October 2, 2017

O praise ye the Lord, all things that give sound
‘Sing Praise to the Lord! Praise Him in the Heights’ (1875)
(Henry W Baker (1821–77))

Another of Baker’s notable hymns, ‘The King of Love My Shepherd is’ (1868), was based on a Welsh version of Psalm 23 and the scholarship of the clergyman Edmund Prys (1542/3–1623), who was known as ‘the psalmist of Wales’:

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.

His paraphrase of ‘I shall not want’ (Psalm 23.1) (‘I Nothing Lack’) provides the title for my suite compositions derived from MacMillan’s sermons on the Psalm. ‘Baker’ is also the name of the street on which Bethel Welsh Baptist Church stands.

8.15 am: A communion. 9.00 am: An administration. My week was mapped out. Minor correspondence was undertaken in respect to modules and prospective radio interviews about the I. Nothing, Lack. and The Talking Bible projects. In many ways, making the work is the easiest part; ‘getting it out there’, is far harder; and inculcating an enthusiasm for it, almost impossible. Before I claimed the day for my own work, I drafted a PowerPoint slide designed to explain the relationship between module credit values, hours of work per week, and ‘intensity’. The latter is a value that I intuit more than know cognitively. So I’ll have to explain it to myself before I can do so to the second and third year painters on Wednesday:

11.00 am: Studiology. I began the session with the strong conviction that I should review all the processes and stages of development that I’d undertaken since the beginning of last week on the second composition for the I. Nothing. Lack. project. What did the Sybil say? I took a card from my Oblique Strategies pack at random*. It advised: ‘Retrace your steps’. Well, that confirmed it.

Thereafter, I worked my way through my Post-it list for the day:

To begin. In order to finalise a deceleration of MacMillan’s reading of Psalm 23, I had to re-record the sample, acoustically, at the maximum sample rate and bit depth: 192,000 Hz/32 bit (float). Slowing a sample is like enlarging a digital image. A high resolution is required in order to avoid pixilation – or the audio equivalent, quantitised noise – as the dimensions of the source increase:

The recording completed, I re-equalised the source for tonal balance and clarity. (The sample now had the acoustic properties of the amplifier and speaker through which it was played; that changed its character considerably.)

1.30 pm: After lunch, I began the process of incrementally slowing the 1-minute source sample. The crunch-down would take 28 minutes to complete. [Watching the grass grow, now, ‘S’.] I completed a deceleration of 0-200%, then of 200–400%, and, finally, of 400-800%. The samples were afterwards stacked so that I could attempt an interweaving. The endeavour was a complete failure! However, I’d learned what I ought to do instead.

4.15 pm: On, then, to recording cassette-tape ‘hiss’. Who’d have thought that this would be so difficult to capture. My recollection of ‘hiss’ (which is caused by the size of the magnetic particles used to make the tape) is that it was acoustically intrusive. But I could hardly hear it on my devices:

6.30 pm: Practise session. 7.30 pm: What to do? 1. Try a different cassette player; 2. Try a different type of cassette tape: ferric oxide, chrome oxide, ferric-chrome oxide, and metal; 3. Combine both; 4. Try a different output from the device. I took a ‘hot’ (no sexual connotations are necessarily invoked here) line from the headphone output directly into the laptop. That did the trick. Thereafter, I re-equalised the sample in order to ‘magnify’ its sonic profile. Initially, the volume indication was barely above the ∞ line on the DAW’s graphic interface. Simply beautiful:

On amplification, the unmistakable sound of white noise presented itself. At the close of the evening session, I reviewed the day’s efforts.

An aside: elegy and proverbs on solitary, shrouded suffering:


*One of my bug-bears: Young people use the word ‘random’ when they mean to express ‘arbitrarily’. The two terms aren’t synonymous. Here’s a useful link.
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