September 11, 2017

Over the weekend, I reviewed last week’s sound sample extracts for the [I. Nothing. Lack.] project and some of my past sound publications, acquitted myself of sub-wardening and intercessory duties, undertook various domestics, and published an account of my experiences as an ME sufferer. I wasn’t sure whether the blog site was the most appropriate place for the topic, but there was nowhere else for it to go. Although, I suppose it does tell the story of a career in art … against the odds. We have to integrate the very worst things that happen to us into the narrative of our lives. Otherwise, they and us remain unreconciled. Which can be a cause of suffering in itself. Not that I’ve ever made peace with my illness; ME is my enemy, and always will be.

7.30 pm:

8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: In keeping with the well-established routine, I arranged my teaching, admin, and research diary for the day and the week ahead with the objective of eking out as much time as I could for my projects. (One has to protect the core business after all. If the teacher doesn’t feed themself, then they can’t nourish their students). 9.30 am: Emailology, with music (Else Marie Pade’s Electronic Works 1958–95). Inbox: 6 – 5 – 3 – 2 – 1 – empty! ‘Enjoy it while it lasts, John!’

In the past, some correspondents have written to ask why I don’t include more photographs of myself on the diary pages. There’re several reasons. First, it’s usually me who’s holding the camera, and I’m not an aficionado of ‘selfie’ culture. Secondly, ‘What’s to see?’ If I was a hunky humdinging good-looker, like George Clooney, then maybe. Thirdly, ‘Vanity of vanities’; self-obsession is unhealthy, in my opinion. And, finally, I’m uncomfortable about turning myself into an object of regard. However, here’s  – for the prurient and ‘fanboyz/gals’ (who should know better) – a singular concession:

However, there’re occasions, such as performances and demonstrations, when the I’m an intrinsic and a visible element in the artwork’s birth. Erasing myself from the visual documentation would draw far more attention to me:

10.30 pm: Studiology. Boot up. I made further adjustments to the samples’ EQ. I, then, superimposed all four of MacMillan’s sermons, and created an MP3 compressed version of the file that was dropped in pitch by three octaves. This took the computer an age to process. In the interim, I attended to correspondence and prepared to continue analogue to digital transfer of The Talking Bible discs, on a separate computer. (I’m now at the books of Esther and Job.) A third computer processed a high-resolution version of the sermons.

1.45 am: Following a light and warming lunch, I caught up with the computers’ progress. ‘Come on, lads! Get a move on’. Further correspondence was undertaken and emails addressed while the ‘paint dried’. The treated files didn’t yet yield a sonority that I could use. I would know it when I heard it. (On to the books of Esther to Nehemiah.) Afterwards, both the pitch-reduced and ‘normal’ versions were overlaid. That took me once step closer to my objective, so my inner-ear confirmed. It struck me that I’d been here before. The process and methodology were analogous to those that I’d used to construct the sound profiles for Julian Ruddock’s 2A artwork:

By mid afternoon, I began ‘hearing’ (again, inwardly) a faint anticipation of the totalising effect of the composition. Gratitude! Thereafter, I paid attention to stereo-imaging the combined layers. Once they were resolved, I knew that I’d something of quality. But it wasn’t anything like the outcome that I’d been working towards. There’re times when you must let the work work itself out, and abandon your initial intent.

7.30 pm: ‘Are your students also your friends?’, someone once asked me. Friendship is a mercurial relationship. Its definition changes with the context. Tutor-student ‘friendships’ aren’t equally balanced. For example, I don’t expect my commitment to them to be reciprocated to the same degree. Why should it? That said, some of my tutees have been more than that. Quite what that is, I haven’t the word to describe. More often than not, they’re the ones with whom I go onto form ‘proper friendships’ once they’ve graduated. Friendship is about trust, being there in the bad times, listening without judgement, and sharing deep and sometimes very personal things. And I’ve certainly known that kind of friendship with a few.

There are social media correspondents too – whom I’ve never met, and probably never will meet – who I regard as friends in this sense. They’ve the makings of a soul mate, bosom pal, or confidant; they’re the rarest of people, with whom you could pour out your heart, acknowledge your doubts, confess your worst, and still receive understanding and acceptance.

Before finalising the mixdown of the afternoon’s composition, I listened attentively to every second of its 1 hour, 18 minute, and 15 second duration. So, I ended the day with the right answer to the wrong question.

One of my former students and a beloved friend: Stephen Chilton (1975–2014),
composing titles for his paintings, Gas Gallery, Aberystwyth (2013)


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