September 15, 2014

9.00 am. The final week of the Summer ‘vacation’. Contrary to mythology, academics spend the vast majority of the period between the beginning of June and the end of September working with at same intensity as they do during term time. The only difference being that the focus of their activities is research, rather than the delivery of modules. That said, the postgraduate contingent (MA, MPhil, and PhD students who study for a full twelve-month period) are taught throughout the Summer. And then there’s the relentless round of administrative tasks pertaining to exam boards, student references, feedback processing (which sounds like an experiment in electronic sound, but isn’t), module preparation, departmental promotion, and grant, book, and conference proposals.

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I revisited the curriculum for the Art/Sound module and reconfigured the last few lectures to accommodate the contribution of guest lecturers and to provide more space to examine contemporary sound art. It still feels as though I’m pouring a quart into a pint pot. But this is inevitable when a module has to both set and explore it’s own context.

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A exchange with a fellow sound art enthusiast at the university:

With regard to buying sound equipment, I think one has to make a choice somewhere down the line about the type of sound artist you want to be. The guitarist Adrian Belew (ex-King Crimson) once remarked sagely that you can’t have every piece of equipment on the market: there’s too much out there, you can’t afford it all, and you don’t need it all. And, in addition, one doesn’t have the time to learn it all. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a synthesiser player in the full-orbed sensed of that term. Rather, I use only the filters and modulators of synthesis to process either found sounds or an electric guitar input. (The guitar substitutes for a VCO in this respect.) I admire those who can get their heads around the theory and subtleties of analogue and digital sound production. But I don’t yearn to learn. I’m more drawn to those artists who can create sonic miracles by, for example, feeding the noise of an air conditioner though a bit crusher. That said, I do need to better understand the principles of voltage control in order to eek out the greater potential latent in my Moog effectors (email, 15 09 2014).

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‘To type or not to type?’ The ambient issues surrounding the desirability of type-written feedback forms continues among my colleagues. Today, the potential health risks to staff are debated. My penny’s worth:

We are apt to follow the assumption that what can be done should or must be done for the recipient, without a more rounded appreciation of the consequences for the deliverer. My near distance vision is deteriorating noticeably largely due, so my optician tells me, to extended periods of viewing computer monitors. If one’s practice is writing, then some of us are spending the best part of a working day having our retina’s fried by not only the magnetic radiation from the screen but also the RF radiation from the wifi signals coming through the computer. Both are an acknowledged health hazard (email, 15 09 2014).

I appreciate that the word ‘retinas’ was spelled with a possessive apostrophe in my last reply, which is a typing (as distinct from a writing) error that’s commonly made even by far more competent authors that me (or is it I?). It’s not an example that I’d like to present to a student on a feedback form. But it’s easily done. (email, 15 09 2014).

Throughout the morning and afternoon, I processed sound files for Matt. 20.19. ‘The end is nigh!’ There are two further lectures to complete for the Art/Sound module. These should be in the bag by the end of the week. I’m dealing with last one, on ‘Art History & Sound’, first, beginning with a discussion about mountaineering. (Yes, that’s right, mountaineering.):

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6.20 pm. Practice session1. The evening went full-ahead with the new lecture, which is shaping up faster than any other previously.

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