November 23, 2015

8.00 am. A raging sore-throat and tiredness blighted my concentration for the first hour of the day. (Manuka honey, to the rescue.) My attempts at centring, contemplation, and reaching beyond myself — for myself and the needs of others — suffered continual interruption from thoughts that ranged too broadly and inappropriately. The mind, like the heart, is an unruly beast. 8.30 am. I began setting up my tutorial and classes for the week before making a response to PhD Fine Art proposals, and submissions describing work in progress. By 11.00 am, I had ‘0’ unread emails in the inbox. Wonderful! Rare! More fluids; more fluids. (Cough! Cough!)

Some extracts from this morning’s advice to PhD Fine Art students (intending, pending, and bending):

  • This is a very good list of propositions, agendas, and questions. You’ll find that, eventually, a number of them will conflate, others, fall away, and a few drift to the top of the pile. The latter will be the governing questions of the research. You can’t force them to emerge. Be patient. … You need to create a hierarchy of importance among the questions that you raise, and weave together the ideas into a first draft of prose. Daunting, possibly; necessary, certainly.
  • Writing the proposal is a toughy. Don’t be discouraged; it takes time. It also helps to ask the institutions, to which you’re applying, what they want to read. Then you can accommodate their requirements too.
  • One needs to be entirely honest with oneself and the work; and, what’s more, not to feel any pressure to dress up your intentions for the sake of others and of making the proposal sound more conceptual, sophisticated, or ‘acceptable’ [than it needs to be]. However, the ‘simple’ pursuit, the immediate response, and the ‘mere’ sensual pleasure of looking and remaking [which you describe in your proposal], are notoriously difficult to comprehend, let alone articulate. In short, simplicity is never straightforward. Try and understand why Eric Satie’s piano pieces (the most paired-down, self-evident music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) work so well, and endure repeated listening. I’m a great admirer of Henri Fantin-Latour. His painting of a White Cup and Saucer (1864)  is a masterpiece of uncomplication and clarity, and yet I never tire of looking at it … never cease to learn from it. This work nails the transcendental grandeur of the so-called ordinary things in the world and, what the Greeks called, scopophilia (the pleasure derived from looking):

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11.45 am. On with my own proposal in search of funds to finalise the next, double CD. I played, in the background, Satie’s keyboard piece, Vexations (c. 1983-4). It’s based on tritones (C-F#) — the ‘devil’s interval’, so called. The instruction to the player at the head of the manuscript advises: ‘In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities’. The performance thus involves repetition of a ‘melodic’ line (and there’s more than a hint of Schoenbergian atonalism here) that, itself, doesn’t repeat. (Can I make a performable arrangement for guitar?, I ask myself.) :

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1.30 pm. Onwards, Schoolwards. 2.10 pm. The 15th Abstraction lecture. There was a slight delay on syncing my Dropbox online folders with my laptop. I’ve not had this problem before. Nor had I anticipated it, either. (Now that’s a worse problem.) Otherwise, it was a breeze. 3.30 pm. On returning to:// home/study/desk/iMac/desktop/Outlook/inbox\ I found an email in my junk mail from a deceased former student. Before the malicious practice of hijacking users email accounts became commonplace (of which this is obviously an instance), the phenomenon would’ve been considered borderline paranormal. I pushed on with my funding proposal. The central argument is that, even in an age of instant access downloads of music, the CD is still relevant. However, I can readily see that in less than a decade this form of physical media will be redundant. And, paradoxically, vinyl will be fully in the ascendant.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1. I’ve returned to the Fender Stratacaster. It rings like a bell. A solid, work-horse of a guitar, and a masterpiece of design that cannot, in its essence, be improved upon:

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Fender Stratacaster No: 0001 (1954) (Courtesy of Gilmourish)

7.30 pm. On with the proposal. It’s beginning to sound more persuasive. Towards the close of the piece, I remarked:

The culture of CD listening is qualitatively different to that of hearing, say, streamed or mobile music. It requires a more deliberate attentiveness. And this is the commitment that I expect from an audient coming to my work.

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