October 20, 2017

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him (Job 13.15)

8.15 am: A communion. 9.00 am: I returned to the ‘covert’ project that I’d last picked up early Monday morning, as Storm Ophelia followed my train to Shrewsbury. (Compartmental leakage: I view those brooding and heavy clouds very differently now: they were a portent which, then, was inconceivable to interpret darkly, against the background of welcomed confession, openness, and mutual resolutions and commitments, come what may.) In parallel, I unpacked the Turn Table equipment that I’d deployed at Saturday’s event, and re-established the sound system on one of the studio tables:

I needed, first, to review the material that I’d produced at the event. There were some acceptable, and possibly useable, outcomes, if my memory served me.

11.00 am: The first phase of the ‘covert’ project’s composition involved converting the source (a digital image of an abstract painting) into a sound output. From this, useable material was extracted with which to develop a baseline drone. By this means, the visual artist and their work would make an direct contribution to the whole, albeit under my oversight. As such, the composition would be not only a sonic response to the painting but also a sonification of the painting. The graphic representation of the painting-as-sound generated some satisfying results too:

1.30 pm: After lunch, I continued processing the sound files, filling out their sonorities and superimposing  them, in acknowledgement of the manner in which the artist had overlaid the thin veils of pigment. Even at this early stage of conception and execution, the results were arresting – sober, moving, and reassuring, just like the painting. I endeavoured to take my tune (quite literally) from the artwork. In so doing, I was able to see it afresh, through the sound. In other words, I was now listening to the painting, rather than merely looking at it. 2.15 pm: I created a mixdown of the drone section.

I’ve determined to be very decided about this composition; once a section or layer was optimised, I’d commit to it, without revision. This was a ‘labour of love’, in the profoundest sense of that phrase (Hebrews 6.10). But it’s one that drew heavily upon my emotional reserves. Already, I can hear the yearning, the questioning, and the exhaustion. (These attributes have nothing to do with the painting’s content, and everything to do with me.) Once the sonic translations of the painting had been fully incorporated, I planned to work on the guitar parts. However, there was nothing to suggest that an additional sound source was required.

Out of curiosity, I imported a RAW file format of the drone derived from the original painting into Photoshop. Once again, the result was immediately satisfying, and contrary to expectations:

3.30 pm: ‘Quit while you’re ahead’, John. This was a good time to set aside the project for the time being, and move to the Turn Table files. There were two ‘goers’ that were worth pursuing further. Their repeat pattern had to be rationalised and regularised. The number of iterations of each loop throughout was ad hoc. Today, I’ve worked against my inner regulations; these being something like: find multiples, such as 1o, 15, 20, etc.) Instead, I’ve engaged my ear and intuition far more. Things in life have changed for me, in evident, covert, significant, and subtle ways. Art follows suit, inevitably.

7.45 pm: I completed the Lucan rendering of the narrative of Christ cleansing the temple. The passage of overlays is now balanced, and produces a compelling texture. But at the heart of the account is an act of violent despoliation and physical ejection. These elements need to be honoured in the sonification of the text. More to be done, therefore.

I returned to the ‘covert’ project. I’d been looking forward to hearing it again since this afternoon. That’s always a good sign. On my return, I was struck by how complete the drones sounded already. A feeling or mood had been nailed. As it stood, the piece was not about the structure of the painting, as I’d planned. Rather, it referred to the image’s stasis and presence, and its evocation of something utterly remarkable. There were layers of small modulations in tone and harmony. Superficially, they seemed not to be changing. But when I gave it my full attention, I realised that they constantly moving within themselves (like Jupiter’s gyrating storm). My goodness, this piece ached. It was almost unbearable to hear, presently. A heart laid bare. The composition’s immediate predecessor were my TestDrones (2015):

So, at the close of the evening I was on the horns of a dilemma: to either hold fast to the principle of sufficiency or else press towards the original vision/audition. The present solution felt right.

11.00 pm: I made a first draft of the final mix for the composition. I did so in a darkened room. However, what I needed to do was evident, and the composition – filled with a light and yearning.

An aside: On this day: