record myself breathing by this means, tomorrow. But unless you’ve creaky lungs, the sound of inhalation and exhalation other than through the mouth and nose is almost inaudible:
I was put in mind of Brian Eno’s ‘electric larynx’ – a device which had an intriguing beginning in a ‘culture’ outside of music. Eno explained:
It had its origins in, uh, bondage – it was actually an excuse to legitimise bondage by convincing the bondee that it was actually a musical instrument they were wearing rather than just a form of restraint. It’s a series of microphones built into a choker fed through a complex series of electronic devices to produce from the sound of human voice the high pitch of an electric guitar while still possessing the flexibility of the ‘vox humana’. The player – or the captive as we prefer to know her – is wired up from the back of her neck directly into the synthesizer. The sound, with more than one person, is fantastic, like a constant guitar solo.
It featured on ‘Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch‘ from Here Come The Warm Jets (1974), which, he claims, ‘is all about pissing’. It’s an album that I’ve played often, ever since it was released.