November 27, 2015

The trouble is … the more help you give a student, the less credit they can claim for their attainment. Of course, a teacher should instruct, advise, inform, elucidate, demonstrate principle and good practice, advocate standards, and, above all, be a sterling example of their own pedagogy in practice. (If your teaching doesn’t help and change you, first and foremost, there’s little chance of it improving the lot of your tutees.) What a teacher mustn’t do is provide answers to the students’ academic problems. To do so is to rob them of an experience of searching, discovering, and realising, thereby, something very precious, for themselves.

I don’t reflect on my teaching very much. Which is not a very fashionable, or indeed a particularly professional, thing to say these days. If I was that interested in the mechanics of teaching, I’d have studied education rather than art. However, I do reflect a great deal upon my relationship with the tutees and upon their relationship to the subject. This process has taught me more about the profession than any book on the subject (and, I’ve read a great many).

Furthermore (and I’m aware that this is even more controversial and indicative of my dinosaur-like mentality), I believe in the opposite of student-centred learning: that is to say, subject-centred teaching. (Teacher-centred learning is downright bad practice.) In one sense, the subject of study is of more consequence than either the teacher or the student; they will both pass away, but it will abide. On a pedagogical level, my adherence to this conviction has had a number of attitudinal manifestations. For example, I’ve endeavoured to:

  • draw the students up to the level of the subject, rather than vice versa;
  • regard myself as a custodian of the subject, responsible for passing it down to the next generation intact and with interest (in the investment sense of that term).
  • inculcate a sense of responsibility for the subject: after all, it’s already the students’ inheritance and charge, one which they in turn must pass on;
  • inculcate a sense of respect for the subject: after all, it has been through the minds and hands of scholars and practitioners far greater than those of this teacher and his tutees;
  • inculcate the principle that it’s not what the student demands of the subject but, rather, what the subject demands of the student which matters;
  • inculcate the principle that the subject must first shape the student before they can have any hope of shaping the subject.

To realise these objectives, I contend, demands as fierce a commitment to the process of education as any suggested by student-centred learning.

8.30 am. After a little module admin, I moved into the sound studio to review last week’s work on the Image and Inscription composition. The desert’s heat. How might that be realised, sonically? This’ll require a rethink of the opening of the first section, and the search for a sultry sound. I found a sound immediately, but its processing took an age. There were no short cuts. (This is what the subject required of me.) 12.15 pm. The final stage of its preparation involved removing extraneous sound artefacts (clicks, snicks, and ticks) from the track.

1.40 pm. I made further changes to my three 10-inch, 78 rpm records, by spraying their surfaces white. This won’t improve the sound quality of the artefact, but it’ll enhance the outlines of record fragments, once they’re be affixed to the surfaces. (There must always be a reason for doing something.):


2.00 pm. Since the narrative of the source text begins, abruptly, at the start of Exodus, chapter 19, the sound composition will do likewise. Fading-in is a convention that arose with the invention of sound recording and engineering. It’s a metaphor for something that appears to be travelling towards us from a distance. This idea has no warrant in the text.

The rain Auerbached the world outside my studio window:


Throughout the afternoon, sound samples were inserted, modified, and often deleted. The composition is an aural jig saw puzzle, but without a picture lid; I have to feel the shape of each piece of sound and each hole in the compositional fabric in turn, in order to make a match. 5.00 pm. I could hear no longer. My ears were saturated. I desisted.

I needed to consider the performance aspect of this project and, so, resurrected my audio/midi controller (which I’d not used in public since the inaugural presentation of ‘Abort Nerves’ in 2011):


Now … how does this work, again?

6.40 pm. I installed software for the above hardware. Thereafter, I took the evening more gently. While the active physical effects of the cold were slowly receding, the lassitude persisted. I used the period of convalescence to source guitar amps. My dippy lower spine has forced me to consider lighter weight and more portable options. But before I can make a purchase, I need to raise the capital by selling my glorious Fender 100 watt Twin. (I simply cannot be schlepping this around any longer.)